If you told me 5 years ago that by 2010 Nintendo would reclaim dominance in the almighty console war and the successor to the PS2 would have to settle for third place I probably would have laughed in your face. I’ve never been a betting man but I would have bet my bottom dollar that the PS3 would take over the world, the Wii would gain a small, loyal following but ultimately be profitable for Nintendo, and Microsoft would discontinue the Xbox 360 by 2009 after it failed as miserably as its older brother. Luckily for me and the gaming industry I would have been wrong, because right now we have three successful consoles all happily coexisting in the same marketplace. Previous console generations taught us that the system with the largest install base tends to have the superior software line-up, the PS2, PSone, SNES and NES can all attest to this. However this generation has played out completely different. The PS3 might be in last place in terms of sales but if you’re looking for quality software there is arguably no better place to turn to. On the completely opposite end of the spectrum the Nintendo Wii is currently relishing in first place but good games on Nintendo’s little white box come few and far between. Why is this? Is Nintendo to blame? Are the developers at fault? Or did we as consumers dictate this climate change? If you answered “all of the above” come up here and collect a gold star from the teacher’s desk and let me explain to you why you’re right.
How Nintendo Failed The Wii…
Right out of the gate Nintendo made it extremely difficult for developers to take advantage of the Wii’s unique properties. The Wii’s “revolutionary” feature (which turned out to be the Wii Remote) was kept a secret for far too long and when Nintendo did finally reveal their trump card to the world at TGS 2005 they decided not to ship out Software Development Kits until the system was roughly 9 months away from release. This meant that no third party developer was able to produce a truly great game in time for the system’s launch and initially promising titles such as Red Steel, Super Money Ball and Call Of Duty 3 all suffered from severe control issues. Nintendo’s first party offering wasn’t quite up to snuff either. Wii Play was essentially a Wii Remote which came with a coaster handful of mini-games, Zelda: Twilight Princess was great but a superior version was also available for the Gamecube, Excite Truck was a fun but ultimately shallow romp and Wii Sports is only worth playing if you have someone beside you to play it with. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy all four of those games and as a whole the Wii’s launch line-up was certainly better than the Gamecube’s or Nintendo 64’s but none of Wii’s Day 1 releases sparked as much excitement as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Word or Super Mario 64. Instead, all eyes were on the Wii-mote’s seemingly dark art’s functionality.
Even pre-launch things weren’t looking too good for the Wii. Nintendo cut several crucial corners which made the Wii seem like a joke when compared to the PS3 or Xbox 360. Nintendo refused to adopt HD in favor of Standard Definition which not only makes my 40” TV sad but also earned the Wii a negative perception amongst hardcore gamers. Nintendo also refused to incorporate other desired and even expected features such as DVD/CD playback, an expandable harddrive or storage solution, an Ethernet port for wired corrections, an achievement/trophy system and don’t even get me started on the Wii’s online experience! Unlike the other two consoles on the market the Wii has a very lonesome and unsociable feel. Sure it’s a great console to pull out during parties or when your girlfriends parent’s come over and you want to take their mind off the fact that you’re screwing their daughter but turning on the Wii when you’re the only person in the room is depressing.
I’ve had my Wii since December 2006 and I have yet to add a single person to my friendlist. Why? Because Nintendo makes is so damn difficult, that’s why! Buried deep inside the system menu (somewhere inside the calendar if memory serves me correctly) is the option to add a buddy to your friendlist, so long as you can remember their randomly generated 16 digit system code that it. Once you add a friend to your list you can then send them messages via the Wii Message Board which they will receive several hours after you send it, as if Nintendo are personally proof reading all outgoing mail. You are never able to see what your friend is doing, compare games with them or even tell if or when they’re online. If you would like to play a game with them you’ll then need to attain their 12 digit Friend Code which changes on a per game bases and add them as a friend within the game itself. If you do manage to jump through all these hoops to play with a buddy you better have a cell phone handy because hardly any game on the system supports voice or even text chat, also prepare for a huge amount of lag because the Wii’s online infrastructure sucks and shows no sign of ever improving. You’re almost better off playing by yourself and just telling your friend about your experience the next time you see them.
I won’t dwell on the systems hardware shortcomings too much, I’ll just say that graphically there is much to be desired… But wait, I can already hear the Nintendo apologists cursing up a storm proclaiming that the Wii is capable of producing outstanding visuals and citing Super Mario Galaxy as source. However run a copy of Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii, 2010) and Kameo (Xbox 360. 2005) side by side and then slap yourself in the face for being so naive. Yes its ok to say Mario Galaxy 2 looks amazing, but that statement only holds true if it’s immediately followed up with the term “…For a Wii game”. The fact that 95% of games on the Wii do not look as technically impressive as The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004) for the original Xbox is frankly insulting, especially since the Wii is no longer the cheapest current gen console on the market. Nintendo also chose not to compete in the audio department and although only a small fraction of people will care, the Wii does not support digital audio. Nintendo: Bringing Yesterday’s Technology Today.
In Nintendo’s defence, during the past 4 and a half years they have done more than enough as a publisher to appease their hardcore followers. Titles such as Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Super Paper Mario, Mario Strikers Charged, Wario Land Shake and Punch-Out are all frickin’ awesome and we still have the likes of Galaxy 2, Sin & Punishment 2, Metroid: Other M and an all new Zelda game to look forward too. Nintendo has also managed to draw in an expanded audience of both younger and older gamers and they’ve had great success thus far in releasing games which cater to this more casual crowd. Just take a look at the Wii Fit sales figures, that $90 title has gone on to sell 23 million copies worldwide. Furthermore if you were to consult an accurate list pertaining the best-selling exclusive games of this generation (ie. Games which only appear on a single platform) you’ll clearly see that Nintendo is currently responsible for the first 5 slots. Take that Master Chief!
But how comes third party publishers aren’t seeing this type of success on what is likely to become to best-selling video game console of all time? I will explore that very issue in a follow up article before pointing my finger of judgement at you, the consumers!
Until then… Robbie Drums take us away!