During a three page report by The New York Times, Nolan K. Bushnell, the founder of Atari and the creator of Pong, says that he's simply baffled by the new Nintendo Wii U console. In fact, he doesn't think it's going to be a big success for the Mario company as was the original Wii. Why? Because the gaming community has moved on thanks to cheap mobile and casual gaming.
His doubts echo that of many industry veterans who feel that the era of consoles has come to a close. Consumers are gravitating towards their smartphones and tablets, lapping up cheap apps to get their gaming fix rather than spending hundreds on a new game box and a title or two.
Sure, there are the hardcore gamers willing to wait in line for days and to scoop up expensive Collector's Editions – Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Diablo III are two perfect examples. But even publishers are complaining that it's costing too much to create a AAA multi-million dollar title that shows very little return, if at all. This is why there are additional multiplayer fees and optional in-game transactions – to help recover some of the rising costs.
"Those things will continue to sputter along," he told the paper, referring to consoles, "but I really don’t think they’ll be of major import ever again. It feels like the end of an era to me."
That's probably true: the era of old-school console form factors is probably coming to a close. Both Microsoft and Sony are expected to show their next-generation hardware in June at E3 2013, and chances are they'll be marketed more than just a gaming platform. The current systems are already a step in that direction with video, music and other entertainment offerings. But these devices are expected to take it to the next level, to become pure entertainment machines rather than glorified gaming consoles.
As the New York Times points out, the Wii U recognizes that the living room no longer has one primary display. The system combines the traditional console with the portability and touch-based capabilities of a tablet, expanding on the multiplayer elements more so than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 can currently provide. This second screen also provides additional content when users watch a movie or a football game via Nintendo TVii.
The problem Nintendo faces is the higher cost of games for the Wii U compared to the previous machine. New Super Mario Bros. U costs $59.99 USD as does ZombiU, Nintendo Land, Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition and more new titles. For the original Wii, new titles cost up to $49.99 USD including Madden NFL 13 and WWE 13. Consumers still playing on the older console may not want to upgrade just on game pricing alone.
To read the New York Times article, Nintendo Confronts a Changed Video Game World, head here.