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Consistency vs. continuous innovation in game console design

twilitfalchion

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Not sure if the title makes sense, but here goes.

Console makers like Nintendo have become known for relying on gimmicks to sell their consoles, for better and worse. The Wii was a raging success for its appeal to the casual market and for its novel motion controls, while the Wii U's gimmick (that being the gamepad) did nothing to prevent the system from being a commercial failure, for instance. And Nintendo has stuck to that design philosophy for the Switch, which will unquestionably go on to be one of their greatest successes.

On the other hand, you have a company like Sony, who's never been one to stretch beyond their comfort zone, but have largely enjoyed consistent success by making quality consoles that play the games they (and other companies) make for them. It's a simple appeal, but one that many gamers are satisfied with. The only notable exception to this being the PS Vita, which was treated rather horribly by Sony's marketing and decision to rely on an overpriced memory storage format.

Between these two styles of console design, I'd say I personally lean towards the design philosophy that produces consoles of consistent quality without any unnecessary gimmicks or additions. Even Nintendo had its phases such as during the GameCube generation where they made a console that was gimmick free while offering strong technical performance in an affordable package. I've just never been one for consoles trying to do things that could very well be divisive or unpredictable with the final result rather than sticking to what will always work.

How about you? Where do you stand on Nintendo-style innovation vs a more consistent approach to console design? Which do you prefer to see from the companies you follow or consider yourself a regular consumer of?
 

VikzeLink

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I really prefer to not have gimmicks over having gimmicks. Sometimes it can be fun with a gimmick, especially if it's a good one, but at some point, it feels like they're introducing a gimmick just for the sake of having a gimmick, and that's not good.

If they've got a good gimmick and have a good reason for using it, then I'm all for it! But Nintendo (and especially a couple of years ago) seem to think that they need to force some sort of innovation or gimmick for every console and every game there is.

I've got a theory that many of the older people at Nintendo still sees video games as electronic toys. Toy being the keyword here, they feel as if these new toys needs new features in order to be interesting and fun to the customer.
But I'd say that to most people, games are not like toys, but a medium. It's what's in the games that matter, not how you interact with them.
 

mαrkαsscoρ

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I'll admit that having some interesting gimmick can be cool to see in some games, but it ultimately hurts their longevity if 10-20 years down the line, it can only be played on that specific hardware and it just limits it's future playability. Even something small like Wind Waker w/ the tingle tuner and tingle bottles that you could only use on that specific hardware, and the bottles you just can't use period b/c of it's tie to the now dead miiverse. Wii and DS games need no explanation there. It doesn't work out too well in the long run.
 

Bowsette Plus-Ultra

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I'm not a fan of gimmicks in console design.

Ultimately, a game console is a piece of plastic meant to play games somewhat well over a five to ten year period. I'd prefer that superior hardware be given precedence over anything else that would interfere with a console's ability to do so. I'd much rather that we see a consistent advancement in gaming technology to allow us to play bigger and better games over a Wii that allows us to play technically lesser games, but with lots of arm waggles.
 
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Dio

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Consoles are largely pointless these days as they are like crappy PCs with less functionality. It's generally better to just get a PC. Any kind of gimmick a console can offer can be done on PC. Motion control, VR etc. The only thing now that would make a console preferable to some is lower price and also handheld capabilities. When mobile phones become powerful as the Switch there will pretty much no benefit to dedicated game consoles.
 

Dizzi

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Uhh ill probs stick with consoles as i prefer to have my phone for texting and keep the battery and that from being depleted....
 

Mikey the Moblin

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Consoles are largely pointless these days as they are like crappy PCs with less functionality. It's generally better to just get a PC. Any kind of gimmick a console can offer can be done on PC. Motion control, VR etc. The only thing now that would make a console preferable to some is lower price and also handheld capabilities. When mobile phones become powerful as the Switch there will pretty much no benefit to dedicated game consoles.
 

Bowsette Plus-Ultra

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Consoles are largely pointless these days as they are like crappy PCs with less functionality. It's generally better to just get a PC. Any kind of gimmick a console can offer can be done on PC. Motion control, VR etc. The only thing now that would make a console preferable to some is lower price and also handheld capabilities. When mobile phones become powerful as the Switch there will pretty much no benefit to dedicated game consoles.
I mean, you've just summarized everything that consoles have going for them that gaming PCs don't. It's always cheaper to buy a console than it would be to buy a decent gaming PC. Sure, I play on an overly expensive $1800 PC, but you could do almost everything that I do on a $250 PS4.
 
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As far as gimmicks go, if they are a legitimately good feature, then I'm all for them. The Switch being a portable home console that can also be connected to the TV is great. Gimmicks shouldn't be forced in though, like, as much as I like Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild, certain parts of the games or abilities and moves shouldn't require motion controls. The new gimmick is the portability, do I really want to shake my Switch when I'm travelling.

Overall, I think that power is important, and probably more important. Not just for FPS and graphics though, ultimately a console's power dictates what the developers can do with the games. An example would be Wind Waker on the GC not having a faster sail because the water couldn't load fast enough on the GC to keep up with the boat. But in the Wii U remaster, since the Wii U was more powerful, they could include the swift sail.

Then again though, Nintendo prioritizing gimmicks has been more profitable for them. The Wii and Switch are their best selling home consoles, neither of which were significant power upgrades from their predecessors and prioritized the gimmick. The Wii U and Gamecube were more significant power upgrades but sold poorly.

I mean, you've just summarized everything that consoles have going for them that gaming PCs don't. It's always cheaper to buy a console than it would be to buy a decent gaming PC. Sure, I play on an overly expensive $1800 PC, but you could do almost everything that I do on a $250 PS4.
You don't have to pay $1800 for a PC to run games. I payed much less then that about 3 years ago when I built one and it runs most any game just fine with no issues.

Plus there are other costs to think about. Console games are more expensive, especially when theirs a steam sale (theirs a summer sale right now) which have ridiculous deals sometimes like 80-90% off. Games on steam are generally cheaper then games on console and go on sale much more often.

Plus PC games can be modded. Some games benefit a ton from it like the Elder Scrolls or Fallout games.
 

Bowsette Plus-Ultra

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As far as gimmicks go, if they are a legitimately good feature, then I'm all for them. The Switch being a portable home console that can also be connected to the TV is great. Gimmicks shouldn't be forced in though, like, as much as I like Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild, certain parts of the games or abilities and moves shouldn't require motion controls. The new gimmick is the portability, do I really want to shake my Switch when I'm travelling.

Overall, I think that power is important, and probably more important. Not just for FPS and graphics though, ultimately a console's power dictates what the developers can do with the games. An example would be Wind Waker on the GC not having a faster sail because the water couldn't load fast enough on the GC to keep up with the boat. But in the Wii U remaster, since the Wii U was more powerful, they could include the swift sail.

Then again though, Nintendo prioritizing gimmicks has been more profitable for them. The Wii and Switch are their best selling home consoles, neither of which were significant power upgrades from their predecessors and prioritized the gimmick. The Wii U and Gamecube were more significant power upgrades but sold poorly.


You don't have to pay $1800 for a PC to run games. I payed much less then that about 3 years ago when I built one and it runs most any game just fine with no issues.

Plus there are other costs to think about. Console games are more expensive, especially when theirs a steam sale (theirs a summer sale right now) which have ridiculous deals sometimes like 80-90% off. Games on steam are generally cheaper then games on console and go on sale much more often.

Plus PC games can be modded. Some games benefit a ton from it like the Elder Scrolls or Fallout games.
That kind of assumes that you're buying the games years later, in which case they're likely to be pretty rock bottom cheap on consoles. Newer stuff doesn't tend to have crazy 75% off discounts in that first year unless the game really bottomed out its sales numbers (like Fallout 76) or its critical reception (like No Man's Sky and also Fallout 76).

And I didn't mean that an $1800 PC is necessary to game, but that my PC specifically cost that much. It'd probably cost somewhat more now, given that I managed to buy my RTX 3070 back before the big chip shortage. But consoles like the Xbox Series S/X and Playstation 5 are incredible for the price. You're not going to be able to build a comparable PC for $300 or $500.
 

Jimmu

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While innovative gimmicks don’t always pull off for Nintendo I nevertheless think they are something that is part of what makes Nintendo distinct from its competition.

Sony, Microsoft, and even PC Gaming are all generally evolutionary between generations (with a focus on power or graphical improvements) where as Nintendo much more often comes with something revolutionary due to their willingness to try bold new ideas. As others have mentioned in this thread already other devices like smartphones could easily replace consoles if it isn’t for some kind of innovation which keeps them distinct. Through innovation and being different Nintendo can reduce its exposure to competition and carve out its own distinct reason to continue to exist.
 
The best kinds of gimmicks are those that are able to enhance the normal playing experience while being unobtrusive. I think the second screen of the DS and 3DS are an excellent example of that. Having a map or item menu to look down at just below the action happening on the top screen was so handy. I'll miss that convenience. That similar idea didn't work on the Wii U because looking from the TV to the Gamepad is a bigger hassle.

Overall I prefer the more streamlined and consistent approach, but it's hard to deny that Nintendo has progressed the game industry through its unique ideas. We still see motion control to this day, albeit in a reduced form, like in PS VR games and Switch Sports. The idea of a hybrid with the Switch is also brilliant. But such an approach is bound to misfire once in a while like with the Virtual Boy and Wii U.
 

Spiritual Mask Salesman

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I probably prefer consistency over gimmicks, but I won't say gimmicks are always bad. I do think Nintendo has pushed forward with some innovative ideas for certain timeframes, but I think there has to be a line where the appeal of the console still has foundation in the quality you come to expect, and the gimmick just enhances that in a postive way. So the Switch for example is the perfect balance, where the console is just good in of itself, but then it's also a two in one, both portable and a home console. Bssically the "gimmick" isn't even so much a gimmick anymore, it's a welcomed feature.
 

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