American gamers love first-person shooters, but imagine a game console that didn't have any. Imagine one with no Call of Duty and no Battlefield. No Metro Last Light. No Wolfenstein. No big new FPS from Bungie. No big FPS from Respawn. No Killzone. No Halo. No Counter-Strike. No BioShock. No Borderlands.
This shouldn't be that hard to imagine. It's nearly reality.
There's an HD console out now with dual analog sticks on its controller and not one of the aforementioned first-person shooters on the horizon. It's the Nintendo console. The Wii U.
I'm not here to beat up on the Wii U for its lack of first-person shooters. There's been enough hammering of the Wii U for its lack of games. I could just as easily note its lack of role-playing games, its lack of Star Wars games or its lack of figure-skating simulators. The Wii U is a young console. It doesn't have a lot of games. I'm not freaking out about that. It's only half a year old and this is how things tend to go.
Imagine an HD console in America without new first-person shooters. Going forward, Sniper Elite V2 notwithstanding, that could be the Wii U.
When this fall's Call of Duty: Ghosts was announced last week, Activision didn't mention a Wii U version, suggesting they may skip the console (they aren't clarifying). That's not normal, despite what you may think of Nintendo machines and Nintendo gamers. You may not have thought of Nintendo's Wii as a big Call of Duty console, but it did get Treyarch-made CoD games. There were other first-person shooters on the system. See The Conduit. See Nintendo's own Metroid Prime 3.
The Wii U even got last year's Call of Duty Black Ops II as well as Ubisoft's original first-person survival game ZombiU.
But Battlefield 4, this fall's big EA shooter is skipping Wii U. That's confirmed. The Wii U missed this spring's critically-acclaimed BioShock Infinite and there's no sign of Wii U being in the plans for upcoming games like Bungie's Destiny.
What's a console without a major first-person shooter on the horizon? Some might say it's screwed. But I wonder... shooters do tend to blot out so many other games. The absence of them could bring something else to the fore: the sense that the console is at least a shade less, for lack of a better word, violent.
Oh, the Wii U will have plenty of "action" games. That's a euphemism for saying it'll still have plenty of games with plenty of killing. It'll have the cartoony killings of Mario and Zelda games and the more realistic stuff seen in the likes of open-world third-person semi-shooter Watch Dogs. The Wii U will also have this, a Deus Ex: Human Revolution port with lots of first-person shooting.
A ha! You will be able to still look down the barrel of the gun and pretend to kill bad guys! Take that, advocates for Wii U gun control. Technically, though, it's a role-playing game.
So, is this a thing or not?
It's a possibility. It's a possibility that a gaming console that can render vivid HD game worlds might miss a popular if possibly strip-mined genre that happens to be the one most vilified by both the opponents of violent video games and the game-loving champions of indie innovation.
If the Wii U goes FPS-less, it's not going to be because of some inspired mission statement about What Gaming Needs.
It's a possibility that, unless we find out in a month that Nintendo's Retro Studios is making another Metroid Prime or that CoD: Ghosts comes to Wii U after all, the fall of 2013 will arrive without a big new FPS on Wii U.
It's a possibility, but it's not a shock. And it's not like Nintendo is actively blocking first-person shooters from its console. A lot of this is happenstance or business, not really a matter of taste or standards. Nintendo, the company most likely to make the most interesting Wii U games each year going forward, doesn't specialize in first-person shooters. Ubisoft, the third-party publisher seemingly most interested in bringing games to Wii U mostly does so without having a killer FPS franchise (UPDATE: brain fart. They've got Far Cry, which is a mighty fine series; they also didn't put Far Cry 3 out on Wii U last year, despite bringing the console Assassin's Creed, Just Dance and ZombiU. Third-person Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell and Watch Dogs games are upcoming for Wii U from Ubi; no announced FPSes.).
Companies that do make a lot of first-person shooters, including EA and Activision and Take Two, seem to have limited and possibly even diminishing enthusiasm for the Wii U. If the Wii U goes FPS-less, it's not going to be because of some inspired mission statement about What Gaming Needs. Let's be clear: it's not much of a leap to go from a few FPSes to none.
Soon we may get a chance to know what that looks like and plays like. Would innovation thrive on a console without first-person shooters? Would the people who play it seem different? Happier? Gentler? Would a different kind of multiplayer game have a chance of dominating the console's online service? Or would success bring the FPS to the console, inexorably, inevitably?
There is, of course, a big asterisk. The FPS is to other consoles what the Mario Kart, Mario Bros. and Zelda are to Nintendo consoles. An FPS-less Nintendo console isn't exactly a platform clear of genre juggernauts.
Let's think about it anyway. Can you have a console without any new first-person shooters? Would you want one? It's a thought experiment, but it also might soon be a reality.