Soapbox: A Wii Little Problem?
When the Wii was finally revealed at the Tokyo Games Show in 2005, it certainly came under a barrage of mixed opinions. Its abilities were nothing less than exciting; its name maybe less so. That name; the obscure – for better or worse – Wii, was the cause of much controversy and disagreement. While it had a few passionate supporters, most were either sceptical of its name as a leading console, or entirely unconvinced. The name, when uttered, stroke a striking resemblance to the European word for urine, and for that hundreds upon hundreds of Wii jokes and puns surfaced. Nintendo stated that you would get used to it, much like we have with the likes of ‘Google’, it’s hard to say whether that’s been the case. Now, enough about the name, here’s the real question I’m interested in; do Nintendo’s current and future catalogue of games spell a future that the gaming industry so desperately needs, or one that could eventually destroy many of the features that makes gaming such a unified and impressive medium?
Now, when you talk about the Wii, the uniqueness of its name is now less important than was initially feared; it’s a short, cute if a little annoying three letter word. Its meaning of ‘we’ as in ‘group’ represents Nintendo’s idea that multiplayer, and social interaction in games is vital in the games industry, and that fun is what games are all about, nothing more, nothing less. It is this mentality that sets the Wii apart from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, two platforms that boast a dazzling set of specs. It’s come to the point where both Microsoft and Sony’s console could almost come under a different class next to the Wii, there’s nothing flawed about that idea – the Wii offers a different control scheme, last generation graphics, and a games catalogue that focuses on shorter, pick-up and play games that appeal to the family, and younger, more casual gamers. There’s a great line between third party games released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, next to those released on the Wii, PS2, DS and PSP. If you were a gamer wanting more than one console, many would say there’s more point getting a 360/PS3 with a Wii, instead of a 360 and PS3, since you’d be getting the best of both worlds. The DS, too, could be said to have a games catalogue of the Wii’s mentality, with games like Cooking Mama, Sight Training, and Nintendogs all highlighting this.
The success of the Wii has been truly baffling; its original skeptics have been proven wrong in their estimations thanks to the Wii flying off shelves faster than they could say they were wrong. I too was an original skeptic; I thought that people that weren’t gamers would never buy into a Wii, I was perhaps a little naive. Wii’s are now incredibly hard to get hold of, and when they’re finally in stock, they no doubt get sucked up in the next few hours following their appearance. The games, too, are making incredible amounts of money, with their casual appearance and fun ‘anyone can play!’ approach to their audience.
You only have to look at the last E3 to see where Nintendo are headed with their latest bunch of ideas. Wii Fit was unveiled; a program to help the user get into shape, which included a ‘balance board’. Note how I’m reluctant to use the word ‘game’ here, and ‘gamer’. Wii Fit is not a game, you are not ‘playing’, you are taking part in an exercise regime.
The question is, is this good for the gaming industry as a whole? As more and more Wii’s are snapped up, and more and more games with short lifespans and easy premises are getting sold, many developers will be seeing this success and buying into this. But what about the more hardcore gamers and games? The gamers that like a deep story, some epic gameplay, and a wealth of online options? Alongside the Wii plays and Rayman’s Raving Rabbids, we have the Halo 3s and The Orange Boxes. Sure, the Wii has a few games of classic gameplay, such as Super Mario Galaxy, and Zelda Twilight Princess, but these are largely outweighed by sub-par ports of last gen games, and mini-game infested cash-ins hoping to sell to so called ‘new’ gamers, who seem content to buy games based on their vibrant box art and obscenely happy characters.
I’m all for more people getting into games, but so long as it doesn’t jeopardise the games I like to indulge in. As far as I see it, there’s now an increasingly large line between the Wii and the 360 and PS3, a completely different group of gamers and their games. Will they ever be united? Maybe so, just make sure we’re not seeing ‘BioShock Tennis’ and I’m sure I’ll survive, I hope.