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Nintendo Wii – One step forward, two steps back (pt 1)

by Brandon on November 29th, 2006

In business, there are advantages and disadvantages to being first-to-market.  For example, when the Xbox 360 launched a year before its competitors it earned technical leadership, a long period of being “the only choice,” a head-start for building an installed base, and a whole lot of time for developers to get comfortable with it.  On the other hand, launching first can be very risky.  Most significant is that in the intervening time, the playing field can change.  For example, a crucial hardware feature that can’t be added later might become exceedingly important – and the competition will have time to jump on that technology and get it into their boxes.

What’s more, your competition knows exactly what you’re offering.  They can see your strengths, and your weaknesses.  They can make sure that they don’t get called out for the same mistakes you made.  They can and will learn from your mistakes… unless their name is Nintendo.

I picked up my Wii about 9 hours after its official launch.  I arrived at Best Buy in Bellevue around 8AM, and as I approached the line a blue-shirted fellow handed me a ticket saying, “Wow, we have just enough.”  In fact, they had 101 consoles on hand and I was the 100th person to arrive – and I only had to wait about an hour in the rain.  This was of course greatly preferrable to last year’s 15 hour wait.

Wiimote – A step forward.  When I got it home my housemate Jon (half-asleep from a fruitless attempt to procure a Wii the night before) and I set up our first game of Wii Sports.  It was great, it was fun – it was just as compelling as when I played it at MindCamp a week or so beforehand.  This is what Nintendo promised – fun, engaging gameplay where you won’t care about the unrealistic graphics.  And this was just the freebie bundled-in game.

Graphics – aka The trade-off.  Most of us that follow the video game scene knew that Nintendo was basically using slightly beefed up Gamecube hardware inside the Wii.  This allowed them to offer a compelling price point, make millions of consoles very quickly, and ostensibly require developers to do “less work” (at least on visuals).  But if you’ve been playing an Xbox 360 for the last year (or modern PC games), playing a Wii will be very jarring.  I haven’t yet been able to acquire the elusive component video cable (WHY is this not included???), but games on the Wii just look bad.  At the best of times they look like a game on the original Xbox, and often worse.

But that’s okay.  Nintendo offered us a deal.  We look beyond the last-gen visuals, and they’ll give us totally new gaming experiences at an affordable price and with fewer hassles.  It’s all about fun with Nintendo, they said.

Continue to Part 2

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  1. Matt Bonaccorso permalink

    I disagree with the title of this article. While I think many of your points about the WiiConnect24 service were trivial and exaggerated (a complaint about the progress bar while downloading a Virtual Console title?) I agree that Nintendo’s online service has a lot of room for growth before it reaches an excellent level. Whenever I’m playing any game or experience any new hardware by any manufacturer, I always find myself wishing for the company to take better advantage of seemingly obvious opportunities, and Nintendo is no exception. However, I’ve recently taken a different approach. I accept the Nintendo Wii as it is. While the graphics aren’t up to the level of detail of the 360 and the PS3, I’ve never seen better graphics in a Zelda game before. Compared with Nintendo’s last generation of titles, the games have much better graphics, and these are the titles that I’ve grown fond of over the years.

    The immersion with the Wii Remote more than makes up for any lack of technological competitiveness in any other area. Using a pointer to navigate menus, and aim your gun, bow and arrow is unbelievable, using motion controls to swing swords, tennis rackets, golf clubs, is truly unique and awesome. Everybody who I’ve shown the Wii to has been extremely impressed, from friends, to my Dad, to my extended family, to my girlfriend. My Dad and I stood up to play 2 hours of golf together, and had one of the best bonding experiences in the past few years.. I wouldn’t have had that experience with any other console.

    I’ve now had the Wii for enough time for the initial novelty and hype to start to wear off. The Wii is still the most fun I’ve had in years, Zelda is shaping up to be one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and the other titles are still a joy to sit down and play. I’m still sending fun messages and Miis to my friends, and I even find myself downloading the original Zelda or Bomberman ’94 to play on the virtual console. It’s not a tech powerhouse, but the Wii is really really fun to play.. And that’s what matters right?

    As time goes on, I’m really hoping to see some updates to the built in Wii Channels. There’s really a lot of opportunities there for fun. I’d love an update to the Mii channel to include more facial features, etc. I’d love an update to the messaging to include more stationary, or the ability to send music or videos around. I’d love to see a Music Channel that would be a Nintendoized media player that could play off your SD card. As far as online play goes, I’d really like to see some co-op online titles, as well as better match-making services. Every new Wi-fi game on the DS has had improved online functionality, so I’m very optimistic. Until then, I’ll continue having tons of fun. While I don’t doubt the other consoles have their fare share of excellent quality titles, the entire experience surrounding the way you play and navigate the Nintendo Wii is fantastic and takes me back to the days when Video games were truly amazing.

    -Matt Bonaccorso



  2. yardman permalink

    Am sorry but i have my console of choice and it’s not a PS3 or a Wii….the x360 is all i need…most of us motal can’t affort the sony’s crap…i agree with you on everything man…good read.

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