Do you remember back when the Nintendo Wii was released? The mania that preceded its release and the prestige one felt upon being one of the first owners of the console when all were still struggling and paying above asking price to get one?
Remember having friends around to witness this new innovation in gaming? Gaming which relied not on a series of button inputs and twiddling of analogue sticks (for the most part), but on your movements; being immersed into Wii sports, perfecting your golf swing and breaking a sweat for the first time playing boxing?
Ah, those were the glory days. With such innovation being showcased in our living rooms, no longer a science fiction fantasy, things truly seemed to have evolved in gaming. Thanks to the Wii, people other than gamers were becoming involved in gaming; technophobes across the nation, nay, the world were embracing this innovation with open arms, and it came to the point when Wii’s became readily available that you’d be hard-pressed to find a household without that little white disc drive and a sensor bar next to the television.
It’s situations such as these that we find hard to define success; it could be seen that the Wii was a tremendous success, in that it had more bases installed in its first year of its release than both of its competitors combined, it got everyone interested, Christ even my Mum bought a Wii, and she probably couldn’t name a games console from the last 20 years. My brother bought one, countless friends bought one; they held evenings at their houses dedicated to playing the Wii with other Wii loving friends. The Wii achieved what other console makers have wanted for years, since the beginning of gaming itself – mainstream success, and I don’t blame them for wanting that; popularity amongst the masses is a success in itself. It may be seen as crass by some, and you might be inclined to call such people snobs for failing to recognise such an achievement, but it’s something that they’ve all been trying for years, and Nintendo, the most saged veteran of the console market got it, and I for one applaud them for it.
However, with success comes sacrifice, and this sacrifice is clear to all those who’ve enjoyed Nintendo’s consoles over the last few generations, and the success has been at the expense of quality software.
Now I’m willing to acknowledge that the Wii does have some good games, excellent games even; I loved The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Mario Galaxy, Smash Bros Brawl, Zack and Wiki, Mario Kart Wii, and there are others which I’ve probably just forgotten about, but they’re there, but how many people who own Wii’s have actually played these games? These games were made for people who bought the Wii with the intention of playing classic games - games that adhered to that winning Nintendo formula.
One shocking, but not so shocking fact I learned in the past couple of months is that most people who own a Wii never went beyond playing Wii Sports, which was essentially a tech demo for the console. Some may have bought Wii Fit (and in all honesty, which gamer in their right mind would want to buy that? Not to digress, but this was purely for mainstream Wii owners who wanted something beyond a fitness DVD to exercise too, albeit not very often…).
The innovation of motion based gaming was indeed a unique selling point of the console, but when people are going no further than the packaged game to make use of these, where else could you go? Unfortunately those people remained uninitiated to the world of classic Nintendo games remain as such; not to take a shot at the aforementioned classic Nintendo games, but none of them really combined the aspect of the new controller with classic gaming dynamics (with the exception of Mario Kart Wii). Sure in Twilight Princess you could waggle your controller around to swing your sword, but this made it seemed like an action that was detached from a task that could’ve been fulfilled by a button, as Link didn’t necessarily mimic your swings.
I’m not necessarily saying that the Wii is a bad console, I’m just trying to say that perhaps along the way it lost sight of something that could’ve been great. It got those consoles in households around the world, it got everyone from your baby sibling to your grandmother wanting one, and without a doubt it was the first console released to be truly mainstream; but where did things go wrong? Or did they even go wrong? From a business perspective, no, but from a gamer’s perspective – yes it did.
Console software is usually the sole determinant of a console’s success, but because of the Wii’s global acceptance and desirability and the fact that it came included with software that showcased its immediate benefits and difference to other consoles, it was able to hold a market share with buyers not even buying a game afterwards. If you’re like me though, and you wanted to buy a console that would have a library of games that made good use of the technology, and not a series tacked on franchises (I’m looking at you M&M Cart Racing…), and hundreds of sub-par third party titles that you couldn’t even play to fill the time until the next big Nintendo release, then the console simply isn’t worth it.
The Wii could’ve been something a lot bigger than it is now, but maybe the dollar signs in Nintendo’s eyes got so big that they couldn’t see the possibilities ahead, and relegated themselves to mediocrity.
Let’s hope Sony and Microsoft don’t fall into the same trap…