When the Nintendo Wii was released, stores sold more consoles than you could shake a stick at, and shaking a stick is exactly what people were doing. Nintendo was taking the lazy out of videogames and everyone, including your Grandma wanted in on it. Innovative? You betcha.
My friend was lucky enough to get his hands on one and invited me over to show it off. I wanted to see what all the motion sensing hoopla was all about so I hopped into my Mariokart and drove over ASAP. By Mariokart, I mean my Mom’s car.
Let it be known that before the Wii, I had owned every single Nintendo console since the NES (and also a Gameboy and Gameboy Advanced to boot). So I needed to see if the Wii was worth my
hard earned money.
After a few fun filled hours of virtual bowling, boxing, golfing and baseball (also known as Wii Sports) I came to a tough conclusion: the Wii is fun now, but I’m fairly certain the Wii is a gimmick and like all gimmicks (and Grandma), will get old and tiresome. Unless something changed, the Wii would not include me.
When I explained my gimmick theory to others, Wii owners laughed at me and said, “Look how many consoles Nintendo is selling. How can the Wii be bad if everyone is buying it?”
Do you know how many albums Chumbawamba sold? Neither do I, and I don’t plan on pissing the night away finding out. The bottom line is sales do not equal quality. Sorry tubthumpers.
How did the Nintendo go from NES and SNES greatness to the Wii? Let’s find out.
N64 – Bingo!
Nintendo’s alienation of its fan base started with the mighty N64. Yes, the glorious N64 was the beginning of the impending end for Nintendo.
You might have fond memories of playing split screen Golden Eye, MarioKart or Starfox in your friend’s basement, sucking back beers waiting for your turn to shoot a trio of red shells at your buddies. I have plenty of those memories. I loved my N64. The four controller slots were a bonus other systems seemed to ignore and Nintendo thrived because of it. The N64 satisfied my craving for first person shooters (Golden Eye), racing games (MarioKart) and multiplayer madness (Golden Eye, Mariokart, Starfox). And Mario 64? Oh man was that game great.
But like the fat kid at a buffet, I wasn’t full. Something was missing.
I still had a hunger for sports games, role playing games, and fighting games, all of which were beautifully done on the SNES, but were either nowhere to be found or completely butchered on the N64. Where did they go and why can’t I play them on my beloved Nintendo anymore?
Because Nintendo decided to stick with cartridges, a lot of developers were unable to create games with the same scope or intricately long cut scenes that they could on a CD based console or PC. The RPG empire that was Squaresoft, who had brought the likes of Final Fantasy 3, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana to the SNES refused to compromise the quality and size of their games so Nintendo lost the exclusive rights to the main Final Fantasy series and N64 had zero Final Fantasy games. Zero! It’s a disgrace. The SNES was a mecca for RPGs. Meanwhile, the new Japanese kid on the block, the underdog known as the Sony Playstation, got the masterpiece of Final Fantasy VII, a big big win for the newcomer.
Like many other Final Fantasy die-hards, I purchased a Playstation simply to play Final Fantasy VII. If that was the only game I ever played on my Playstation, I’d be happy. However, I discovered hordes of other great RPGs and a plethora of games not afraid to use blood, gore, and explicit language (Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear, Syphon Filter, etc). For the first time, I saw there was a rich gaming world outside of the world of Nintendo. If Nintendo didn’t give me a reason to look elsewhere, I may have never known.
With the Playstation, Sony made a statement: videogames aren’t just for kids or young adults. On the other hand, Nintendo made their own statement with the N64: our videogames ARE only for kids and young adults. When I say kids’ games I mean cartooney, kid friendly games. I’m aware that some adult games were released on the N64, but for the most part the games were G-rated. Who knew that having no blood in the SNES Mortal Kombat would be the beginning of Nintendo’s strict videogame censorship.
When Street Fighter 2 came out on the SNES I would get up early just to play before school, but Street Fighter was nowhere to be found on the Nintendo 64. There are thousand mildly different versions of Street Fighter on every console, but not one on the N64.
In summary, Nintendo allowed Sony to steal a large cohort of fans by pigeonholing themselves, while Playstation awarded their users with both kid’s and adult games. Leave the censorship to the parents and have every single genre available for consumption. Why limit your audience?
GameCube: It’s no longer hip to be Square
When the GameCube was released I didn’t buy it immediately. It was the first time I wasn’t losing any sleep over not having a Nintendo console. The release games were a joke and my loyalty to Nintendo was waning. Luigi’s Mansion as a release game?
Instead, I picked up a Playstation 2, which did not disappoint. However, my love of Nintendo’s tried and true, the Marios the Zeldas, and the Metroids, eventually burrowed their way into my brain and convinced me my life wasn’t complete without a tiny square shaped gaming system sitting in my living room. So I picked up a GameCube too. The Cube did some things well, but seemed like a step down from the N64. People criticized the GameCube’s mini CDs and the baby size of the system. I stood up for Nintendo and said, “Size doesn’t matter!”, an argument all women know isn’t true. Then Super Mario finally showed up with a talking shower-head strapped to his back and even more users flocked to Sony or the new (gigantic) powerful Xbox system.
On top of that, Square finally decided to release a Final Fantasy game for the GameCube, but Crystal Chronicles acted less like a Phoenix Down for the GameCube and more like a Ultima(te kick to the nuts). Another reminder that the good Final Fantasy games could be found over on that other system.
For the record, I really enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine, but the golden era of the SNES seemed like eons ago. Why couldn’t we get everything we wanted on one system?
All Wii have is Mario Party and games just like it
Which brings us back to the Wii. Nintendo gambled by making the Wii underpowered in order to create a low initial price point. Compared to the Wii, the high powered PS3 cost an arm and a leg and fans were disappointed to find out that the PS3 was neither gold plated nor diamond encrusted. The gamble seemed to pay off for the Wii, with Wii Sports attracting even the non-gamers.
The initial high price of the PS3, and the a timely sale on the Xbox 360 meant I would give Microsoft’s finicky console a go. I don’t regret it for a second, nor would I had I bought a PS3. Both fine systems that share a fine library of games while both housing some nice exclusives, but in terms of sales, the Wii was still kicking their ass in a serious way. Again, the gimmick continued to wow people. Foolish.
However, the Wii did not age well. The inferior graphic capabilities were a huge mistake and often led to popular game titles being left off the Wii completely or stripped down to bare bones in order to be played on the system. Take the Call of Duty series on Wii for example, they look like PS2 games.
According to ratings on GameRankings.com:
Modern Warfare 3 on Xbox: 88%
Modern Warfare 3 on Wii: 69%
It’s rare to find a Wii game with a better rating than the same game on a different console.
Nintendo had gradually transformed themselves from a system that had it all in the SNES into a child’s system full of Mario Party and Wii Sports ripoffs. Mature gamers continued to flock to the consoles that had mature games. Let the kids and the moms have Nintendo.
Even shrinking contingent of Nintendo fanboys had to watch amazing game after amazing game come out on the other systems while they waited for the newest Zelda game to be released.
How many of the high rated, games from the second half of 2011 could you get for each system? (Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Batman Arkham City, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3, Portal 2, Gears of War 3, Resistance 3, Halo: Anniversary Edition, Dark Souls, and Zelda Skyward Sword).
Wii: 2 out of 11.
Xbox: 8 out of 11
PS3: 8 out of 11
Where are all the great Wii games?
Nintendo doesn’t develop all the great Wii games, there are also classics like My Little Baby and Jerry Rice and Nitus’ Dog Football!
In a December 2011 IGN article, the three consoles were put head to head and the results were a kick in the nuts for the Wii.
Games with ratings 7+/10 in 2011 (mediocre games):
Games with ratings 8+/10 in 2011 (good games)
Games with ratings 9+/10 in 2011 (great games)
5? That’s disgusting. Nintendo is waving goodbye to most of its hardcore gaming fans.
With every new console, Nintendo has been forced to rely more and more on the success of Mario and Link. How many times can these two save the Princesses before fans ask, “What else?” or Nintendo releases a dud? Thankfully Nintendo develops great games and characters or Nintendo consoles would have gone belly-up ages ago.
Anything you can do I can do better
As the price of the PS3 and Xbox 360 fell, the Wii had only its gimmicky motion sensing controller and exclusive titles to fall back on. Then, with the release of the Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect, the Wii had only it’s own games to fall back on, having essentially evicted all of its buyers except the Mario and Zelda diehards. Sure, the Move and Kinect are full of crappy games too, but those are add-ons to the console, they aren’t the console. Playstation and Microsoft have created systems that your Mom, Dad, Sister and Major League Gaming Brother can all use. No one who is serious about gaming owns only a Wii.
Yes, the Wii still has the magic of family room multiplayer, but the Wii’s online presence is embarrassing. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have created rich online networks and have made the consoles more than just an amazing multiplayer capable gaming device, but also an entertainment hub. The Wii, in its defense, does make a decent paper weight.
I Will Not be Attending Classes at Wii U in 2012
I hope Nintendo makes a big comeback with the Wii U because I’d like to dig into another Zelda game at some point in my life, but from what I’ve seen, the Wii U relies on a gimmick AGAIN. Virtua Boy, Wii, and 3Ds did the same and the results were blech. The only difference is that the 3Ds had an option to turn the gimmick (3D) off.
In case you haven’t heard, the Wii U controller is the gimmick. A monstrous controller with a touch screen that can interact with the onscreen game in a variety of ways. Kind of cool, but also a bulky and expensive piece of machinery that is not conducive to lengthy bouts of game playing or hardcore gaming, but no problem, Grandma only likes to play for 20 minutes at a time. Cripes, you’ll probably have to sell a kidney to afford another controller.
Didn’t the Sega Dreamcast have a screen on their controller?
I can promise using the touch screen on the controller will be fun to use at first, but the novelty of it will wear off. It won’t be long before gamers just want to have a normal system with a normal controller with the ridiculous gimmicky add-ons as an option if they want it. I also promise that Sony and Microsoft will be waiting for more scorned Nintendo fans with open arms.
A future where Super Mario is on the Xbox or PS? The Wii U may be the console that makes this happen at some point. It may sound impossible, but Sonic the Hedgehog can not only be played on Nintendo consoles, but also appears in games with Mario. There was a time we thought that impossible too, albeit this seems less plausible.
During the first 6-months of 2011, Nintendo lost nearly a billion dollars as Wii sales plummeted. Are people getting wise to Nintendo’s gimmicks? Can the Wii U reverse this trend?