Why I’m Happy with the Wii

Infendo

Please enjoy this guest article by Rob Miles!  Thanks, Rob!

Negative stories about the Wii have been pretty common in the gaming press since before the system was even launched, but it seems as the system’s success grows, these stories have only increased.  If you follow many of the major gaming sites, you have no doubt read many articles and comment sections on either how the Wii is underpowered gimmicky garbage that is a gateway for shovelware that pollutes the pure waters of core gaming or how the system’s library leaves much to be desired with little more that waggle-infested minigames or atrocious PS2 ports.  Most of these comments express astonishment as to how the Wii can keep selling so well.

The consensus among much of the gaming press is that the Wii is failing gamers.

I disagree.

I am an avid gamer who is very happy with the Wii.  Before the concept of the Wii was even unveiled, I was looking to the next generation of consoles with dread, as it was the first time that the prospect of buying a new machine felt more like an obligation than an opportunity.  I liked the consoles I had just fine and didn’t really see what the next generation offered.  When the Wii Remote was announced, however, I got interested Nintendo’s “revolutionary” console.  Since the system’s launch, the Wii has reinvigorated my love of gaming with fresh ideas and library that just oozes with fun.

Listed below are five reasons that I’m very happy the Wii.  These are not reasons why you should be happy with the Wii if you aren’t, but simply an explanation as to why some people love their Nintendo console.

Here goes:

Colour

We are all aware that the Wii has far less under the hood than it’s next-gen counterparts, but there is much that can be appreciated in the Wii’s graphics department and it’s got nothing to do with horsepower.  Instead, it comes down to personal preference, and I prefer colourful games.

In 2006, the website Aeropause posted an article on on how the colour of next-gen gaming was primarily dull browns and greys by aggregating the colours from various 360 and PS3 game screenshots.  It was pretty depressing stuff for someone who likes a little vibrancy in his games.  The Wii, however, is largely a different story.  Games like Super Mario Galaxy, Sonic and the Secret Rings, LostWinds and upcoming titles like Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World and Fragile are games that are filled to the brim with beautiful, vibrant colours.  Heck, de Blob even uses colour as a gameplay mechanism.

So why is the Wii the home of colourful games when the 360 and PS3 can do anything graphically the Wii can, but better?  Probably, in part, due to the Nintendo’s desire to appeal to a broader audience, but I’m guessing mainly because the hardware limitations reward developers who employ a certain degree of artistic style over realism.  Gamers are far more forgiving of a lower polygon count on, say, Sonic the Hedgehog and his fantasy world than they are on a realistic jail-hardened gangster and a replica of a major US city.  Games that focus less on realism are free to take more liberties with colour, and make for some seriously beautiful games.

Remember the Blue Sky in Games Movement?  The Wii’s got that in spades, and I couldn’t be happier.

Time

I’m pushing 30.  I have a full time job, a spouse, mortgage payments to make, and all of those responsibilities that you’ve already heard other older games gripe about.  This means a lot less time for games and gaming sessions tend to take place in shorter bursts.  As much as I’d like to plow through Assassin’s Creed, BioShock, Resident Evil 5 and Prince of Persia, I can probably only get through one of those games every couple of months at best.  I picked up Okami in mid-August, and I’ve only got about 18 hours on the thing here in mid-October.  This impacts that types of games I’m actually interested in purchasing.

Rather than slowly claw my way through an epic adventure every few months, I’m more interested in those pick-up-play games that play well in short bursts: games like Boom Blox, Mario Kart, Mega Man 9, World of Goo and Zack & Wiki.  Upcoming games like Punch Out!!! should continue to fill this area quite nicely.  Do I still salivate over the epic games, where the other systems have the advantage at the moment?  Absolutely.  …but those types of games have dropped from about 80% of my game purchases during the 16-bit era to about 20% of my purchases now.  I still buy them, but I select them far more carefully.

Family

Gaming is big part of my life, and I’m always thrilled when I’m able to play with other people who aren’t normally into video games, particularly my wife.  For me, the ability to share my hobby with someone else makes it a far more appealing endeavor, as a big chunk of my fondest gaming memories involve those who I was able to play games with.  Until the Wii was released, my wife wasn’t really into video games except for the occasional game of Donkey Konga or Double Dash.  Once the Wii came along, I was getting requests to play together from her!  While we won’t be sharing any Zelda or Final Fantasy sessions any time soon, we are able to share experiences in toppling blocks, trading fists and powersliding our way to victory.

In fairness, these experiences can be found on the other systems, but not with the same variety and accessibility that the Wii offers.  This, by the way, is where motion control shines – not in attempts to simulate 1:1 swordfighting, but in simple intuitive gestures for simple and fun games that anyone can learn quickly.

Variety

The fact of the matter is that while the 360 and PS3 arguably have the most AAA titles (whatever that means), Wii has the greatest variety of game genres on the market right now, and this contributes to it’s wide appeal.  The Wii dishes out surgery sims, fitness games, point-and-click adventure games, puzzle games, cooking games along with all of the usual suspects of game genres like action, racing, first-person shooters and sports.  Yes, it lacks depth in some of these more traditional genres, but it compensates for this with the the new, quirky and untested.

Myself, I’m interested in trying new game mechanics.  I just tried World of Goo this week – never played anything like it.  I had also never played anything like de Blob or Wii Fit when I tried those games either.  For me, there is nothing quite like playing something that feels genuinely fresh, even if somewhat unrefined.  Do the 360 and PS3 offer this same feeling?  Sure, but not in such quantities.

The recent batch of quality games offered on WiiWare only further strengthens this variety by allowing new types of games to reach an audience without the costs of a retail release that would normally prevent such games from even being released.  The WiiWare service plays a more important role for the Wii, I believe, than PSN or XBLA, because it allows for new uses of the Wii Remote to be tested without the risk of the larger budgets required for a retail release.

These new experiences are only heightened by anticipating what developers will do next on the platform, which brings me to my final point.

The Revolution

I think it is pretty safe to say that without the Wii, this generation of consoles would be pretty boring to follow in the news.  If you’re reading this article, you probably follow gaming news pretty closely and have read piles of articles on the console wars, the impact of casual gaming, and debates on graphics versus gameplay ad nauseam.  Now, take this latest generation, and remove the Wii, and what do you have?  One HD console with a traditional controller and online play going up against another HD console with a traditional controller and online play.  Pretty boring stuff.  Now, both the 360 and PS3 are great systems, but frankly, I have trouble figuring about what Microsoft and Sony fanboys even argue about with one another.  Except for a (declining) list of exclusives, the libraries are largely the same.  The games look pretty much the same.  There’s not too much to distinguish them from one another.

That’s one of my favorite things about the Wii – the Revolution, for better or for worse, that it has started in the world of gaming.  The Wii represents a significant paradigm shift in the gaming world, and this new paradigm is a far more interesting opponent for any high-end console than another high-end console.

The Wii has kept me glued not only to my television, but also to my computer screen, as I read up on how developers, gamers and the mainstream audience has reacted to the system.  How have publishers initial reactions to the Wii, and its underpowered hardware and a new control scheme, changed in face of explosive console sales?  Why do the “hardcore” gamers hate it so much?  How will developers continue to apply motion controls in a way that is actually fun?  How much longer will Grandma want to play bowling?  Following the story of the Wii is not only fascinating in its own right, but also offers so many insights into the workings of the game industry.

Of course, the best part about the Revolution for me is seeing what developers will actually do with the Wii first hand, by being able to play the games.  I think we’ve had a pretty good run so far, and the future is looking even brighter.

So What?

So these are some reasons why I enjoy the Wii.  I am not trying to convince the haters that they are wrong and should dump their 360s and PS3s tomorrow.  I am merely trying to illustrate some reasons why some people are enjoying the system.  As previously mentioned, I am a vary avid gamer who is very happy with his purchase the new experiences that it offers.  At the end of the day, I am having a lot of fun, and that’s pretty much the whole point in the first place.