|Posted on September 19, 2012 at 1:25 AM|
Was I Wrong About the Wii?
It was 2009. I had just started to explore the idea of writing a blog about movies and video games. At the time, I didn't even have this website; I just posted my blogs at other communities including That Guy With the Glasses and IGN which used to have a big message-board community. It was starting to take off, I made some friends and whatnot, so I decided to start my own blogging site.
Originally, it was just a tumblr, nothing special, but I wanted it to be more. That Tumbler interface, even with different skins, still looked like every other Tumblr. I'm someone who loves organization, putting this out there that's easy to get to. That looks nicer. That's inviting. So I started it up and now, three years later, this is what you have in all its "ran by one guy who sucks at coding" glory. My first order of business was to re-post all my old blogs, which I did. One in particular I'm most glad I transferred and saved, because it's very interesting now that I look back at it.
Now, to summarize, let me first place you back in 2009 again. The Nintendo Wii was, probably, at the height of its popularity. Everybody was buying it, everybody was playing it - it was probably the most popular console on the market and came out during that whole "it prints money" meme thing that seems to be associated with Nintendo.
Yeah, that one.
However, I wasn't fully convinced. Even at the height of the Wii's popularity, I still felt it was going to end up a forgettable piece of hardware as time went on because it wasn't offering enough outside of solid Nintendo franchises. I noted it's the games we remember, not the consoles themselves, and even though we might think back to some solid games on the Wii from Nintendo, as a console product itself it was destined to be forgotten and looked back as a failure despite the insane amount of numbers it sold. "Failure" in this light swaying more to those games we recall, which were few in number, not the numbers of units sold. We aren't going to think back nicely to all that shovel ware (cheap throwaway games from no-name developers), and I noted that there's not great third-party software because "it wasn't warmly embraced by most gamers, just those who like to pick up and play for a few minutes, then move on to the cocktail party in the next room."
In other words, the gaming audience for the Wii is probably best compared to the gaming audience of the iPhone. It's there. It has numbers. But nothing really "sticks." It appealed to "short term" gaming by its design, not long-term gaming dedication.
Hence the word "hidden failure." On paper, all those numbers are great. It made money. In the hearts of gamers, how is it going to be remembered?
Now we're on the crusp of Nintendo's next console and the surprisingly high-priced WiiU ready to be unleashed. As much as I want to go into about the WiiU, it's just not that time yet. Instead, we need to look back to the Wii as a whole. Was I wrong about my prediction of it slowing down? Was I wrong about how it will be remembered? Was I wrong about the variety of games and genres available from third party software developers?
Well, as far as how it'll be remembered, I can say one thing for certain: it existed. People are going to, at the very least, feel the impact on a technological level as shown by Microsoft and Sony's desire to get into different areas of gaming interaction even though Nintendo seems to be abandoning it on the WiiU. So if Nintendo has moved on, I can't say for certain that we'll be remembering waggles and sticks with the Wii controller all that much, but the idea of interaction in different forms I think will stay.
But, as I said, it comes down to the games. How will we look at the Wii from that standpoint is how we'll judge it, just like every console. The fondness you feel towards one piece of home entertainment is synonymous with which one had your favorite games. That's why I'm fond of the Super Nintendo: amazing role playing games. The same for the Sony Playstation. So, for the Wii, let's sort of break it down:
Point One: Nintendo did their part. They always do. They had some misfires, sure (Wii Music) but they got their big guns out there. Some worked, like Zelda, Mario and Kirby. Others like Metroid were solid enough, but not a huge splash. Either way, they had a bigger focus on their franchisees than they had in a long while, even putting a new console Kirby game out there.
Point Two: Third parties, though, never quite got on board. It comes down to how third party developers approach gaming development these days. They aren't interested in exclusivity anymore, they want cross-platform gameplay. Making new and unique titles specifically for the Wii just never fully caught on. Still, though, the variety and support the past few years is a hell of a lot better than what it was in 2009. Solid games like Epic Micky, Tatsunoko Versus Capcom, Monster Hunter Tri, Bloom Blox, Red Steel 2 and two late-coming RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, are all damn good games. Yes, the shovelware and cheap cash-in titles still outnumber the quality AAA software from developers, but they're still there.
The Last Story, fittingly the final big title for the Wii, is considered one of the best JRPGs in years.
But, those games I just listed…that's really about it. I have in front of me a list of exclusive Wii games, and there's just not a lot outside of Nintendo's own wheelhouse and support. I stepped outside my own observations and read dozens of articles and blogs and message board discussions about the best games on the Wii…same result. Most are from Nintendo, few outside of that. Then there's that big issue again...
Point Three: Shovelware. The cheap stuff that is on the same level as those drugstore PC games on CD in the 90s, the Wii was infested with them. This is probably the saddest part: for every great AAA game, there's probably five pieces of shit. The Wii became the outlet of cheap, throwaway games, moreso than any other console I can think of since the non-licenced era of the 1980s. The reason: it was everywhere and popular, people who didn't play games would still play them, it was cheap to develop for because it wasn't an HD console. Nintendo didn't do themselves any favors by developing the Wii's most popular title: Wii Sports. No-name developers saw that, saw how popular it was, and said to themselves "man, we can spend a weekend doing the same thing and it'll be as popular!" As a result...a whole lotta shit.
Does that Nintendo "Seal of Quality" still exist?
So, if the third party platform wasn't quite up to snuff, overly dominated by junk and the good developers not really focusing on it, is Nintendo's lineup good enough for people to say "Damn…that was a good system?" It can be done. Look at the N64. People think back very fondly to that console and it's entirely thanks to Nintendo and Rare alone.
Well, believe it or not, I say "yes." Yes, I was wrong. Nintendo's lineup on the Wii was absolutely spectacular and, as a result, the Wii is something we'll remember and think back on fondly. True, if you want more out of your gaming console with variety and so forth, it probably wasn't for you…but Nintendo itself probably did its best job in years in supporting their console. Various Mario titles, all of which were spectacular, Skyward Sword, Kirby's Epic Yarn which is the best Kirby game in years, Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, getting other names outsorced to developers such as Donkey Kong Country Returns and Metroid, smartly using the idea of remakes and ports, still getting into that casual crowd just enough with the Wii Sports lineup, Super Paper Mario, Punch Out…
As I said, it's the games that will determine if we remember a console, and even though it may not have the variety, Nintendo's games were so strong on the Wii it's something that simply has to be remembered. Compared to their titles on the Gamecube, they outdid it at every angle (and I liked their titles on the Gamecube, notably Wind Waker, Pikmin 2 and, dare I say it?…Animal Crossing). While the Gamecube had a bit more variety and certainly better third party support (Solid JRPGs, the Resident Evil franchise at its best, Capcom with unique titles like Killer 7 and Viewtiful Joe - in fact Capcom was to the Gamecube what Rare was to the N64), the Wii still managed a solid handful of third party games, some of which people have called the best examples of their respective genres (Xenoblade and The Last Story considered by many to be the best Japanese RPGs in years, a rare feet indeed).
So yes...I was wrong, even though my points were still pretty valid. The Wii never got the variety of genres and quality third party support down, but boy did Nintendo do their damnest to drive it home and support their console better than any other first-party developer this generation. More than Microsoft with Bungie or Sony with Naughty Dog, they absolutely killed it. There'll be detractors, but looking back, it was really a console that did far more right than wrong, and I think will be viewed the same way the N64 is now: a great console for Nintendo games.
Take the wheel, Nintendo. And don't screw up the WiiU. Treat it just like you did the Wii...minus all that shovelware, though.
Was it the best console of "this generation?" Well, that's the thing. I kind of considered the Wii it's own separate thing. It survived during a time of major technical and graphical headway by keeping it all straightforward and focusing on the games. The console specs and polygonal-pushing software wasn't important, Nintendo stayed true to what Nintendo has and always will do: make fun games. That's the vehicle they'll always drive, so whatever console-road it's on doesn't really matter as long as the vehicle is immaculate. For the highway that was the Wii, Nintendo was driving the hottest sportscar on the road.