Different Is Good.

With the UK release of the Wii-U at midnight tonight, the campaign of Nintendo abuse has settled on criticising the Miiverse concept and saying that because it isn’t like X-Box Live, or PSN, it must therefore be entirely rubbish. Except that’s not true is it? Different doesn’t mean worse… in fact, it can be quite good!

 

When in doubt, make it up.

Which is how it often goes when you see users on certain websites criticise something they have yet to experience first hand. Oh Nintendo! How could you not learn from the awesome of Microsoft? How could you not learn the lessons of the PS Network? Why won’t you listen to me I can save you please pay me lots of money and we can fix everything that is wrong!

You’d think that the general response from those who have first-hand experience with the new Wii-U network, Miiverse, was negative to instigate such opinions but in reality, the majority of those who have tried it have been rather positive of the experience. Not that many of them have said it is outright perfect in its current formation, because that would be telling porkies. There is room for the Miiverse to grow, adapt and mature and for certain missing features to be included. Most feedback has praised the network for its unique feel and interesting mechanics. As some have said, it’s hardly in itself a reason to buy a Wii-U right now but did anyone expect it to be? I’d say the idea that it isn’t a hopelessly broken heap of scrap is perhaps the best news Nintendo could have hoped for. Sure, it’s ‘new’ to online networking in this situation but there was an expectation that by this point the Miiverse would have been hopelessly wrecked by bullies and big pictures of dongs on the faces of Toad and Peach and whathaveyou.

That it hasn’t must be frustrating for those who pinned so much on this scenario being accurate (there was the chance of it!), so rather than attack the state of it, they claim that X-Box Live and PSN are better networks and because Nintendo hasn’t copied them, they haven’t learned from them, and therefore it must be an awful system.

Really?

You see, I use Live and PSN as well and to be quite honest with you, I happen to think both of them are in certain ways quite fundamentally broken. So much so that I’m sort of happy Nintendo has decided to approach the method from an entirely different angle.

You see, Live is a wonderful system if you handle it properly but socially, it follows the Penny Arcade Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. I have found most of my multiplayer experiences with strangers on the service to be of sub-standard quality; not ALL of them, I will readily admit I had some quite good experiences with people when Resident Evil 5 was new and exciting us. The co-op partners I picked up were intelligent, coherent and we enjoyed it. That didn’t last forever, of course, but I had some good from it. Resident Evil 6 has been an embarrassment, and Dark Souls was exploited so hard that a lot of us simply gave up on the online part of the game itself. In the case of the Live network, it lives and sadly dies on the idea that users can stay in control of their actions. With so many incidents and reports to state otherwise, and the more recent revelation that Microsoft is finally doing something about this situation, denotes the seriousness of it. A social network that is inherently antisocial cannot work.

Live has also come under fire for becoming inherently laden with advertising whilst also charging its users a subscription fee that has been steadily rising for a while. Some have found this rather distasteful and believe that if Microsoft wants to fund the service through advertising and sponsored applications, then we should not be forced to pay a subscription fee. Microsoft are arguably in the odd position where they could drop the fees if they so chose to, but the status quo dictates that if it can make people pay that sum of money every month, then so be it. Why would you actively turn away money people are willing to pay you to use your service? In straight business logic, with no viable strong alternative to the service yet it isn’t in the best interests of Microsoft to do this. That’s not to mention the huge fees charged to developers and studios to use the service for patches, the above-RRP additions to the Demand service and an interface that has drawn a lot of criticism in recent months since it began this change.

The PlayStation Network by token has a benefits package in place for those who do subscribe to it. It is in no way ‘essential’ for certain services but in doing so you get access to a wealth of classic games to play on demand. You’d think this, coupled with the fact Sony have proven that social gaming and sharing works with the likes of LittleBigPlanet, means the PSN is actually a much better system than the Live system. But no. For you see, the Sony system is technically intermittent at times, patches and updates can see the service brought down for quite some time compared to the Live method of downloading the patch when it is ready to go. Sony has said it doesn’t see simultaneous releases for its games as the future. And there’s a small matter of the PSN Hack last year. Not to mention the store isn’t quite as clean as the Live version, and that the PS3 to Vita transfer not being terribly smooth does add some fuel to the fire.

Both services have their upsides. Live is very stable, very smooth and very well thought out. PSN rewards players for subscribing, and has a less volatile userbase. To deny each service these key points in their existence is to do them a disservice, because what they do well they actually manage to do VERY well. But – here’s the thing; they are not perfect. So why would you want a new service to copy them, flaws and all?

Admittedly perhaps the Miiverse needs more time and work, and it may be a valid accusation that Nintendo should have been thinking about adding any good ideas on whilst the network was in development the past few years. That’s not a terrible criticism, but firmware updates and a community providing its voice and feedback can help with that situation. The main concern I suppose for most of us was whether Nintendo could release a network system that could actually handle the load put upon it. This has not always been their strength, if you can remember the original e-Shop concepts and the slow grasping of online networking on the Wii, and how sluggish and prone to crashing it was. I didn’t put a lot of faith into the Miiverse, to be fair, because I thought it would be quite broken. But a lot of people have eased my concerns there and assured me the Miiverse is, in fact, very nice. And that’s a huge step up from “Likely to be terribly broken when it arrives…”

Will the lack of set achievements be an issue? Maybe. But I said my piece on that, and I think eventually a system that accumulates them all into a profile will happen; but not be a set, arbitrary number. It doesn’t seem like Nintendo are interested in that, and I’d suggest that might be a good thing, you won’t be asked to do anything terribly silly in order to just get that last 25GS for a full house. Will the online userbase handle these new MMOs? Well, we’ll see next year when Dragon Quest X and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate arrive on it. But there’s nothing yet to suggest they’ll be terrible.

The Miiverse is then different. But is that really bad?

I like different. I would be rather disappointed if Miiverse was like X-Box Live or PSN. With Nintendo, you kind of know they’ll be a little left-field at times and this is clearly one of those occasions where they are indeed coming at us from the other end of the pitch. Does this mean they’re running to catch up, or running back with the ball it just caught? You know what, that’s not something any of us will know for a good couple of years yet. Making any sweeping statements about it in such an infant state is a little dangerous, considering the next few months are likely to see quite sweeping changes to the firmware and the network itself. It got out onto the market without breaking its legs, now it has to try and match those already dancing and one-up them. It’s hardly even started yet.

I think we need to be very careful at times with what we expect. A Eurogamer user called seeyohsirun linked to the Wikipedia article about Status Quo Bias, or the irrational hatred or fear of anything that differs from the norm which we have come to expect. It’s a real situation, and therefore one that Nintendo was always going to run into – there was no way to avoid it. To change, to really want to change, is to arguably alienate many of those for whom the current status quo has become accepted. To move on from it would be to upset the balance, make them question the way they perceive the services they have become accustomed to and that might mean they are forced to realise that their service may not be quite so perfect. Although if you considered it perfect, or even good enough, I have some bad news for you…

The change is good. If Nintendo can prove certain things are possible and attainable via its service then surely that will inspire others to improve their networks? Likewise, Nintendo will likely continue to watch its rivals and try to avoid the pitfalls they have made and will continue to make. All of this is actually good for us, as consumers, because it inspires others to improve how they do things and thereby making things better for us. Will it always work like that? Of course not, there will be hiccups and silly choices made along the way but no journey is without its breakdowns, no life without its hardships. We shouldn’t be so optimistic that we feel they can do no wrong, but not so pessimistic that we can’t see the good in doing things another way when possible.

Different is good. Different is necessary. And if you like Live, or PSN, then good for you. I’m happy you have found contentment somewhere and I wish you all the very best in your lives. That doesn’t mean you have to tell me that what I’m going into is the wrong choice though. Like I said in my article on hate, if you are truly happy why seek to undermine the competition? Especially when it can indirectly make your service even better than it is now?

Methinks some people out there doth protest too much anyway. “We’re not fanboys!”, they cry.

You could have fooled me…

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One Response to “Different Is Good.”

  1. dap005 says:

    I'm looking forward to Miiverse (or gamefaq done the Nintendo way in my dictionary). Whilst it's impossible for hostility and 'inappropriate' images to not slip through the administration; I really do hope that Miiverse's atmosphere will not be polluted by whatever foulness people come up with when their anon on the internet.
    Previous online experience on a Nintendo console was when me and my cousin played Monster hunter tri. I was typing messages whilst feeding my cousin kettle chips (don't ask; i just made sure to award his laziness by shovelling the bigger crisps into his mouth). That was a positive experience overall and I hope Miiverse will be the same or even become a warmer place to be.

    It can be done (look at 'Journey', what it's done in the online gaming area can not be described in words) but it'll be tough, then again Nintendo likes a challenge. Let's hope Miiverse turns out to be more whimsical than woeful. 😀

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