Monday 22 March 2010

Why Nintendo Wii is a Really Good Thing

Unless you’ve been living in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears for the last three and a half years, you’ll be aware of the Nintendo Wii. As it stands, the console is now the fastest-selling console in the history of video games, overtaking the Playstation 2 in March 2009 and attaining 50 million units sold at the time of the article being written. What’s more, Nintendo has once again re-established itself as the number one hardware manufacturer in terms of market share as well as setting up a new base of gamers with its Wii and DS systems. Nobody can argue that the Wii isn’t popular, and that the impact upon the industry hasn’t been tremendous.

If you fancy yourself a video gamer, you’ll no doubt have an opinion on the Wii and its usefulness to the world. However, today I’d like to give you a few things to bear in mind when forming your opinion on the console.


Whether you find this to be a good thing or not is up to you, but one thing that cannot be disputed is quite how big an industry video games have become. Now there are competitions for what's become known as "professional gamers" to compete for cash prizes. Like them or loathe them, games are now big business, and in the last few years have been one of the few industries that have not had their profits significantly reduced by the impact of the recession.

The Nintendo Wii has completely changed the dynamic of the video game industry's business model, and in fact 20% of people who buy the Wii have never purchased a console before the Wii. That's around 10 million consoles purchased by those who have never before owned a one, and thus have never contributed anything to the revenue of the video games industry before now. That's given developers and publishers tons of extra revenue with which to develop games.

Which brings me neatly onto my next point...


To some, this may seem like a really weird thing to say. Evidently, everyone has their opinion on the quality of the Wii's game library. A lot of people have been vehemently negative about what's known as "shovel-ware", cheaply produced games of questionable quality. Also of note is the large number of games that seem to consist of a collection of mini-games. However, something that can definitely be argued in favour of the Wii is that the developers making these games have had to think long and hard in some cases about how to go about creating these control schemes for the motion-sensitive controller.

Think of it this way: When you purchase Pro Evolution Soccer or Madden NFL on an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, you're used to a very similar control mechanism year on year. In fact, I can happily go from playing a football game on an Xbox 360 and then play it on the Playstation 3 without any problems whatsoever, as the control schemes are identical. However, if you play the same game on Nintendo Wii, the controls are completely different. I'm not saying that every developer gets it right every time, but I had infinitely more fun playing Call of Duty 3 with the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo than I would have done with a normal controller.


When the Wii was released, it cost £179.99 (or $249.99 for our friends across the pond) and came bundled with one Remote, one Nunchuk, one Wii console, all the leads and a copy of Wii Sports. At the time, it was good value for money, as the Remote/Nunchuk combo alone was over £50 separately to buy a second set, and in Japan Wii Sports wasn't packed in with the console and was released at the full suggested retail price for a video game.

Now, when the Xbox 360 drop their price, the Playstation 3 drops and vice versa. However, the consoles don't come with anything extra except for the occasional themed bundle (Gears of War or Uncharted 2 for example), so for the price to drop makes sense. When Nintendo change the Wii bundle, they make the price stay the same, but add value to the package. The current Nintendo Wii bundle still retails for £179.99, but now includes:
1 x Wii Console
1 x Remote
1 x Nunchuk
1 x Wii MotionPlus (the more advanced sensor they released in summer last year)
1 x Wii Sports game
1 x Wii Sports: Resort game

Now, you can't really argue with that value. Granted, those who adopted the system early don't benefit from the new deals, but that's always been true no matter what you buy. I first became aware of it, as a matter of trivia, when I purchased a Stereophonics album on release day only for them to release a Special Edition six months later with two extra tracks. Capitalism at its finest.


Think about it: It's a cheap console that comes bundled with two games as standard. There's enough in the box for a complete one-player setup. If you've already got one (or both) of the other home consoles on the market, and you're finding that the selection of games is lacking that certain...something, then a Nintendo Wii is a relatively cheap way to add some depth to your games collection. To put it in perspective, I have an Xbox 360 (which is currently being repaired), a Nintendo Wii, a DS, a PSP and a PC that runs Crysis (a feat that I feel should be the benchmark against which all PCs should be measured). There is no console in my collection that does not have a purpose. I use my Xbox 360 for most of my general gaming, the PC is for certain genres (mainly because I don't think strategy works on consoles except when they make the game purpose-built for the console), and the portable systems are for gaming on the go. The role of the Wii is for one of two things: Gamecube games, and when I have a desire to play something a little bit different. My favourite game on Wii at the moment? Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, a new puzzle franchise from Capcom.


Through the last 25 years, Nintendo have been responsible for some of the most iconic video game franchises: Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid to name but a few. Of course, the Nintendo Wii has been no exception, and has already seen one of each of these games released for the console with more promised to be on the way. This year alone, there promises to be Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M, which has been developed by some of the minds behind the Ninja Gaiden franchise. This, combined with the continued assurance that another Zelda game is in the works, should give fans of Nintendo exclusives plenty to look forward to.

In the meantime, Nintendo has very sensibly capitalised on another trend sweeeping through the industry. So many of today's gamers have a penchant for the classics on previous consoles, and Nintendo's Virtual Console service collects the very best (and some of the not-so-best) of the games released for some of the most iconic video game systems in history. Fans can now download the original Super Mario Brothers for NES, the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis all the way up to Mario Kart 64 guessed it, the Nintendo 64. A nice little touch, and a surefire money-maker for Nintendo from day one.


Anyone who has read the site continuously knows my feelings on the Wii Fit franchise: I think it's a very cleverly made game, but ultimately isn't so much an exercise game as a "make you think you're exercising" game. However, as the title of this point states, that's not always such a bad thing. When I play my Xbox 360, I generally find that for the most part I'm not doing much in the way of movement. The only movement I tend to make is to throw my arms up in the air in disgust with myself - I suck at games, ok?

Anyway, when I play the Wii, something different happens. I actually feel different after having used it. With Tennis, I find myself using arm muscles and adjusting posture and stuff to play better. With the Bowling game, I find myself adjusting to account for spin and speed. The first time I tried Wii Boxing with a friend, we figured out at the end of a particularly brutal fight that it would have actually been LESS tiring to just beat the living shit out of each other!

We all see the statistics: one in four children is obese, by 2020 the world will be 70% water and the remaining 30% will be instant gravy, the average obese person has lost an arm since I started this sentence, blah blah blah... I'm not suggesting that the Nintendo Wii is a solution to this problem, as I've made it clear that I actually think quite the opposite, but I think it's a step in the right direction to make people take an interest in certain areas of their fitness that Wii Fit targets (balance, weight and distribution etc), so there's something to be said for it.

Besides which, when the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 motion controllers come out, you'll be wishing for the Wii Fit program over the crap they'll inevitably come up with.

1 comment:

  1. Gamers (and by this I mean 'video gamers', not the MUCH cooler other kind who are more at home with dice than joysticks) just don't seem to be able to grasp the very simple fact that the Wii IS NOT AIMED AT THEM.


    P.S. - How badly did I show my age with that 'joystick' comment? Whoo!