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The Impact of the Wii

Nintendo just released their sales information for the most recent quarter. The report pins the Wii lifetime sales at just over 30 million in under 2 years. That got me thinking about the impact the Wii has had upon the gaming market as a whole, so I decided to write up this little segment. It highlights the four best and worst impacts Nintendo's console has had upon the industry. Enjoy.
So lets start with the posatives.

The Good

1. Gaming isn't just for gamers anymore: since the Wii has launched, there's been a bit of a renaissance in the perception of gaming. I personally have had dozens of adults with no previous interest in videogames ask me about the Wii; I've seen grandparents buy the console not for their grandchildren, but for themselves. You no longer have to be a male age 10-25 to enjoy video games.

2. A new type of feedback: Okay, so the Wiimote is hardly original. It's essentially an update to the lightgun concept used back in the 80s. Yet the Wiimote (and its nunchuck extension) mark a posative departure from videogaming tradition. As great as controllers like the Dualshock are, they're a very specialized controller. It's awkward for first time gamers to utilized both thumbs and four fingers simultaneously when they have eight buttons, two analog sticks, and a d-pad to maneuver. Everyone has used a remote, and the controller is simple enough that, combined with its motionsensing, it's impossible to not use it with ease. Plus, why, after 30 years of videogame consoles, is the Wii the first console to use a remote that's in more than one piece?

3. No need to be shallow: This is perhaps my favorite nuance in Nintendo's console. The Wii makes it loud and clear that Nintendo wants graphics and depthless aesthetics to take a backseat to the fun. People can argue all day about Crysis Vs. Killzone 2 Vs. Gears of War 2, but at the end of the day, no one will care about the game if it's painful to play. Does anyone remember a title by the name of Lair?

4. The joy of sharing: there is no console that is quite as good for parties as the Wii. None, not ever in the history of gaming. Simplistic games like Wii Sports and Wii Play mean that Nintendo's console is the perfect choice for those spontaneous thirty minute sessions of gaming.

The Bad

1. Super Mario Brothers 98 is totally different than Super Mario Brothers 97, we swear: unfortunately, the console that is so often heralded as the industry's biggest innovation is actually one of the largest purveyor's or recycling. Nintendo's concept was to take all their old franchises, leave them identical to their previous itterations, and utilize a new interface to make the old seem new. Great. Now what? Amongst the screams of 'OMG I WNT A WII !!!!1one" back in late 2006, there were a few cries of 'gimmick' 'fad' and 'novelty.' I certainly won't be one to say the Wii is a depthless machine, but really, how many ways can you intergrate waving a controller around without it becoming old? The real question is, when Nintendo releases the next zelda or mario game for the Wii, will people really find the gameplay all that interesting?

2. Third parties, be gone: Other than madden, rockband, and guitar hero, what was the last good third party game you played on the Wii? Forget 'great,' just tell me a good one. Chances are, you're having a bit of difficulty coming up with an answer, because the only company that seems able to make great games for the Nintendo Wii is Nintendo. One issue with the Wii is that it's ultra-proprietary, which handicaps developers that produce content for the wii, PS3, 360, and PC. Do you really want every good game you play for the next six years to come from the same half dozen studios? Are you willing to not ever see another innovation in gameplay ever, ever, ever again? I thought not.

3. The Wii could have been made five years ago: In their defense, Nintendo never made a pretense of the Wii being 'cutting edge.' But there's a small problem with that lack of technological forward thinking: console life. The ps2 was by no means a powerhouse back in 2000 (thought it was significantly higher end than Sega's dreamcast), but it incorporated one feature that would futureproof it for the next eight years: DVD. The problem is, there's nothing in the Wii that's new, which places a pretty big barrier upon what the console can achieve in the future. Plus, old parts means lower reduction in cost. The 360 and PS3 get frequent price drops because the new technology they utilize will plummet in production costs throughout the next several years. So although the Wii launched $350 cheaper in 2006, by the time 2010 rolls around, it might have only a $100 dollar advantage, and (little to merit its hardware's worth).

4. 'But Mr. Potatomoto, where's that awesome game you promised us?': please go check out http://vgcats.com . They have a hysterical article where Mr Potatomoto leave's the pea faithful out to dry because there are other people who are willing to buy crappier products. Hmm, sound's a bit like Nintendo's current situation. See, the problem with making casual gamers your target audience is kind of like selling your soul to the devil. They have no sense of quality when it comes to video games, so they'll lap up whatever crap you feed them, but they leave just as quickly as they came. Whatever happen to a game with a bit of polish to it, a game that is good enough to enjoy playing for hours on end? Very, very few Wii games meet those criteria, and if Nintendo's E3 press conference is a harbinger of things to come, soon, none will. In a sense, the Wii is moving the industry backward as much (if not more so) than it is moving it forward. We're getting a new way to play our games, but the trade off is that the games aren't really games anymore (Nintendogs should've been a sign of what was to come) and that they simply aren't as good. Games like Indigo Prophesy, Shadow of the Colosus, Bioshock, and Metal Gear Solid 4, games that are masterpieces of the videogame medium, won't ever be found on the Wii. Recently, there's been a bit of a movement for videogames to be viewed at the same level as Movies and Literature in terms of importance and capacity for story telling; the Wii is carrying the industry in the exact opposite direction.

Snake? Snaaaaaaake!

So I'll be the first person to admit that I kinda dislike stealth/pop'n'stop games. I'd played the previous metal gears for a couple hours a piece, and, inevitably, after each one I'd always say, "Damn, this game is impressive, but I'm bored with it." And don't get me wrong, MGS4 is still a stealth game. But, at the same time, it transcends the niche. The amount of care and effort that went into this game is evident in every frame of the entire thing. I've never played a game this technologically amazing and this brilliantly conceived. You do not know what gorgeous means until you see this game running at 1080p and 5.1 or more. You will weep.
If you have a Playstation, you absolutely must, must, must get this game. It's heavy handed, it's long winded, and it has more cut scenes than you could hope to fathom. But. It is, without a doubt, the closest thing to perfection I've ever seen in a video game. And if you don't have a PS3, find one. Borrow one. Steal one. Whatever you do, give yourself the oppertunity to play through this game. In April and May I logged a good 50 hours into GTAIV and I was pretty sure that it would be the best game I played all year.

I was wrong.