Nintendo announced its long-awaited Wii successor at E3, called “Wii U”, and so far, its reception has been mixed. While some are calling it the best thing since sliced bread, others are underwhelmed, finding it to be a minor evolution over the original. Whatever your thoughts, one thing does remain clear: we need better games.
What games hold any lasting value and are not released by Nintendo? Not too many – at least not that you’d choose to play on the Wii instead of the PS3, Xbox 360 or PC. There’s an occasional rare title here and there from a third-party dev, mostly along the lines of Rock Band, Guitar Hero or (my personal favorite) EA’s Jenga-on-Crack, Boom Blox (If you haven’t played it, you should). Note that only one of these is even exclusive to the Wii.
I wish I could say that I could go on with that list, but the truth is the truth: that wraps up most of what I, or any of my friends for that matter, play on the Wii outside of nostalgia-ware and Ninty’s own occasional single-player fit of brilliance (Paper Mario, anyone?). We just don’t pick up the Wiimote for games like Call of Duty or Rainbow Six – the console was not designed to play those games, and we almost all have at least one other system that is.
Despite this obvious shortage of titles for the Wii’s actual purpose, there is a plethora of Wii games – most of which aren’t worth the $10 price ticket in the bargain bin. Sadly, many of these are even blockbuster third-party games, which still have large amounts of players on other systems. This poor matching of titles to the console is going to greatly harm the brand – it’s the exact opposite of the 1980s bedroom games, where Nintendo had to consolidate its publishing and QA to make sure games were of sufficient quality.
Today, we have publishers producing the same game on 6 different platforms, and not releasing a lot of platform specific-titles that make the best use of the Wii’s “black sheep” mentality. The consolidated gamehouses of EA, Activision and the like are simply not going to spend much money to develop for only one console, even if it’s outsold the others by two-to-one. At least, not when they can release the same thing that they did on those other consoles – and feel like they haven’t left any market unserved.
Nintendo originally took on these blockbuster ports to attract a few of the more hardcore gamers with the original Wii, in an attempt to sway their purchase when it had to compete against the consumer buying a PS3 or Xbox 360 instead. However, this time, the Wii U is releasing with no viable competition – and it’s well past high-time to put an end to accepting anything because it’s a big brand title.
Many of the games are great – on the PS3, Xbox 360 or PC, where they were designed. But who wants to play Assassin’s Creed on the Wii when they can have it on the PS3? And yet, here it sits as a launch title for the Wii U, along with a whole host of other big-name games that I’d rather play on other systems. What’s notably missing is anything that is exclusive, or that would even benefit from the Wii’s input.
Nintendo’s constant courting of these blockbuster games has pushed the Wii further and further back in people’s gaming thoughts. Many people now relegate it to a novelty item, something that comes out occasionally after a couple drinks with some friends, in the hopes of some entertaining event to occur. This isn’t because the Wii was a bad console or a bad idea – it’s because there are so few things that actually play to its strengths. Nintendo released a completely unique market-mover, and then never did anything different than the rest of the market.
Worse, sales show that consumers not only wanted this different gaming type, but put their money where their mouths were – the console sales alone illustrated how hungry some of us were for change. Now, those people either have to buy the few crappy minigame titles that still come out as “party games,” or be resigned to the feeling that they were left out in the cold and not even bother to turn it on anymore. Does Ninty really think it can do this a second time, with launch titles as they are?
The company’s message is clear as mud, and I’m quite sure that it will see its launch sales reinforce the consumer confusion and indifference. Unfortunately, big companies tend to have a very poor track record of understanding our message as purchasers – Nintendo’s poor software choices will be reflected in poor hardware sales. I think there are good odds that the company will instead see this as being taken to task over the system not being powerful enough or flashy enough to compete with other consoles, or not different enough from the original Wii to make a compelling sale. Each of these things would lead Nintendo to going back into the fold of the industry as others define it, leaving casual gamers (or parents who want their TV back) to find something else to do entirely.
So, for any Nintendev who may read this one day, here’s the consumer message before you even press the “launch” button:
We wanted more support. We wanted you to beg, borrow or steal if you had to in order to lock in promising indie developers and big publisher exclusives that play to what the Wii was always supposed to be. Games like Rock Band should never have even hit the PS3 or Xbox 360 – there was just one beautiful example of a game that was perfectly tailored to your system, but you let it go and now give us FPS games we won’t play – at least not on the Wii. We wanted something different, and the hardcore gamers of us already own a competing product, so we don’t want the same damn games they have.
Nintendo, the Wii came in like a lion and your (frankly piss-) poor matching of games support let it die with a whimper. If you want our money a second time, you’d better start giving us a reason.
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