6 things that’ll make the Nintendo Wii a success

Nintendo Wii As everybody knows, motion sensitive input is nothing new to the console world. Others have tried to make motion sensors a popular part of the gaming experience over the years, including SEGA and Microsoft. And you know what? They failed. Most people of today haven’t even heard of the old devices, and even fewer have ever used one.

History has a tendency to repeat itself, so what’s to stop the Wii taking a few steps and then falling flat onto its face? If past efforts went so badly, why won’t this one? As far as I’m concerned there are six things that when combined will give the Wii the success Nintendo wants.

1. The Wii’s motion sensor device will not be optional

This is probably the most important point of all. Put simply, consumers will get no choice in the matter of whether or not their console supports motion sensor technology. They don’t need to buy anything extra to make it work; it’s there right out of the box.

Why is this important, you ask? It’s all about necessity. People like to spend as little as possible if they can. Think about yourself. You generally buy games and a memory card for your consoles, right? But what about all the other things that’re available? How many of you own the addon for the GameCube that lets you play GameBoy games? What about the EyeToy for the Playstation? Super GameBoy for the Super Nintendo? Just three examples out of dozens.

EyeToy, Super GameBoy and GameCube GBA Addon That’s right: most people don’t bother with extraneous hardware. Anything not included with the main console is almost always discarded as a gimmick. By including the device with the console from the outset, a massive group of people who wouldn’t otherwise bother have been penetrated.

This is why those who say “They might as well just release the Wiimote for the GameCube” are talking garbage. If Nintendo did this, it wouldn’t sell. You know it and they know it. Nintendo understands that the only way to standardise a piece of hardware is to push it as a mandatory component. Nintendo invented neither the D-Pad nor the analogue stick, but by respectively making them an included part of the NES and N64 they standardised both. That’s a fact.

2. Developers will have to cater for the Wiimote
What’s the best way to make sure developers for your console embrace your new input device and make games that exploit it to its fullest? You give them no choice. As many heard around E3 time, the Wii will come with a second controller known as the “classic controller”, designed for playing pre-Wii games and apart from its appearance is basically a GameCube controller.

Classic controller However, a lot of fans have deduced that instead of messing around with the Wiimote, developers will simply use the classic controller and continue doing things as they’ve always done. Even with the Wiimote as a mandatory piece of hardware, it’ll be ignored and point #1 of this list will be rendered redundant.

Problem is, this might not be an option. What’s to say Nintendo hasn’t designed the system so the classic controller can only be used with classic games? Or more specifically, it’ll only become usable when in backwards compatibility mode. This’d mean that even when developing fairly conventional games, utilising the Wiimote would be necessary. Therefore it’d be in the best interests of developers to at least use it well.

But that’s not all. Everybody knows Nintendo has no problem with hardware; they’ve a history of creating superb technology, and have often led the way with graphics. The GameCube was an excellent piece of hardware for its time, as was the N64, SNES and NES. So why does the Wii have hardware with far less brute force than its two main competitors? Why would Nintendo openly let themselves fall behind?

Wiimote Two reasons. The first is of course cost: developing advanced technology requires a lot of money, which ends up falling on the consumer’s shoulder. Because of the Wii’s relatively light hardware, it’ll have an appropriately light price tag, rumoured to be an absolute maximum of $250 but probably less. The second reason is focus: by making sure developers can’t rely on graphics as a major selling point, they’ll be forced into impressing people with innovative gameplay, the Wiimote of course being the most accessible way of doing this.

Developing for the Wii and not using the Wiimote would be bad resource management at its worst. This is a console that makes focusing on graphics impossible, so not making full use of what it does have — a new input device — would be ludicrous. Of course, this could result in publishers simply telling Nintendo to stuff it and working on games for the Xbox 360 and PS3 instead, but since lots have already signed up to work on the Wii this isn’t likely.

3. The Wii will be a lot cheaper than its competitors

The Wii is going to have a massive advantage as far as pricing goes. At the moment an Xbox 360 costs around £280 ($360) and its games go for about £50 ($93) a time. The Playstation 3 is said to debut at £425 ($800) with games more expensive than the Xbox 360’s. If those prices look a bit high to the American readers out there, that’s because we get inflated to pieces in the UK.

They are scary numbers. They’re not the kind of prices your average gamer wants to pay, and definitely not the kind your family wants to spend on a Christmas present or whatever. The Wii on the other hand is as far as I’m aware confirmed to be less than $250 at launch, and Nintendo has hinted it will cost the same as their past consoles have launched at ($200/£130).

I don’t think I even need to elaborate on this point. The Wii’s price will be a lot more attractive to most people, and will at the very least grab their attention.

4. The DS has re-established Nintendo’s credibility

DS Lite The GameCube was extremely damaging to Nintendo. Because of its poor execution, a lot of people lost faith in the company. Even the most supportive of fans couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by the game selection and repressed by the general opinion others had of the machine (“You have a GameCube? Heh, heh, heh!”). Public perception of the Nintendo brand fell to an all-time low.

Then the DS came along. Originally it was discarded as another Nintendo gimmick, or a spin-off of their excessively large GameBoy line. But people couldn’t help noticing that the DS didn’t go away. It didn’t fail. Games didn’t stop being made for it, and they weren’t all ports. The DS was and is a massive success story.

Just to put into perspective how well the DS has done, let’s look at some rough numbers. Since last June, the DS has sold over 21 million units (source). That’s on par with what the GameCube has sold in its entire life (source), and only three million less than the Xbox has sold in its life (source). In other words, a bloody lot of DSs have been sold.

DS With this success has come a lot of good press for Nintendo. People are now a lot more open to the company than they were a couple of years ago, and they’ve managed to shed a lot of their kiddie/softcore gamer image. I’ve seen a lot of Playstation and Xbox lovers embrace the DS, realising that all their friends have one and want to join the fun.

These people are likely to try out the Wii, especially considering that it acts as a Wifi adapter and thus will benefit their DS. Plus it’s inevitable that Nintendo will bring out titles that relate to their DS games, and of course people will want to play the next iteration of a series they love. The DS is basically acting as a stepping stone to the world of Nintendo for those who wouldn’t have even wiped their bum with the brand a few years ago. Nintendo has gained more ground with mainstream gamers.

5. Nintendo aren’t just going for the hardcore gamers

While Microsoft in particular is trying to lessen the way the public perceives it as tailored for hardcore gamers with games such as Viva Piñata!, the fact is that both Microsoft and Sony aren’t seen as something for the older crowd, or even for the particularly young crowd. This is not a good thing.

Man on Wii When reading a website’s comments a while back, I noticed people saying that Viva Piñata is a waste of time and that nobody will play it. Yeah, nobody except the thousands of kids out there who latch onto any decent child-friendly game they can get their hands on because there aren’t enough of them.

Nintendo continually reaffirms that it wants to appeal to even more potential gamers than ever before with the Wii. The aim is to reintroduce those who’ve stopped playing, and introduce those who never did in the first place. If their games and marketing cause this to happen, an absolutely gigantic userbase that Microsoft or Sony can’t even hope to tap into right now will be Nintendo’s. Suddenly the market Nintendo has traditionally fought others over will just be a part of a jigsaw as opposed to an entire canvas.

This will quite simply result in more support for the console from all sides, meaning there’ll be more games, more variety, and more people for you to play with. Heck, it could be the mums in families that want a console instead of the teens. Gaming in general will become that much more mainstream, and head further towards the wide appeal of film and music — something it’ll never do in its current state. Ever.

6. The Wii will be an online-enabled console

I’d be inclined to call this “saving the best until last”. Although other consoles have had online play for a while and indeed the GameCube itself had a very rudimentary ability to play online with certain games, this is the first home Nintendo console to be fully online-enabled. And what’s more, it’ll be totally free.

Wifi Although the implementation of online play on the DS isn’t perfect as I discussed earlier, it’ll almost certainly be sorted out by the time the Wii comes around and in fact has been markedly improved for newer DS titles. So what we’ll have is an online-enabled home console with motion sensor input. I don’t know about you, but that concept gets me pretty damn wet.

Anybody who’s played a “party game” on the GameCube can probably understand my perspective here. No matter who you are, those games are freaking fun when you’ve got real people to play with. Whether it’s the Wacky Races madness of Mario Kart, the basic musical play of Donkey Konga or the randomness of Mario Party, when playing as a group this type of game is awesome — even if rubbish in single-player mode.

So take that incredible potential for fun and apply it to online play and you’ve got a serious winner on your hands. I can’t really describe how exhilarating party games can get when you’ve got real people around, but I can at least promise you they’re excellent. Assuming that Nintendo can implement them well with online play, I can see people being sat in front of their TV all day and night.

But of course, classic online play could also be fantastic with motion sensitive input. While first- and third-person shooters are a given, what about real-time strategy? Imagine being able to simply point on the screen to make units move around. Drag a box on the screen to select multiple units. Move around the map by making broad strokes in a particular direction. Finally, an opportunity for those genres that’ve never really worked too well on a console due to their mouse reliance to make a splash.

Conclusion

Nintendo Wii This article was largely just me having a think about what could elevate the Wii to a land of success, so I apologise if it’s a little unstructured. And don’t get me wrong, there’s also plenty of potential for the Wii to seriously mess up and damage Nintendo irreparably, but perhaps I’d better save exploring that for another article. :)

If anybody else has some thoughts on what could define the Wii’s success or failure, please leave a comment! I hate to be the only one musing.

Update (Thursday, August 3rd, 2006 at 8:15pm GMT+1):

This article has been dugg, so I’d just like to personally thank all those who’ve dugg my article and welcome you to my blog! And if anyone’s interested, there’re loads of additional comments on the post (some are harsh — ouch!) over on digg.

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