Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trouble brewing for the Wii

Here at Gamezelot, there is very little in the way of Wii games that are reviewed or played.  Why is that?  The primary reason is that with the exception of one or two titles, there is really nothing worth playing.  I know, you're saying, "But there are tons of titles".  Yes, there are. However, most of those titles are throw away titles.  By that I mean, games you play through for about 15-20 minutes and never play again.

Throw away

Unfortunately, Nintendo has not been able to entice the proper level of game developers to their system.  Combined with the exceedingly small screen size (and probably underlying system specifications), it's difficult to get a really complex title onto the Wii.  That leaves developers who create small non-engaging titles.  Titles like bowling, tennis and, yes, even Rock Band and Guitar Hero.  These are titles that you play for a while and get tired of rapidly.

Vacuuous games

These are the types of games that leave you feeling like, "And I paid $49 for t-h-i-s?".  Yes, it's that bad.  Because of the lack of quality games that appear on the Wii (and I knew this time would come strictly because of Wii's poor graphics subsystem and smaller 'Gamecube' foot print), the tide is turning for the Wii.

Recently, the Wii has slipped to the number 2 spot in game sales, upstaged by Sony's PS3.  I already knew what analysts are now saying.  But, I didn't expect it to take 3 years in coming.  I expected it perhaps 1-1.5 years after launch, then see the console fizzle out and disappear.

Gamezelot rarely ever plays the Wii.  I've probably turned the system on once in the last 6 months.  The reason was simply to get updates from Nintendo.  I rarely put games in to play simply because I am not compelled.  Of course, this game review site focuses on longer RPG and Shooter style games.  Gamezelot does not focus on titles where you tire of the game in about 15 minutes.  It is not worth $50 to purchase into a 15 minute play value.  So, this explains why there are rare Wii titles reviewed on Gamezelot.

Oh, it's not like I don't regularly stop by the stores and check out Wii titles.  I do.  I just never find anything compelling to play.

Comparable gaming systems

The Xbox 360 and the PS3 have enough similar specifications that it's reasonable to port your game to both platforms.  The Wii is so underpowered compared to these other two systems that it's near impossible to port anything into it.  So, game developers are at a crossroads.  They must choose which systems they want to invest their development time and money into.  If you want the most bang for your buck from the gaming community, you don't invest your time into the Wii.  Especially during this downturn.  So, developers must become discriminating with their development time and money.  Worse, if a smaller developer chooses incorrectly, that could spell the end to that gaming company.  So, there's a lot at stake by choosing to develop for the Wii.

Gaming experience

Clearly, the Wii is the poorest gaming experience out there, hands down.  The Wiimote is a novelty at best.  At worst, it's dangerous.  Dangerous to your body and dangerous to your possessions around where you are flinging it.  The wrist strap is only so good and eventually it will snap.  More than this, I find playing games with the Wiimote to be tedious.  Many games you must play standing up or in a position where your arms hang freely.  Other times, they require you to hold your arms up in the air or in certain uncomfortable positions.  This limits the length of time you can actually spend playing a game.  So, even if the game is engaging, you simply have to put down the Wiimote and end the game long before you really should.

With the PS3 and the Xbox 360, not requiring the sensor system (although, the PS3 tried in some titles) allows the gamer to hold a controller in a comfortable position and continue to play for longer than an hour.  So, the value of the games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 is far improved over the Wii.

Wii is not the platform

These are all issues that developers must consider when choosing a system for their game.  For long involved games, the Wii is not the platform.  For more adult titles, Wii is not the platform.  For games requiring a standard controller, Wii is not the platform.  For the best graphics and sound, Wii is not the platform.  For sheer computing power, Wii is not the platform. 

Frankly, it has surprised me that it's taken 3 years to get to this point, but I knew (and predicted) that this day would come.  I guess it took the global downturn to finally show this issue in the Wii, but here we are.

Can Wii recover?

That's really up to Nintendo.  But, instead of resting on their laurels, it's time for Nintendo to quit the charade that underpowered consoles and novelty controllers are the answer.  It's now time for Nintendo to step up and produce a competing (and compelling) console of the power and size of the PS3 and the Xbox 360.  These two platforms have a lot more computing power, better graphics and better sound.  For Nintendo to release such an underpowered console when they did was amazingly risky.  It was a risk that paid off for 3 years.  But, unfortunately, the sun is now beginning to set for the Wii.  

Nintendo better have a nextgen console in the works at this point or their alleged dominance in the market may come to a close with a wimper.

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