Houston, Wii have a problem. Where did Wii go wrong?

Gaming

There is something wrong with the Wii?!?

Yes, I know that the Wii is the darling of the video game industry right now, and that people believe that Nintendo can do no wrong, but we are only 20 months (or 8 depending on your perspective) into this generation of gaming. A winner won’t be crowned in this generation for some time to come. The PS2 came out 7 years ago! The Wii isn’t going to have it so easy.

I should mention that I own an Xbox and a 360. However, growing up my family owned literally every system since the Atari 2600 other than 3D0, Neogeo, TurboGraphx 16, and Sega CD (really, we even had a Virtual Boy and 32X). We actually had them all setup on 4 TVs at one point in our game room. Anyway, I don’t think I’m some fanboy who only buys XYZ console because that is what I have always played, but I do like the Xbox.

Good before the Bad

Although the point of this post is to address the glaring weak points in Nintendo’s armor, it isn’t all bad news. Their strategy of using “alternative” game play mechanics to capture/create a larger (non-hardcore gamer) gaming market has worked well for them so far. I have never heard so many wives of friends (some even non-gamer friends) say they wanted a game console. It is also nice to see a console launching at a more affordable price. The Miis are neat and the web browser is something I definitely wish the Xbox 360 had (hint, hint, Microsoft). Nintendo is definitely doing better than they have in a decade with what I call “selling checkers instead of chess”.

Now for the Ugly: the Wii isn’t inexpensive

Let me start with my favorite fallacy, the Wii is inexpensive. I’m sorry but $250 for an overclocked Gamecube that is almost as powerful as an Xbox 1 isn’t really that great of a value in my opinion. Never mind the fact that most Wii titles (the popular ones anyway) are designed around local multi-player like WiiSports, and it can take 8 controllers (4x Wiimotes and 4x Nunchucks) for everyone to play.

It costs $60USD to buy a Wiimote and Nunchuck (they are sold separately). Don’t forget that Nintendo wants to sell classic controllers for the emulator games, a plastic wheel to hold the Wiimote for driving games, a plastic gun to hold the Nunchuck for shooter games, AND a pad to set on the ground for a workout. You could very easily (and probably will) spend more money on controllers and accessories than on the Wii itself.

Cost for Wii: $250. Cost for 3 Wiimotes, 3 Nunchucks, 2 classic controllers: $220; and that is without the recently announced driving wheel, gun, and WiiFit in the mix.

Weak game line-up

This one is inexcusable, the Wii just doesn’t have very many good games coming down the pipe. As people already know how to program for the Gamecube quite well, and it takes less work to develop last-gen graphics, they have the easiest system to program for. Yet, look at their upcoming titles; yeah not many standouts. Microsoft and Sony had a majority of the games people are actually looking forward to at E3. Think about it, Microsoft is touting Halo 3, GTA IV, Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed, Beautiful Katamari, Sony is touting Metal Gear 4, Unreal 3, Grand Turismo 5, Killzone 2, and Nintendo shows us some peripherals?!? Two of which third-parties already produce?? Seriously? Bottom line is Nintendo doesn’t really have a “must-have” game for this holiday season.

The funny thing about the weak game line-up is that many of the non-hardcore gamers (read: wives/girlfriends) that are interested in the Wii could care less. They are content playing “checkers” (WiiSports) over and over and over. When I see many of them play, they can’t even tell which player is theirs, but somehow they are still having a great time. I really think that a lot of these players are more stricken by WiiSports than the Wii in general.

Online gaming is a joke

I occasionally hear people decry that Xbox Live is a pay service for something you get free everywhere else, but there is the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Well I prefer “You don’t get what you don’t pay for.” Nintendo’s (and to a lesser extent Sony’s) online gaming is ridiculous. Their friend code system is too complicated, and it looks like you’ll have to exchange different codes for every game. Never mind that hardly any games can be played online. Why did they even build in WiFi? Just for the browser and the weather? Local multi-player can be fun, but most of the time I’m not calling over my friends to play for 30 minutes. I don’t think I will ever understand why Nintendo and Sony didn’t just look at what Microsoft was doing with Xbox Live and rip it off copy it.

Long-term viability

I mentioned earlier that this generation wasn’t going to be won quickly, and that is the biggest problem I see for the Wii. I know people often say that the graphics don’t matter, but I’ve seen those same people get blown away by the graphics AND the gameplay of a game like Gears of War on my HDTV with surround sound. With the Wii you are getting standard definition picture and stereo sound; presentation comparable to games from four years ago. Will people really be okay with seven year old graphics in 2010? I don’t think so; we won’t be seeing a lot of people buying Wiis then. Remember, by 2010 every TV sold will be an HDTV, and the HD disc wars will be over (hopefully). People will want something better.

The Bottom Line

Without better than last-gen graphics, a legitimate online strategy, a significant library of compelling games, and more notable announcements for an E3 keynote than new peripherals, I don’t see the Wii as a five to seven year console. I stand by my stance that Nintendo should exit the hardware business and do what they do best, create games (see Sega). Any innovation that the Wii has is in the controllers. They could have made Wii for Xbox 360, and/or Wii for PS3, and sold controllers and games for both platforms. When I think Nintendo, I think Zelda and Mario, not N64 and Gamecube. I don’t know why they are insistent on making their fans buy their console just to get their games. How many more copies of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess do you think Nintendo could have moved if it played on the PS2?

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