Monday, February 6, 2012
The Colossal Failure of the Wii & How It Will Fix the Wii U
: Rants & Raves : Dan M. :
November 19, 2006. I woke up early, grabbed my fiancee and bolted out to my hooptie of an automobile. I was slovenly, starving and shivering but who the hell cared, the day was FINALLY here! The day that would give me my reward for months of frugality and ramen noodles and ghastly Bar-S hot dogs, the day that would justify throwing half of my waking hours away to the stanky depths of retail, the day that would change video games forever and catapult my brain into digital nirvana: the launch of the Nintendo Wii.
We braved the sub-zero temperatures, the idle shuffling of a few dozen restless feet and a SEVERE lack of glazed pastries, finally getting our hands on the mythical white dream machine. Eighteen of the next twenty-four hours were consumed with all the waggles and wiggles and penis jokes we could handle. "Oh man, how could this get any better?!" we thought in between screaming at the cheap bastard next to us who figured out the golf controls before anyone else. It was a great day to be a video game fan. We had so much fun that the lingering joy makes my fingers hurt typing this next statement: the Nintendo Wii is easily the worst system ever released by Nintendo and, in my opinion, one of the worst consoles ever released.
For two years after that day I was the annoying contrarian to all my hi-def gaming brethren. Whenever they would point out how gimmicky most of the motion controls were I would counter with an assurance that eventually Nintendo would rain game design brilliance down upon us like manna from Heaven. Whenever they would rag on the Wii's graphical prowess and joke that it was, "two Gamecubes duct taped together", I would turn my nose up and smugly reply that "graphics don't matter to real gamers.". Whenever they would snicker at the pathetic online presence Nintendo had barely provided I would extol the potential of the Virtual Console and assure them that eventually the DLC would be worth it. I was one of the Wii's biggest cheerleaders, and how did Nintendo repay me? By releasing SEVEN core gamers' games in FIVE YEARS. By releasing ONE game that realized the full potential of the Wii's motion controls. By allowing the market to be flooded with the worst run of shit games since the Atari 2600. Nintendo completely abandoned the core gamer market and catered to the new market of motion control fad gamers, which led to massive sales in the short term but eventually killed off any chance the Wii had at long term success. By the time Nintendo got their shit together and started releasing core games again in 2010, it was too late; the bubble had burst. Nintendo's projected losses in 2011 are a staggering $850 million and while it's not entirely the Wii's fault, it's 30% sales drop sure didn't help. People have caught on to Nintendo's scam and it's cost them dearly.
Still, all is not lost in the Land of Nintendo. Despite a debacle of a launch, the 3DS is on the rebound and Nintendo will finally be back in competition with the release of it's next system, the Wii U, in the Fall of 2012. So how will this time be different? I'll break down 3 major factors of how the Wii failed and the Wii U will succeed.
Although Nintendo promised the world with the Wii's motion controls, the end result was a barrage of gimmicky mini-games and imprecise control schemes that were just button-press substitutes. There is exactly one game that uses the Wii motion control schemes to their full potential, and that game is The Legend of Zelda:Skyward Sword. Even amongst Nintendo's first-party options most games relied heavily on button presses with a few sloppy motion control flourishes added in as a justification for the $250 you just wasted. Hell, most games from 2010 onward were designed around Nintendo's classic controller; it's as if Nintendo just threw up it's hands and gave up the waggle. The Wii U will rectify this failure in two ways; a more conventional controller design and an emphasis on touchscreen controls. The Wii U controller is basically just the Wii's classic controller blown up with a touch screen in the middle; although it will have tilt sensors and other motion flourishes, the renewed dedication to traditional button-based controls will hopefully bring us back to enjoying the game play instead of fighting against some waggle-based bullshit control scheme. Touchscreen controls may have seemed outlandish when the original DS launched in 2004, but today they are the norm; every cellphone, tablet, portable gaming device and several desktops now utilize touchscreens as the only methods of input. As long as Nintendo capitalizes on the massive base of iOS/Android/etc. content already available and uses it's 7+ year DS experience, the Wii U's controller will make up for every folly of the WiiMote. Plus, WiiMotes and such are still supported, so if Nintendo gets some crazy fun ideas for it, they will capitalize on it.
Nintendo's online efforts on the Wii were laughable. Between the infamous Friends Codes, crappy web-based "apps", hardware-tied download data and little-to-no online multiplayer, most people doubted that Nintendo would ever get it's virtual shit together. The Wii U's online system represents a complete 180 of this situation and FINALLY bring Nintendo in to the digital age. Dubbed the Nintendo Network, it will function much like Xbox Live/PSN in providing a user login-based system instead of a hardware-tied system. This will allow DLC purchases, game history/saves and such to be tied to your online profile instead of your individual console hardware(which it is for the Wii), and more importantly... NO MORE FRIENDS CODES DAMMIT!! The Network will also provide full game downloads and DLC ala XBL/PSN. The controller will also feature near-field communication; this will allow people with a NFC-enabled credit card to easily pay for content by simply swiping it close to the tablet controller. Although not confirmed it's easy to expect that the Wii's current Netflix and upcoming Hulu Plus streaming services will make the jump as well. Coupled with the 1080p HDMI capabilities, this will finally mean that Nintendo will have an online presence that will compete with the big boys.
Nintendo's lack of third party support since the N64 is well documented, and the Wii did little to change it. Outside of a few initial release titles and spinoff titles of major franchises most publishers/developers had given up on the Wii a year after it's launch. This helped lead to a glut of shovelware games flooding the market, burying the few worthwhile games in a sea of crap too deep to navigate. The Wii U lineup for 2012/2013 shows a much healthier third party offering, with quality ports of games like Darksiders II, Ninja Gaiden 3, Batman:Arkham City and Dragon Quest X confirmed along with projects of major franchises like Battlefield 3, Tekken, Assassin's Creed and others. Plus Nintendo's re-entry into cutting edge graphics will raise the entry level for game designers, leading to higher quality games and 100% less Ninjabread Man. The support of DLC and other online features will also add to the overall game quality and get Nintendo out of the hole it dug with the Wii.
Although the Wii left me bitter and jaded, it really does seem like Nintendo plans to male amends with the Wii U this Fall. A better controller, competent online presence and quality games will help bring core gamers back into the Nintendo fold. Hopefully, it will be November 19, 2006 all over again... only this time, I'm bringing some goddamn donuts.
So what do you guys think? Will Nintendo's Wii U finally put them back on the forefront of gaming or will they become the next Sega? Sound off with your comments!!
at 4:03 PM