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Opinion: Nintendo still doesn't understand social gaming

WarioWare DIY yet another casualty of friend codes
Product: WarioWare D.I.Y. | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: Party/ mini- games
WarioWare D.I.Y. DS, thumbnail 1
WarioWare DIY has been nuzzled firmly in my Nintendo DS since release; its combination of mini-game madness and development tools drawing me back time and time again.

Yet while this is another successful WarioWare release for Nintendo, it further drives home the point that the company seems to have no idea how to cater to the new generation of social gamers.

Online chaos

The online sharing features in WarioWare DIY sound so promising - I had hoped for a mini-game version of the PlayStation 3's LittleBigPlanet.

Unfortunately, Nintendo has stayed true to past form by severely limiting player-to-player capabilities.

Whereas in LittleBigPlanet players can download any uploaded level available and share their own levels with rest of the world, WarioWare features a much more controlled system.

To download your friends' games, players must first add the other person's friend code to their database. The friend then has to do the same for your code.

While this isn't a huge problem for sharing with actual friends (outside of being overly tedious, of course), it does mean that sharing your creations with the rest of the world is next to impossible.

This system makes it difficult to share games with anyone you don't know. Even if another player leaves their code on a forum or comments thread, plugging their code into your game isn't enough.

You'll need to add your code to the same thread and hope that person checks back again and adds your code too.

It's like the dual trigger system used to stop nuclear weapons being accidentally launched.

Think of the children

Of course, there is a method to the madness - or so Nintendo would argue, anyway.

Online features in Nintendo games have always been limited, in an attempt to keep the atmosphere child-friendly.

The majority of online Nintendo games do not support chat, with some instead including set phrases which players can say to competitors (see: Smash Bros Brawl, Clubhouse Games).

But most DS and Wii online games have no social method of interacting with other players at all. Take Mario Kart for example - other than driving, there is no chat or interaction features to speak of (literally).

In fact, if players didn't have names floating above their heads, you could quite easily mistake it for an offline race.

Unlock the door

Nintendo needs to step up its game and start offering players a proper online experience.

Both the Wii and DS have parental controls built into them, so there's no reason why Nintendo can't offer full online facilities to gamers who want them, and cut-down features for younger players.

In the case of WarioWare DIY, if it was possible to connect and download any uploaded mini-game, this would make the game massively more playable. And massively more successful too.

Instead, we're given a handful of officially selected games each week. Thanks uncle Nintendo.

All the company's competitors - including Apple, which Nintendo recently stated is a handheld threat - are firmly rooted in the online gaming world.

Nintendo must leave behind the perception that its gamers need protecting from the big, bad world. If it doesn't, it could even end up being a case of self presentation, because if it doesn't change, Nintendo will end up losing its audience, not protecting it.

Reviewer photo
Mike Rose 13 May 2010
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