Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Unbearable Intrusiveness of Marketing (with apologies to Milan Kundera)

I finally managed to make my way to real hi-def TV the other day, after having my 16x9 480p tube TV conk out on me after several years. I found a TV in a brand that I was happy with that was the same size as the tube TV that I had before. I had convinced myself that I would be perfectly fine with a 720p60Hz television, only to find that the TV I was going to get was no longer available and I had to get the 1080p60Hz model that replaced it for $11 more. My previous attempts at figuring out if I could get a 1080p television had convinced me that the difference was going to be somewhere around $130, but I apparently lucked out.  I have not put the old TV out by the road yet as it had been raining a lot and I have not found a silver Sharpie or a good Spanish translation of the phrase "Damaged Power Supply".

I was glad to be able to separate my Wii from my PS3 again, so that they weren't both tying up the same screen. Once I had it hooked up, I was excited to see the PS3 reissue of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, and the Blu-Ray of Wreck-It Ralph. It was also nice that my younger son could go play Wii again if he didn't like what was on the PS3. With the TV conflict sorted out, gaming around the house mostly went back to normal and I would now be telling you about how much I liked ICO and Shadow of the Colossus and how much they mean to gaming and how I'm going to really enjoy playing them again and my older son will get to take a crack at ICO for the first time.

Except that I'm not. (At least not today.)

The thing that's really gnawing at my brain at the moment happened a night or two after the TV debacle got straightened out. We were trying to round up the SuperMonkeyChildren at bedtime when we got distracted by something. The Wii, which I was sure was off, was flashing its blue LEDs from the drive tray in all sorts of strange patterns in an attempt to get my attention. (Yay, it worked.) I checked to make sure that nobody had left a disk in the drive, and then I turned the TV it was attached to on to see what the heck was going on.
It wasn't already on, and I turned it on only to see that there was a message. I figured it was going to be a system message like "You played Super Smash Bros. for 1:27 and Sengoku Basara:Samurai Heroes for 4:15 - what happened to Wii Fit, you lazy slug" but it turned out to be a message from outside. Since it's nearly impossible for anyone to send a message like this on purpose thanks to Nintendo's overly protective online strategy for the Wii, I should have figured out even before I opened the message that it could only have come from Nintendo itself.

The message was Nintendo telling me that I should buy a Wii U since I already had a Wii and could use all my existing controllers on it already. My first offhand thought was sending a response that said "Well, if I hadn't just replaced my TV...", while SuperMonkeyWife just suggested I send a response along the lines of "Well, if you're buying...". What I realized was two things. One, this was the first time that I had been marketed to this way, and two, if Nintendo had been paying attention like the way it's able to pay attention now it would know that I have eventually bought almost*every console they've ever put out, just not always right away. The Wii is the first Nintendo console that had any substantial online capability, and so it's their first console that seems to be tracking aggregate gameplay data to find out what people are playing. I presume that Microsoft and Sony were already doing some amount of this for XBox users and PS2 users that played online in the previous generation - the GameCube didn't really do much in the way of online other than a handful of titles so I imagine there was hardly any reason to track usage stats.

I know that my PS3 figures out which titles to suggest to me based on what games I have save files for, so I guess it's not long before I see the same message from Sony about buying the new PS4 this holiday season. I don't think it's going to tell me that I can use my PS3 controllers, though. I'm in no rush to get a PS4 anyway. I could be a little more excited about the WiiU once Pikmin 3 is out, but ultimately if there are still games to play on the Wii and PS3 that still seems like a good thing. If I'm always looking for the next console instead of the most satisfying game, you end up with something like this:

"A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person." -Milan Kundera

*While I expect to eventually get a 3DS and a WiiU, there's little chance I'm going to go back and get a Virtual Boy.

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