back to article Pong creator turns nose up at Nintendo Wii U

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell has doubts over the long-term success of the Nintendo Wii U, after admitting he doesn't get the tablet-controlled console. "I actually am baffled by it," said the Pong creator in an interview with the New York Times. "I don't think it's going to be a big success." Bushnell - often hailed at the …


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  1. Steve I

    Re: If anything

    I'm sorry to inform you, but use of the phrase 'pray tell' does not actually make you sound sophisticated, but instead tends to remind people of a Viz character who appeared in the 'Postie' strip once - pretentious student twat, I think his name was.

    PCs inherently tend to be noisier than consoles and have more wires and look messier than games consoles with keyboards, mice and (usually) desks & monitors etc. Now if your wife doesn't mind this, then good for you.

  2. Fibbles

    Re: If anything

    "PCs inherently tend to be noisier than consoles and have more wires and look messier than games consoles with keyboards, mice and (usually) desks & monitors etc. Now if your wife doesn't mind this, then good for you."

    Most of my PC's (with the exception of an old HP laptop that constantly overheats,) are quieter than my friends XBox 360, especially when he has to run things off the DVD. You can easily use wireless keyboards and mice. The monitor is connected with an HDMI cable just like your console and TV. I do prefer to play games on a dedicated PC set up on a desk though rather than via the TV (the rest of the household really wouldn't be impressed if I stopped them from watching tele just to play TF2).

    This myth that you have to upgrade your hardware every year just to play the latest games is complete nonsense. If you buy something at the upper end of mid-range you'll be looking at 3-4 years before you're struggling to run games even on the lowest settings. That's certainly a shorter upgrade cycle than consoles but most people would be upgrading their PC after 4 years anyway, even if that's only because Windows has slowed to a crawl.

    I much prefer PC gaming to console gaming. There are more of the type of games I want to play on the PC platform, the graphics are better, online gameplay is handled better imo, the control system is more accurate and there are more customisation options for games including user made content (paying for DLC is not something I'm keen on).

    With that said, I'm not foolish enough to believe that PC gaming is either suited for the majority of people or that it will ever overtake consoles when it comes to sales.

  3. Davidoff

    It used to be when a console was launched ...

    "... it was ahead of the PC for a few years"

    The last time this has been true was when the PSX (the original Playstation) came out. Subsequent consoles have always trailed what was available on PCs at the day the console came out.

  4. Davidoff

    Buy a £250 console and you get 4-5 years of life out of it...

    "and are still able to play the latest games with the same user experience as everyone else. Try that with a PC and most (note, not ALL) modern games and you'll be lucky if it's even going to work in noddy graphics mode 3 years down the line."

    Well, no. While this was true maybe 7+ years ago, today a midrange PC from 2006/2007 can still run latest games at full HD resolution and with high details. Since consoles have become the main development target many multi-platform titles run just fine on an older rig.

    One of my PC is quite old, with a CPU comparable to a Core 2 Quad @ 2.6GHz and a Radeon 4870. Still runs latest games like Skyrim, Max Payne 3 or Borderlands 2 with better graphics than my Xbox 360.

  5. Davidoff

    Every year there would be something I'd have to upgrade

    "I used to be a PC gamer but every year there would be something I'd have to upgrade - graphics card, CPU, motherboard, memory. All of this of course required getting Windows to once again play ball and when I was on it every evening it was worth it."

    Not much a problem today. Due to the technological stagnation in most games due the limitations of consoles a decent 4+ year old computer can run most games just fine. The situations where upgrades are necessary are less common than in the old days.

  6. Steve Knox Silver badge

    Re: If anything

    I doubt it - for most people, the cost and complexity of setting up a gaming PC don't outweigh the benfits of better graphics. Add to the the ability of a console to sit in your living room and make use of your high-quality surrpoing sound systems and large display screen.

    Sure, you can connect a PC up to these bits of kit, but them you have to factor in keeping a PC in the living room.

    Co. was tossing a 2-yr old PC with Vista Business on it.

    Bought a prev-gen ATI card (5250) for $50, a Blu-ray drive for $50, and a wireless KB/mouse for $20.

    Now I have a media center PC with the ability to play games better than the XBOX does for peanuts. The video card has HDMI out with support for digital sound so it' works with my surround system perfectly.

    The PC replaced:

    1 old and slow cable box from a cable company who was charging way to much anyway,

    1 Blu-ray player,

    1 Argosy media player.

    So it takes up less space, is less complex to manage, provides a higher quality experience, and if you count the savings on the cable bill, paid for itself in two months.

    What's the problem with a PC in the living room again?

  7. jeffdyer

    Re: If anything

    yes as a console matures the games get better. as a pc matures new games get slower as it is now behind the bleeding edge.

    i have ps1 2 and 3 and have never been tempted to battle graphics drivers for relaxation.

  8. P. Lee Silver badge

    Re: If anything

    True. I'm still using more core2duo for gaming and its fine.

    However, to make things work well you really need hot-swap and an easy interface. Something like PCMCIA for graphics cards - multiplexed thunderbolt maybe? It might be enough if you only have to drive an HDTV. You don't want average joe messing around touching static-sensitive bits.

    You also need... rom/cd based software installation (PXE over http?) for when the disk dies.

    I hope Valve is paying attention... :)

  9. Chandy Bronze badge

    Re: If anything

    I thought consoles were all about a fixed and well understood piece of hardware that games writers could use to the fullest extent vs. having to write a game that will run on a general bundle of (decent-ish) PC hardware?

    Just because the PC is 'higher spec' doesn't mean that the game would look better on it than on a console.

  10. Greg J Preece

    Re: If anything

    Just because the PC is 'higher spec' doesn't mean that the game would look better on it than on a console.

    Yes and no. You can get more out of dedicated hardware in a console than you could with the same hardware in a PC, yes. The problem is that a modern PC's hardware capabilities often greatly outstrip what is necessary to run the basic OS (and Windows has gotten faster in recent years). If you look at the processor in a 360, it's seriously old hat at this point. Every PC I ever lay hands on is way more powerful. You can stretch that chip as far as you like, but it has a limit.

    The other problem is that games are developed to be cross-platform. Games that have to be released on PS3, 360 and PC are hampered because the 360 can't do anything above DirectX 9. (Windows fecking XP!) Dedicated PC games, on the other hand, can ditch the out-of-date graphics libraries, cross-platform abstractions, etc and just go all-out.

    Trufax: inFamous 2 was supposed to be a cross-platform release, but Sucker Punch tried it and said "sorry guys, the X-box just can't do this well enough."

  11. sisk Silver badge

    Re: If anything

    @Steve I - First off, I don't care if you think I'm a 'pretentious twat'. 'Pray tell' is a part of my regular vocabulary. If you have to attack my phrasing to make your point then perhaps you need to rethink your position.

    My media center PC, back when I had one, had only three cables coming out of it: power, audio (to the surround sound system), and VGA (to the TV). Everything else was handled by wireless USB dongles. There was my gamepad, which was a modded wireless XBox control, the RF keyboard and mouse, and my wifi. The fact that I had a modded XBox control should give you the timeframe for when I had this box. Today, with graphis cards that have HDMI, I'd have only two cables, a 802.11N dongle (which could handle HD video, unlike the old G one), and Bluetooth for everthing else. As for noise, my PS3 (which has sense been sold because it was just collecting dust) was much louder.

    As an added bonus, the media center PC also played video off of my file server (something which my no console at the time could do, though the PS3 can with DLNA, the Wii can if it's modded for homebrew apps, and I assume the 360 can somehow) and, briefly (because I only briefly had a use for one), served as a DVR (something which, so far as I know, consoles still can't do without being modded).

  12. Steve I

    Re: If anything

    But try telling any of your PC-illiterate friends that all they need to do is add some RAM and install a new GPU and just see the look on their faces...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: If anything

    The look on their face as I turn the PC off, open the cover, press the release clip on the RAM/graphics card, pull the old RAM/graphics card from the slot, push the new RAM/graphics card into the slot, replace the cover and power the PC back on is usually one of "Oh, I thought that would be difficult. I'll do it myself next time".

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not going to happen

    Expecting everyone to play the same kind of games on the same kind of hardware is like expecting everyone to play or follow the same sport. Not going to happen.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've wrote it before and I will write it again, mobile gaming is targeted at a different type of consumers: the casual type. On the other hand, the console and PC gaming is targeted at living room gamers (doesn't matter where, just accept the term). Some gamers might belong to both groups, but many belong to one or the other. Although keep in mind, when do we draw the line about what is a casual gamer or not? after all, FlashPlayer gamers do spent as much time playing theirs gamers as we do!

    Note, the mobile phone as a platform might replace the current platforms, but not if it is still limited to mobile games. Let me elaborate, what if we construct an adapter that would let us plug in the mobile phone and then use our game controller with it and it will let us get the image/sound on our big screen; can it still be called mobile gaming or is it living room gaming using a mobile platform?

    The distinct that I am trying to get at is, there is a difference between mobile gaming and living room gaming, we know this. But should we really care about the platform that would give us either? With that being said, mobile platforms still have a lot of limitation to overcome before it can be used for living room gaming, the main one being, the storage space.

    Reminder, if the mobile platform does starting running AAA games, do expect the price of those games to match the current price, there is no way a developer will be willing to spend as much money on developing game and then sell it at US$ 0.99

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Back on topic, I do believe that the GamePad is optional, games might be programmed to use it and/or add extra futures that make use of it. But it is still optional, you can still use the classic controller with Wii U, so what is the problem?

  17. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    "I've wrote it before and I will write it again..."

    Why? Copying and pasting text is much quicker.

  18. Amonynous

    Look! Up there...

    "when do we draw the line about what is a casual gamer or not?" ... "Reminder, if the mobile platform does starting running AAA games, do expect the price of those games to match the current price, there is no way a developer will be willing to spend as much money on developing game and then sell it at US$ 0.99"

    I think you have answered your own question.

    "Casual Gaming" (vs. Living Room/Hardcore/Full Fat gaming, whatever..) is not defined by platform, it is defined by attention span. Casual games are those that can be picked up and put down at will, e.g for five minutes at a time, without the need to invest dozens of hours of concentrated play to get the full experience out of the game.

    Hence the £/$0.99 price point; these are the kind of games that can be developed by a small team with a relatively small investment due to the emphasis on 'fun' and 'game-play', vs the £/$35+ 'hardcore' game which requires a distinctly cinematic budget to develop (and test) vast quantities of 'shock and awe' content and/or "depth and complexity" which the casual gamer will not benefit from due to not having the necessary time or inclination to invest the required effort.

    The key to success in the casual sphere seems to be getting the 'hook' of the game play mechanics just right, and if you can combine that with some off-kilter visual aesthetics so much the better. Unsurprisingly, the hotbed of innovative low-cost games at the moment seems to be (it was ever thus) the PC! There is a tonne of stuff out there in the £/$5.99 to £/$9.99 bracket that is well worth the money, and I don't just mean last year's failed hits being remaindered/recycled to try and recoup some of their losses (or Farcebook 'social' gaming which is an entirely different type of con).

    By comparison to PC indie games, most of the mobile/casual games I have tried or seen seem boring by comparison. There is no particular reason why that should be the case (unfortunate, because you can't fit a PC in your back pocket for when you have five minutes to kill). It just seems that the open/upgradeable nature and relatively low barriers to entry of the PC attracts the most creative (independent) minds, whereas Android/iPhone mobile gaming seems to be drowning in corporately spawned derivative tat chasing the 'mass market'. Maybe developers are put off because it is very hard to get noticed amongst hundreds of thousands of other apps, whereas a stand-out game in the PC arena is competing with one or two orders of magnitude fewer competing games.

    On the other hand, consoles are a victim of their own 'success'. If you are a newbie who wants to develop for consoles, forget it, because it's a closed shop requiring SDKs and signing your life away on NDAs, royalty agreements, etc. You need to be a fairly serious game studio with financial backing (in turn requiring a track record) before you can even start. Hardly encourages creative thinking, small projects or talented new entrants, which is why all you'll generally get is (big) teamthink and predictable sequels for the highest price they think they can fleece you for, exactly the same no-risk business model as Hollywood movies. No thanks.

  19. FlingoBingo

    Gaming grandad

    I'm not convinced by any of Nintendo's recent products, mostly because 2 minutes on a 3DS in Game left me boss-eyed for an hour but in fairness to them I doubt many 70 year olds 'get' modern technology.

  20. toadwarrior

    Re: Gaming grandad

    Why not turn the 3D effects off? Some games I never play with 3D on (like racing games) but not because it hurts my eyes but because you get better performance and that can make a difference sometimes.

  21. Sudden Genesis

    News Limerick

    As marketing hits a crescendo

    Some guy sees the end of Nintendo

    You may know his name

    Atari's his game

    Now how's that for some innuendo?

  22. BigAndos

    Portable Consoles, maybe..

    I think there is a case to make this argument for portable consoles like the Vita and Nindendo DS. In this case, mobile gaming is a natural evolution - similar (or better) hardware power but only one device to carry around. Locking down of game purchases is at platform level, rather than specific device level. Access to titles from a much wider range of publishers...

    With the poor 3DS sales I have wondered why Nintendo doesn't consider becoming a publisher for iPhone/Android et al? I would love to have Nintendo quality games on my phone, Professor Layton or Pokemon would be ideal commute fodder and I can't be bothered to carry around two devices.

    For home consoles, I don't think this will happen - at least not completely. The casual market will probably go down the mobile/tablet route to an extent but you can't beat good old console multiplayer. Just Dance etc sell by the boat load and I can't see those running on a phone in the near future!

  23. JaimieV

    Re: Portable Consoles, maybe..

    The 3DS hasn't had poor sales. After a not very shaky start, from Q2 after launch it has consistently sold more units than the DS did in the same time-since-launch, which makes it better selling than the best selling handheld console ever...

    Nintendo's Wii was the best selling of the PS3/X360/Wii triumvirate. And every one of them sold made Nintendo money, quite the opposite of MS and Sony. We'll see how the WiiU goes - but it's selling out rapidly so far, and more than the Wii did (because there are more units available!).

    That's why Nintendo aren't getting out of the hardware business, and are in a silent battle against iOS/Android for portable gaming. They can't possibly win, but they are likely to hold their own and keep the niche IMHO.

  24. Amonynous

    Re: Portable Consoles, maybe..

    Don't forget the target market here. You'll hardly find a kid between the ages of 7 and 11 who hasn't got (or wants) a DS/3DS, whereas far fewer of them will have an iOS/Android device. Playground peer pressure is one factor on Nintendo's side, and parental control is another.

    Most parents do not want their younger offspring having uncontrolled access to the internet, app stores, text messaging and phone services. It is a damn sight easier to control what little Johnny plays on his Nintendo handheld than on any mobile/tablet device.

    Okay there was that recent survey that said most under-tens want an iOS device, but then most over 45's want a Ferrari and there's bugger all chance of that happening either. Nintendo have got plenty of breathing space left, and as the saying goes ""Give me the child, and I will mould the man." Maybe this time they can build some lasting brand loyalty; the WiiU definitely seems to be trying to extend to a more grown-up demographic this time round.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Mobile gaming will kill consoles; just like TV killed movies, and wristwatch TVs killed the large ones that used to sit in your home. Or is this the universe where this happened?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Atari founder Nolan Bushnell has doubts over the long-term success of the Nintendo Wii U, after admitting he doesn't get the tablet-controlled console."

    And if a tech head doesn't get it, the absolutely thick as pigs sh te consumers won't have a clue, or the brain cells to investigate.

  27. Stig2k

    Mobile gaming with hardware controls

    Just for information (cos I only found out about it 2 weeks ago) anyone who has an android phone with bluetooth and wants to play with a real controller, you can connect both Wii and PS3 controllers. Works brilliantly with snes and n64 emulators.

  28. DrXym Silver badge

    The point of the Wii U

    Is to get Nintendo on the same performance / development tier as the PS3 and 360. Developers can take 90% of the code, graphics, audio and other assets from these other platforms and reuse them on the Wii U. It means at last that Nintendo might actually see some decent 3rd party support, albeit just as these two other consoles are enjoying perhaps the last 18 months of their lives. It's basically 5 year old tech dressed up with a gimmick controller and a high price premium.

  29. sisk Silver badge

    Re: The point of the Wii U

    It's basically 5 year old tech dressed up with a gimmick controller and a high price premium.

    I'll grant you that it's old tech plus a gimmick, but isn't that what Nintendo's been doing in the console market for a while? It seems to work remarkably well for them. As for the 'high price premimum', $500 isn't all that much for a launch price on a console anymore. Hell, the PS3 was $700 at launch, and that was 5 years worth of horrindous inflation ago.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The point of the Wii U

    "5 years worth of horrindous inflation ago."

    Are you German? Inflation in the US has averaged under 3% for quite a while now, and I'm not aware of any other nationalities which would consider that 'horrendous'.

  31. sisk Silver badge

    Re: The point of the Wii U

    3% is horrendous when you couple it with the fact that the average income hasn't kept pace with inflation. A 3% increase in the cost of living is a hell of a lot when your paycheck doesn't swell to match it, which in this area they haven't. That may just be the area I'm living in. I haven't looked at national statistics but I know that in my area most people have only gotten one minimal cost of living raise since the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008.

  32. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  33. Davidoff

    In the same way Linux runs faster than windows on the same h/w

    Yeah, sure. You obviously haven't tried a modern Linux distribution like Ubuntu, other wise you'd have known that such general statements are plain BS.

  34. Greg J Preece

    Re: In the same way Linux runs faster than windows on the same h/w

    Yeah, sure. You obviously haven't tried a modern Linux distribution like Ubuntu, other wise you'd have known that such general statements are plain BS.

    Actually, I'm thinking the same of you. Every machine I have dual or triple boots, and Linux is always the fastest system by light years. I though Win7 was snappy on my desktop, then I installed Kubuntu, and it's crazy fast.

  35. pig

    Wii U Profit

    "“As soon as we get the consumer to buy one piece of software, then that entire transaction becomes profit positive,” Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo America, told the San Jose Mercury News"

    That's great for Nintendo if it is true, but the quote is conspicuous by it's absense from the interview you linked to.

  36. SpaMster

    I'm still yet to find a single person who prefers games on a touchscreen rather than on a console with a controller

    Phones the gaming platform of the future?

    It's really not

    They might want to start asking people who are actually into gaming instead of angry birds fanboys

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How has this research been performed? Do you stand in the street asking strangers or simply ask your friends?

    Have you ever even uttered the question "do you prefer games on touchscreen to console gaming"? Or are you just telling us that you and your 3 mates like PS3?

  38. Eddie Edwards

    Since this is my industry, I do feel compelled to point out that the death of consoles is pretty much an accepted fact by now. There's no real debate about whether or not it's happening or is going to happen. The curve for console-based revenue is downwards, and has been for some time. There are zero startups in the console space. Studio closures are endemic. The specialist retail sector is imploding / has imploded. These are not the signs of a healthy industry.

    Sure, we'd all love to believe that it isn't true, because there are significant problems to solve before GTA on iPhone is as fun or as playable as GTA on PS3. But it's likely these issues will be overcome over the years, and every step towards the solution is a nail in the coffin for consoles, I'm afraid.

  39. M Gale

    "There are zero startups in the console space."

    There haven't been any new console companies since the 1980s. Even Xbox and Playstation came from two very well established behemoths deciding to get into a new sector.

    That said, it could be interesting to see where Ouya goes.

  40. Richard 120



    This is probably one of the nails TBH, but it proves there is still a bit of life in consoles.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Sure, we'd all love to believe that it isn't true"

    Are you kidding? I'd love it! At the very least it would mean PC games wouldn't be quarter-assed ports of console stuff, gimped four or five generations by console tech limitations.

    Maybe it would mean that gaming on anything but a phone dies entirely, but I'm not going to shed many tears for an industry that's essentially crippled gaming for a dozen years. And if consoles survive, PC gaming is dead anyway - along with, perhaps, most serious CPU / GPU performance improvements...

  42. Zot

    There are start-ups.

    Kick-starter and the Unity/ UDK engines have helped get many games on different formats at the same time, which helps start-ups get the cash flow moving quicker.

    But there's still other costs like product licensing and delivery. And all the advertising razzmatazz of course.

  43. JustaBod

    Dead? Really?

    Console gaming dead? Halo 4 made sales worth 220 million dollars on it's first day! I can watch iplayer on my phone, does that mean my TV is dead as well?

    Sure, the console may evolve into something else, but the equivalent of something that will run a full in your face video game is only just getting started. This could be a PC, console, fancy phone, whatever using a headset or big TV, but the types of games that inhabit the current mobile space will only switch more people onto fuller fat video games as they evolve as well.

  44. Dave Gomm

    the future ?

    a bit of bluesky thinking but perhaps it will go this way -

    mobile devices increase in computing power and become connectable to TVs wirelessly, for still/video playback, gaming etc, accessories connect to the mobile device via bluetooth or some related successor, turning the mobile devices into a home computer, console etc, storage is predominantly in the cloud with some local storage held centrally in the home for performance reasons. your preferences are held in the cloud and sync'd to whatever device you happen to be using at the time.

    games, videos and apps are purchased predominantly online and sent to your home NAS as well as entitlement being sent to your cloud store, thats not much different to how the 360 handles content today.

    I'd like to have all my stuff in a resilient environment in the cloud with stuff like pictures also held locally, I'd like my purchased content to follow me around during my life and through the different devices I use.

    What'll be interesting I think will be the conflict between companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Tesco of this world when it comes to owning the platform - I've included Google due to Android, Amazon have the existing media sales channel and Kindle, Microsoft have experience of putting a multichannel footprint in the home and Tesco have a strong established multichannel model as well as a direct business and the advantage of their stores/food business.

    And personally I don't think it is the mobile devices that is killing consoles, I think its more the cheap apps sold to tens of millions of people which are killing the traditional software pricing model.

  45. Shane 4

    Virtual Reality

    I am a hardcore pc gamer but have a PS3 in the lounge as well, Personally I couldn't care what platform wins out I just want TOTAL IMMERSION in my games, It is about friggin' time they had another go at Virtual Reality, Wether it be for pc or next gen console. Back in the 90's it was just a novelty and a bit of fun to try out at the arcades. The hardware and graphics cards required to run VR decently were just not there but now almost 20 years later it is time to try again in my opinion. There are a few projects in developement at present but I would like to see it go mainstream on pc/console within the next few years. I and many out there have insanely powerful pc's just itching to be used but instead all we get are some crap console ports and the odd game that uses more than 2 cpu cores. Latest generation cards from both AMD and Nvidia are overkill for the software, What we need is a new type os software/hardware to utilise the power of these cards, Bring back VR!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Virtual Reality

    'VR' as it's usually thought of - synonym for 3D classes and maybe a fancy glove controller - requires no particularly nice hardware, certainly not beyond what's required to pump 3D to your 3D TV.

    The problem was really that the 'VR" people invariably used horribly expensive, already-out-of-date hardware and inefficient software to do their thing. Doom done in 3D would have been pretty cool, and quite easy for a little bit of money, but the 'VR' boosters were using $15,000 workstations to do flatshaded crap at 15fps...

    The limiting factor in immersive displays isn't CPU or GPU but optics; getting high resolution and (in particular) wide FOV to your eyeballs is quite difficult. The Oculus Rift thing looks interesting, and certainly they have their priorities right in favoring FOV and latency over resolution. But they seem to be wildly optimistic about the ease of actually accomplishing this, and in particular the cost...


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