…Or Not to Bii

Wii, glimmer of the Nintendophile’s eye. Dismissing its unique abilities would be asinine. The “new gen” system has a lot going for it, with strong support from N-fans and jaded media alike to back it up. Graphics might not be much, but the 3rd and 1st party software and pizazzy 3D controller make it more than buzzworthy, to the point where they’re talkin’ Championship this season.

Most have been skeptical about Wii’s chances, obviously and unsurprisingly. This far, Nintendo has given a lot of “look at DS” hints when asked about its strategy for the console fight. Undercut everyone and simplify all. Sounds good on paper so far. But Nintendo needs to do a lot more to succeed with Wii than just following DS’ lead, and i think there already are problems. Here are three things that might hold Wii back from a #1 market position – and a substantially larger-than-GameCube installed base – if Nintendo doesn’t start making changes sooner than later.

1) Nintendo is not innovating enough with the software selection. It’s been said before, “Is Nintendo obligated to innovate now?” The answer is yea, of course they are. It’s their whole mantra; the only way for them to “disrupt” anything is to differentiate everything. Adding motion control to existing play types alone doesn’t signify a revolution. The revolution will come from the new genres and game types that are born out of that controller and the console’s features. However different a multiplatform port will be on Wii, old games will still be old games, with traditional design and construction (sorry, EA).

The basis of this argument stems from the lineup. You gotta admit, before E3, people expected some groundbreakers for Wii’s early period. Instead, we get a buncha Cube sequels retrofitted to the Wiimote – Prime 3, Zelda, and Mario Galaxy come to mind – and to add to it, they even look like Cube software. That’s not to say they won’t be great or that i won’t play them, but where’s the Wii utopia we’ve been waiting for, with all the small budget big ideas that are supposed to change the face of the industry? Even going into next year, announced Wii titles are industry staples: the EA games, Dragonball, FF, Sonic. Doesn’t that seem counterintuitive to Nintendo’s message?

I know that part of Nintendo’s mission is to give gamers a “new way to play” the oldies, but this system won’t live up to its potential until it’s inspiring new kinds of games with its new ways to play- think of the difference in how (built for Wii) Wii Sports fluidly controls compared to (adapted to Wii) Red Steel’s reportedly wanky gameplay. And forget about resuscitating dormant franchises or renovating active ones. Get ambitious creators on Wii and let them have at it. Suda 51 and Kojima are a great start- take it from there. If you have to, allow indie devs to also play with Wii hardware instead of restricting them to the Virtual Console.

2) Most gamers will not betray Xbox or PlayStation. Part of this reason being linked to the previous one (and the next): Wii just isn’t proven yet. But what is proven is that, for at least the Xbox 360, Wii doesn’t stack up. No matter what NOA PR says, tech matters, and as 2 traditional consoles one on one, Wii can’t compete. Some may say wait a minute, GameCube did pretty well against the Xbox, but the difference between 360 and Wii is so much greater. HD or not, Wii doesn’t come close to the raw power of a 360, and that holds weight for consumers, well-informed or clueless. Another thing that’s proven is 360’s support. There are loads of solid games coming to it in 2006 that won’t be hitting Wii at any point, if you’re into the testosterone driven skew of that software. And while they’re definitely status quo, great games are great games, and they’ll continue to push the Hollywood-esque direction of modern game trends.

As long as Wii treads close to 360 and PS3 with software, people will fail to see the big difference, especially when devs try to create a middle ground between the motion functions of the Wii remote and the Dual Shake. Until Wii starts getting games that aren’t ports and exclusives set in established franchises or stories that it needs to work around, to create a sub-industry of bizarre, unfathomable new games around itself, Wii60 and PSWii combos will remain myths of the internet.

3) There won’t be enough new players to generate a dominant marketshare. This is the most conjecture based reason, but still worth thinking about. In one respect, the way Wii simplifies all the games we’re used to will open the door a little wider for the “non gamers” to jump in. Conversely, they’re still the same games – platformers with furry animals, WWII shooters, etc. Should someone judge these games by their covers, it’s doubtful that they’d be compelled to pick them up. I suppose this is the battle that marketing will face and box art will lose. Then again, Wii’s price might be the main difference maker here, reinforced by cheap(er by comparison) software and demo units.

And like someone mentioned the other day, 3rd parties missed the early boat for Wii. That brings up a fourth potential problem: the second gen stuff for Wii will be reliant on Nintendo and that’s an issue. Remember– rather, look at how that situation has benefited the barely loved GameCube. It was also said recently that Wii’s success will rely heavily on Nintendo’s first party offering, but the truth is that they’ll have to drive the entire console on their own for about a year and a half. I mean, Nintendo released what, 2 Cube games this year? 3, maybe 4? While the console transition and DS are somewhat to blame, I’m sure you don’t wanna be living off of Mario Galaxy for 6 months next year like how it was for RE4 last year.

Maybe i’m just overanxious, but i don’t understand how so many people are this excited for Wii when it hasn’t made good on its promises yet. We don’t know about WiiConnect24, how the Virtual Console will be treated, how the independant VC games will pan out, or what’ll happen with the points above. I get the whole potential thing and what it can bring, but i say wait till it blows your mind before getting distracted by the smoke blown at you.

Honestly, i don’t believe Wii will ever meet my idealistic expectations, but i hope it will do well enough to at least claim some kind of success in 4 years.