Ben Heck, uber console-modder (maker of the Wii laptop, among other things), dedicated slightly less than half of his last podcast to the Wii, and mostly, why it's a "flash in the pan" and why, if it isn't, it could ruin gaming. He's got some good points, for instance, on why online is necessary, not optional, but there are other points he doesn't get.
ben heck podcast 17 (not for kids, strong language)
Why the Wii isn't a passing fad.The last console I owned was an NES. I'm not a non-gamer, or even a casual gamer, but I walked away from consoles. RTS has always been my preferred genre, but back in the day I loved a good Zelda style RPG, I played all the Mario Bros, and I even sometimes played fighting games and shooters with friends. But the emphasis of gaming of late has been obsessed, obsessed with hardware sapping gfx, sadly, to the exclusion of gameplay.
The best example is Morrowind's transition to Oblivion. Morrowind (especially the user-modded PC version) was tops in gameplay and gamer-friendliness, letting the gamer make the rules and set the pace, choosing where to go and when, telling stories and leaving it up to the player to find it out. Much was transfered to Oblivion, but in the end, Oblivion's only selling point was its beautiful vistas, good looking, true, but focused on to the exclusion of keeping Morrowind's elements or improving them. The game featured voice-acting, a useless "immersion" endeavor that added little to the game except a bunch of people saying a bunch of the same things, nice for the important NPCs, but at great cost to the rest of the system. Even RTS games are going overboard on gfx, I think Red Alert 2 is better than Generals, and I suspect it's better than Tiberium Wars or Supreme commander. Games like Alpha Centauri, now almost a decade old and turn-based rather than real time, are playable far longer than the flashy games released today. I view the PS360 as following that pattern. Good if you like it, but not for me.
I noticed in the age thread, there were some other nostalgia gamers here, but I wouldn't have bought the system just for it's emulation ability (though it does give me access to 4 Zeldas I never got to play), and it's GCN library gives me many more bargain titles to fill my library with. But with all the progress the Wii has made, and with all the potential the system has for gameplay centered gaming, it's my only choice for a console. I'm not buying it (soon as I can get one) to the exclusion of a PS360, but as an alternative to nothing. I am back in the console market because of the Wii.
Why the Wii isn't a PS360 killerPart of the reason Ben's so down on the Wii is that he's afraid his precious high-end gfx games are going to be replaced with an all-pokeman lineup since Wii games are less expensive to develop. First, he claims it's not possible for the Wii to win, then he talks about how low-res gaming would end PS3-type consoles and high-res gaming. Such confidence.
"Why should gamers be worried about [the Wii]?" This he asks "confidently" after spending a lot of podcast time worrying about it. They shouldn't. Some "gamers" will have a Wii along with their system, the Wii60 or the PSWii combo, but the sales that will keep the Wii alive, competitive and growing are the new ones. People who make the gaming market bigger and people who have been ignored by console makers for the better part of a decade.
The thing is, the high res gaming market was already covered when the Revolution was on the drawing board. Nintendo didn't eliminate good looks from their system, but they did choose to emphasize gameplay and controls over vistas and polygons. They brought back gamers who've been gone (people who talk about the "64" and mean the commodore).
Why the Wii isn't just for kidsFor all their complaints about the Wii being just for kids, the people who are most obsessed with the appearance and individual moving hair and grass and maximum distance views are 15 year old kids, not 30 year olds (visit the oblivion forums and judge for yourself). Many people who remember the old console days remember when even the unpopular 2nd and 3rd string games were fun to play--they looked like 8-bit crap, but they genuinely fun, and those people want companies to spend more time working on gameplay and less on cramming a few more polygons into a game. Teenagers are distracted by shiny gfx more than seasoned gamers.
Why the Wii is being hypedHe's not wrong, the news is over-hyping the Wii--which is good for us, because there's a serious Nintendo problem--you need console sales to get 3rd party dev, and you need 3rd party dev to make consoles sell. Part of the reason the Wii came as a surprise is that the GCN was an also-ran. If not for some hype, it'd be difficult to attract as many 3rd parties as have come around, in recent times EA has upped dev, other 3rd parties have increased their Wii budget, and Jet Black (former EA programmers) is all Wii.
The up and coming MK title reports, via IGN, their Wiimote moves made MK more accessible to more people than complicated button combinations, yes casual gamers and "non-gamers", but likely non-fighters as well. A lot of the investment that started from October to present isn't going to show up another 6-12 months, but it will show. If the Wii delivers online in the meantime with a title like Metroid Prime, the hype will have been self-fulfilling. The Wii has more potential than the other two consoles, and is on the cusp of fulfilling it. Not at the other two console's expense, as I explained above, but by creating a new console market where once there was none.
They complain about game selection on the podcast--validly so, there aren't that many games present that are worth even the Wii price of 50$, some having already been slashed in price, but several big titles are coming and a lot more investment is to follow, 2008 promises to be a good year. Sadly, some 3rd parties, having been caught off guard, have taken to simply doing rough and dirty ports to make a quick buck, Ben calls it shovelware, claiming that's all the Wii has. Wii fans do have several good options, with more on the way, including, MK (a special port), Spidey 3 (also more than just a port) SSBB, MP, consideration from Namco for another Soul Calibur (rumor), and for gamers like me, who have sat out for several console generations, a whole library of GCN titles, N64, SNES as well as favorites from the NES. Plus, before it was shovelware ported to Wii, it was ported from something else, so it was crap from the PS360 library. All consoles have them, none of the 3 have only shovelware. The only way you imagine your competition in such a Strawman position is if you can spend 15 minutes 'worrying' about the Wii and be insecure enough to claim with hubris moments later "why should gamers worry about it?" Not all developers are making great use of the system, but some are. That's enough.
Why the Ben Heck isn't ahead of the curveFor all the hype, there's plenty of negativity. I didn't hear any complaints from him that I haven't heard from other PS360 fanboys.
Why the Wii needs online if it's going to have gamers over the age of 24This was his best point of the podcast. In school, and even in college, getting your friends together for gaming was easy enough. But once you're done and everyone moves in different directions, has different jobs, and schedules are assorted, you need more multi-player options. If Soul Calibur, my favorite arcade fighting game, and the only one I ever really liked, does come to the Wii, I'm going to need to recruit competitors from outside my area because i don't have that many people I can play it with. The same is true of MP.
Everyone's becoming accustomed to the joys of on-demand entertainment--TV on demand with on demand cable channels, Tivo and even networks streaming their own content, on demand music with iPods replacing portable radios, on demand movies beind downloaded straight from Amazon to your home, because we're too busy to even stop by blockbuster, and even on demand game competition. If I wake up at 3am and can't fall asleep, there's going to be some people online in a different timezone, or in the same situation out of millions of gamers. But if I call my buddies for a Halo tourney at 3am on a weekday, I'm gonna get capped.
If Nintendo doesn't do well with online soon, the hype will become a problem. For now, Nintendo is in a honeymoon stage with the gaming press (part of what Ben is reacting to). They didn't expect anything from the Wii prior to E3, it was destined for last-place. After E3, they received it warmly, but even now, new higher standards are being set in place that Nintendo will have to meet in order to stay in the press' good graces, and that goal-post will move with every success. Online ability will need to be followed up with better means for finding other players of equal ability (so you don't waste your time), which means rankings and leaderboards will be important. Better yet, grouped leaderboards, so that communities like Wiichat.com and even just groups of friends can set up their own scoreboards and their own competitions, will increase how satisfying the online experience will be. Accessories like those expected from Logitech (per Wiifanboy, possibly wireless keyboard), will be needed to make interacting/grouping easier thru the Wii.
Once they've pushed past 10 million consoles and have a larger library, they won't need a press honeymoon. But for right now, the hype is helping to drive 3rd party dev and console sales, it's helping keep the Wii in an unexpected lead over its competitors, and the longer its there, the better its long term viability is.