Do I have your attention yet? I thought so. Let me start by saying that this article is by no means intended to be a dig at the evolution of consoles, nor the legions of fans that swear by the Wii. Rather, I aim to look at how Nintendo managed to shun a large majority of its gamers by creating a casual, and ultimately boring, next-gen system.
Come with me as I attempt to uncover how a corporation with such an esteemed history could shirk its obligations to its fan base. Let’s find out just how the Wii became a “what could have been” console.
To answer your question: yes, I do own a Nintendo Wii. Since January of 2008 it has been in my possession, and since July of 2008 it has been in the same Aldi shopping bag, sitting by my television cabinet, and only occasionally enjoying the sweet, pulsing sensation of electric life.
I am a Sega man at heart, and have been for more than 15 years. Despite this, I’ve always had a soft spot for Nintendo. Its ability to create innocent, yet incredibly engaging video games has always struck me as a sign of genius. There is still nothing quite like busting out the old SNES and spending hours immersed in Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana.
Throughout the 90s and early Naughties, Nintendo continued to develop its art. The 64 gave us two of the greatest multiplayer experiences of our time in Perfect Dark and GoldenEye 007, and even the much maligned Gamecube produced a few unforgettable titles. Nintendo was always going in a different direction to Sony and Microsoft, but it was that uniqueness and ability to please its followers that ultimately allowed their consoles to succeed.
Fast forward to November 2006. The three giants of the console gaming world are preparing for the ultimate next-gen battle. Microsoft has already enjoyed a year’s head start with its sequel to the big, black Xbox, while Sony is hoping that its faith in Blu-ray technology will not be unfounded.
Enter stage left: Nintendo. We’ve all heard about it; we’ve even seen the demonstrative adverts woven into our favorite television programs. We’re all anticipating Nintendo’s genius will pay off once again, and we’re all willing to fork out several hundreds of dollars to experience “true, interactive gaming”.
Yet something doesn’t seem quite right. I, in my thoroughly pessimistic state of mind, purchased a 360 instead. I went with Microsoft as the “safer” option, and decided to test out Nintendo’s new baby through my wealthier friends.
It’s a weekend evening, and I’m drinking at my mate’s house. We’ve just tightened the Wiimote straps around our wrists, and are preparing to do battle: Wii Sports-style. As we run each monotonous event into the ground, I find myself with merely a half-smirk upon my face. “This is fun,” I tell myself in a less than convincing manner. “But I’m sure the real Wii games will be better.”
It was a peculiar optimism that stayed with me for several months – long enough to buy my own Wii, in fact. But it was an optimism that was entirely based upon blind hope and expectation, rather than simple facts and research.
As the months drifted by, I made a promise to myself that I would keep my faith in the Wii: for every 360 title that I purchased, I would hire out the latest and most praised Wii game. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and more recently, The Conduit, all came and went from my little Nintendo, yet all failed to leave a lasting impression upon me.
Of course, it all comes down to personal taste. What I want from a gaming system is, almost assuredly, on the opposite end of the spectrum to what a twelve-year-old wants from his or her console. I am a mature adult, constantly seeking entertainment from first-person shooters and role-playing games, and for a time, I was content with replaying Resident Evil 4 and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. But is it truly fair of Nintendo to only offer the hardcore gaming community a handful of mature, high quality releases? Including the two aforementioned titles, I have yet to come across a Wii game that is even close to being in the hunt for “Game of the Year”.
And the actual games are only a small piece of the overall disappointment. While Wii MotionPlus has irrefutably created a more realistic, and therefore visceral, gaming experience, the lack of premium releases almost makes the entire machinery redundant. Why create such innovative technology if there is no enjoyment to be gleaned from the games?
Despite my most obvious criticisms of the Wii, I find myself, frustratingly, still on the lookout for new titles. My pessimistic nature tends to guide my choices, yet I cannot abstain from hoping that, one day, an inventive developer will be able to create some truly extraordinary titles for the Wii.
Perhaps it is my Australian heritage: always root for the underdog. And while on sales figures alone the Wii is by no means an underdog, it is, in my opinion, Nintendo’s greatest blunder.