It was once the king of the gaming pile, so sought after that you’d have to give a kidney on the black market to get one in your home. But recent months have seen the Wii fall from grace, with profits down by nearly half over the same period a year earlier. Has the bubble burst for the Nintendo Wii? If so, what has caused it? Here’s Tech Digest’s five reasons why the Wii’s star is falling.
1. The novelty of motion control has worn off.
When Nintendo first started showing off its Wii motion-based controllers they were hailed as a revolution, taking gaming interactivity up a notch by adding a whole new level of physicality to gameplay. I literally lost hours to the boxing mini-game in Wii Sports, and many fell in love with the console’s healthy-lifestyle ethos featured in games like Wii Fit. Anyone from a toddler to your grandparents could take part, with the Wii becoming as much a social centrepiece as it was a gaming platform.
However, despite innovations such as the Wii Motion-Plus ad-on, many developers never got the hang of making responsive motion controls. The pressure to add motion controls to a game where it was unnecessary caused many games to feel like patchwork hack-jobs. Far from being intuitive or immersive, games like Super Paper Mario suffered from inaccurate and distracting waggling or tilting. Many developers used the motion controls as a marketing novelty, rather than working on making them a useful, integral and most importantly fun aspect of gameplay.
2. Serious gaming has trumped casual gaming. Seriously.
With motion gaming came the rise of the “casual gamer”, people who were trying console gaming for the first time thanks to the Wii’s perceived accessibility. While there were many great games that could be classed within the “casual” bracket (Wii Sports, WarioWare Smooth Moves, Let’s Tap), the term for many gamers came to mean “cheap cash-in”. Developers exploited this burgeoning group of inexperienced gamers by putting out games of a sub-par standard and then explaining their faults away as attempts to simplify gameplay to reach a wider audience. That’s fine if your simplified games are good, but it’s no excuse to make buggy, broken titles and market them as the best thing since sliced bread because your growing audience lacks the knowledge to notice otherwise.
Likewise, Nintendo’s choice to favour accessibility over technological advancements has led to a console that is now seriously showing its age. Based on the core hardware that was present in the Gamecube (a console now over 8 years old) the Wii is visually miles behind what its cinematic rivals the PS3 and Xbox 360 are now capable of. Games like Uncharted 2 or Fallout 3 just wouldn’t be possible on the Wii, so hardcore gamers are migrating away from the Wii. And with hardcore gamers the people left button-mashing away once the casual, novelty gamer moves on to pastures new, they really have to be catered for if you are going to have a consistent revenue stream.
3. Economic conditions.
If, in these economically challenging times, you only have the money for one console, can you honestly say the Wii represents good value for money? The Wii-Mote controller comes in two sold-separately parts if you include the nunchuck necessary to play 80% of the games on offer, for crying out loud! It may feature free built in Wi-Fi and internet gaming, but both the community and content on offer with the Wii are sparse. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have at least DVD playback, with the PS3 also featuring free online gaming and doubling up as a Blu-ray enabled media centre. And with many cross-platform games being stripped back versions of PS3 or Xbox 360 titles (with shoddily added motion controls, of course) you’d have to dig deep to find a reason to choose a Wii over its competitors.
4. Lack of killer games.
Nintendo have a historic gaming pedigree and to be fair, there are some shining examples at work on the Wii. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, Retro Studio’s Metroid Prime Trilogy are a few superb examples. But have a look over at review score aggregator MetaCritic; at the time of writing there are just seven games within the top 10 percentile range. And with the exception of the recently released New Super Mario Bros Wii and the aforementioned Metroid Prime Trilogy (itself a compilation of previously released titles) what killer content do Wii owners have to look forward to in the coming months? Sin and Punishment, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are the few titles really jumping out at us now, whereas there are innumerable exciting games headed to the other major consoles in just the first quarter of 2010 alone, such as Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Alien Versus Predator and Bioshock 2 scraping just the tip of the iceberg.
5. Those awful adverts.
A personal bugbear this, but a valid one nonetheless, and not limited just to the Wii but the whole range of Nintendo products including the DS. Am I the only one who finds the whole celebrity endorsement of Nintendo a bit much? Sure, gaming is now a widely enjoyed hobby but come on, surely Beyonce and Nicole Kidman have better things to be doing than playing with Nintendo gear? Like spending their millions for instance? And I honestly don’t care if Jamie, Louise and Harry Redknapp enjoy a go of Mario Kart, because it’s plain to see all they are really enjoying is lapping up the pennies thrown at their feet by Nintendo. It’s unconvincing and patronising to the leagues of gamers who have fought to have gaming considered a credible pastime. And don’t get me started on Ant and Dec…
By Gerald Lynch | December 3rd, 2009