Pikmin 3 won't have an online mode, and that doesn't surprise me. Nor should it you.

During the Wii U re-unveiling on June 3, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed one of his sources of inspiration. He held up Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, a book by M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle.

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One of the concerns Turkle raises in her book is that we're missing out on the intimate human interactions that we had before cell phones, tablets and the Internet existed. Ya know, instead of texting, we actually had to talk on the phone and hold a conversation. Or instead of a tweet/Facebook post, we had to actively keep our friends and family up-to-date about our daily lives.

Satoru Iwata said:
People are gathered together with friends and family but not truly connected, paying more attention to separate devices. New technology has made our lives easier and more efficient, but we have to wonder what this will mean for the nature of human relationships moving forward. One of the challenges we set for ourselves (when developing Wii U) was something that helped unite people rather than divide them, whether in the same room or great distances apart.

As Iwata notes, the Wii U philosophy hopes to reconnect people at that more intimate level. If you're going to be spending time in front of the television, you may as well spend it enjoying media, enjoying games, and experiencing life together. The Wii U philosophy is not about playing with some stranger on the other side of the world; someone you have no emotional investment in, who may as well be a computer program.

While Nintendo may never come out and say it directly, traditional online will never be a priority for its Wii U releases. Fearful of the core gamer reaction, they'll continue to offer excuses for why it's not feasible, like "technical limitations," "conflicts with designer's vision," and "we're focused on making a great single player and cooperative experience."

This strategy is well-intentioned. I admire their effort. They honestly want to improve the depth and value of interactions with our family and friends. But is such a goal attainable? I look around and see grandmothers wielding iPhones. One company with an apple logo transformed an entire culture. Does a gaming company have what it takes to lead us down another path? Or will the momentum of being alone together prove too much for Nintendo to overcome? We'll see in the years ahead. In the meantime, expect to hear more veiled reasons for why traditional online won't work in Nintendo games. Fortunately we already know the real answer thanks to Iwata's book of the month club: because they don't really want it to.
  1. I didn't get a chance to attend E3 this year, so I was left to the devices of those lucky masses of internet journalists and their investigative sensibilities. Whatever they described or filmed was all I had to sate my obsessively detail-oriented curiosities. As expected, I was not satisfied. Can you perform a spin jump in New Super Mario Bros. U without shaking the controller? Does Pikmin 3 use MotionPlus for its aiming, like Shigeru Miyamoto mentioned in his on-stage demonstration, or infrared like reported in virtually every single media hands-on?
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  2. Last August I imported the European release of Pikmin 2 on the Wii. I had given Nintendo of America two and a half years to release it domestically, but since I was importing Xenoblade Chronicles around that time anyway, I decided to finally bite the bullet and accept that NOA had left me high and dry. (Against all conceivable rationale, NOA finally released the game this past Sunday, more than three years late, but that's neither here nor there.
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  3. Video games are a commitment. I'm almost hesitant to sit down with a console game these days because to make any real progress—to travel from one save point to another—might take longer than the fifteen or so minutes I have available. This is one of the reasons I've grown to appreciate my handhelds. For those not aware, most handhelds these days have a pause feature that essentially creates a temporary save that you can return to at anytime.
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