Nintendo needs HDTV; they just don't know it

Of the few details leaked about the Nintendo Revolution, one of them seems to drawing harsh, strong, and brutal criticism: The lack of Hi-definition TV support. Some of you are thinking it doesn't matter. It does, and more so than you would think.

You're thinking about the current state of HDTV. You're not thinking about the future. Everyday, that 12% market penetration inches closer to 13%. Eventually, it's going to be 14% and so on. The prices have come down. You can find a decent mid-range set under $500. It's hard to even find a standard definition TV in stores anymore. People are upgrading, and it's happening quicker than you think.

Nintendo on the other hand, is not. They're doing the same thing they have done the two previous generations: Falling behind. The N64 used cartridges, which alienated third party developers. The Gamecube failed to support DVDs and online play, save for Phantasy Star.

While the argument is there that online play isn't what companies expected it to be and DVD support isn't necessary, then why are they included both of those in the Revolution? They know it's important, and in actuality, they knew it mattered in the Gamecube, charging people for an online adapter and then not supporting it. Yet, they go and announce no hi-def for the Revolution.

Is this a suicidal move? No, it's just Nintendo. Before fanboys begin crying that HD isn't that important to gameplay, it is. It has nothing to with being a graphics-first gameplay-second person. In fact, I did another editorial on just how unimportant graphics can be. However, in the case of high-definition, it does make a difference.

You won't see a difference unless you've seen a game running in full 720p or 1080i glory. Enemies in the distance are easier to identify. Small platforms are easier to make out. Bullets are easier to make out as they move towards you. Shimmering and aliasing isn't a problem. It may not make a game better; it makes it more immersive.

We're entering into another generation of insane graphical capabilities. PC games can run games in ridiculous resolutions like 1800 x 1200. Consoles, like the Revolution, are stuck in 640 x 480 right now. It's a major difference, and once you've seen it, you can't go back. With all the detail being pushed now, it's almost a necessity.

Nintendo's PR people went to work overtime, claiming they want to be low cost. Hey, that's fine. To actually include HD support, to at least have it there and available, is going to cost them a meager few dollars on each console. They're right to say that it costs developers more. Why not include it for those publishers/developers that have the money to do it? It hasn't raised the cost of current generation games that support it and according to most third party companies, the price is going up anyway.

They also claim only 1% of Gamecube owners bought the component cable necessary for 480p support on some games. There's a reason for that. They made the cable only available online, buried it on their site, and charged $30 (plus shipping) for it. There's hardly even mention of how to actually enable the feature (hold down the B button when booting up) in the Gamecube's manual. They even took out the neccesary port from newer Gamecubes.

Say all you want about how you don't need a HDTV. You don't, at least not yet. Within the life of the Revolution, HDTV has a very strong chance of catching on. When Best Buy or any other electronics retailer is demonstrating the new consoles to sell as an add-on to a new TV buyer, what systems will be connected? Not the Revolution. EB Games has already put hi-def TVs in their kiosks. It's starting right now, and in a year when the console launches, it's going to be even more prevalent.

As a die-hard gamer, I know better than to buy a console simply because of a sales person. However, the majority, the people who make Madden and GTA a best seller every year and play for a few hours each week, don't. They buy what's hot, what's cool, and what they can show off to friends. Zelda means nothing to them. Nintendo will not have that market, nor are they trying to capture it. They're trying to embrace a market they still feel exists, and while it does, it's nowhere near in the same numbers as it was in their heyday. It's also nowhere near where it needs to be to base a console launch on.

Nintendo is still a player. Their handhelds are fantastic, still owning the market share with the tough competition from Sony. That's keeping them alive right now. While I feel they're too proud to ever become just a developer (what many people are predicting), you have to question their business tactics. This new development is just another strange move for a company so focused on the past.

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