The double-edged sword of Wii Sports

Too many mini-games!Wii Sports changed gaming.

To some that might sound like an opinion, especially coming from someone like me, but it’s not. Wii Sports, for all intents and purposes, is selling the Wii right now. Software sales for the system are relatively OK, I know that, but Wii Sports is the game that gets people to buy the system. It’s what they see on CNN when grandma is bowling a perfect 300 in Wii Sports Bowling, and it’s what they see in their local paper when they read that Wii Tennis has cured a woman of breast cancer, and it’s what they hear about from neighbors and friends at school.

For now, Wii Sports creates an immense sense of momentum and a wave of success for Nintendo. However, I fear all this comes with a dark side; a double-edged sword if you will, that is responsible for a rampant wave of utter schlock on the system right now. That schlock? Mini-games. Too many of them, to be precise.

I say this because I was reading an MTV review of Mario Party 8. It was hardly flattering, and I can’t say I’m surprised. Personally, I think trilogies are about all that is necessary for any kind of medium. Movies, games, books. Whatever. Those “No That’s What I call Music” CD’s? A sin against humanity. But for the Wii, another mini-game compilation is doubly damning.

So how does Wii Sports play into this? To be honest, it was the first mini-game compilation for the Wii. Now, being a mini-game doesn’t automatically disqualify a game from the “best ever” category, but the fact that Wii Sports was such a success has, unfortunately, spawned a tidal wave of failure and lame copy-cats in its wake.

In Wii Sports, you had five games that would not have made much sense on their own, but together were an incredible demonstration of what the Wii was capable of. And they were damn fun games to boot. Copying something is the best form of flattery there is, I’ve heard, and the industry (and Nintendo; they are as guilty as anyone) has taken to that cliche in earnest. The danger of Wii Sport’s success is that it encouraged many developers to take the easy way out. At least at first.

So where does that leave us today? Well, it gives us stinkers like Mario Party 8 (which is a great “party game only” I’ve heard) and Wii Play, but it also allows developers to brainstorm a bit and think of new ideas. Where the rub comes in is which way the scale tips.

As for me, ever the optimist and Nintendo ass-kisser, I say it tips towards the side of innovation. That won’t mean the mini-games will go away, as there will always be a spate of crappy games on a successful system (PS2, for example), but they will no longer define or frame the system as they do right now. There’s still that danger however, but I’ll worry about that after I finish up this solid 260+ game I’m bowling right now.

Wii Sports: Too successful for its own good?