Who out there thought they heard a collective groan when Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime revealed yet another accessory at the E3 presentation yesterday? It probably happened right about the time he pulled out a steering wheel and promised it would help unskilled gamers kick veteran gamer ass in Mario Kart Wii (online, natch). Heck, I’m betting that collective groan was probably contributed to by many of you reading this right now.
But not me. Not Jack, Nintendo fanman extraordinaire (as I have said before, I am no boy). What I saw wasn’t some quirky exercise game and an accessory. What I saw was potential.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on the Wii Balance Board. It was the most demonstrated of the accessories, and allows us to make the most educated of guesses about its future. The steering wheel and the Zapper? They look fun, but we don’t really know too much about them just yet (32-player multiplayer? It’s so 2004, but sign me up please!).
First of all, it’s time to face some facts. Regardless of what you thought of the Wii Balance Board or WiiFit, the combo is going to sell millions of units and basically seal the deal for Nintendo when it comes out next year. Video gaming won’t look like it does today. It will be something entirely different. Think the world after the wheel; realizing the sun is the center of the universe; nuclear energy; that wonderful feeling you get when you read my writing.
Ok, so I exaggerate, as usual, but the point — again — is that it’s NOT the accessory we’re supposed to be thinking about here. It’s the software. As I surfed the Interweb today, riding along the waves of teenage angst and amongst the turbulent fanboy eddies, I noticed the g-word getting bandied about again. Gimmick. Funny thing was, it was no where near the levels of rhetoric that I saw in 2005 and 2006 when Nintendo first started waving its magic wand on the stage of E3, and its executives began uttering that strange new word that’s now an accepted part of all our vocabularies… “Wii.”
In fact, I actually saw something new. Instead of attacking the idea as a gimmick (but believe me, there were still a few of those ignoramuses around), people were thinking of new ideas for gaming. “Time Crisis, with real ducking!” someone declared over at WiiFanboy. It was a good start. I know because I saw the same idea being floated down the innovation stream at many other sites too. The gears in my own head were turning too. How about some real time FPS strafing, to remove yet another real life action from the constraints of a button press?
“21. A shadow boxing game using this board would be equally awesome.” — ampersan
Why yes, young padawan, yes it would!
Of course, WiiFit would have never seen the light of day if the Wii tanked in 2006 and didn’t start selling the way it has. The board needed a solid foundation to launch from, and I think both the success of the DS and the Wii have established the Nintendo brand as the dominant one this time around.
The beauty of this device is that you aren’t required to buy it to enjoy the system. It’s an accessory. By their very nature accessories are optional. However, just like the Wii phenomenon that occurred after November 2006 and continues to this day, I’m going to bet many of you are going to see a friend or a friend of a friend leaning and gyrating to some innovative new game someday in the near future. And you’re going to want one.