Ah the good ol’ console wars. I remember the ancient battles between the Sega fans and the Nintendo fans. Then the Sony fans versus the Nintendo fans (the Sega side had of course withdrawn from the war after the ill-fated Dreamcast). Then the Xbox, Sony, and Nintendo conflict, (with some PC loyalists thrown in for good measure) which still rages today, in the great Next-Gen War.
Of course ‘next gen’ is now ‘this gen’ but the marketing gurus all thought ‘next gen’ was the way to talk about this coming era in gaming. The truth now is that many gamers are no longer loyalists; the more affluent or lucky among us have multiple consoles and brightly claim that we are Swiss; we don’t take sides and we like the games more than the platform anyway. We can be wooed by any of the sides and are attracted to all of them, given the right incentive. There are still ‘xbots’, for example, and there are ‘real gamers’…..real gamers supposedly being those who support all consoles and the PC too.
Still the Console Corporates and Forum Fighters are still battling. There’s the graphics and gameplay comparisons between the ‘real’ this gen consoles 360 and PS3 that feature so often on Gametrailers.com (I love those….trying to see the differences can sometimes feel like a search for Waldo/Wally (depending on where you are reading from). “The chick on Devil May Cry 4’s breasts are shinier on PS3″, the “PS3 graphics look more washed out”or “you need a better resolution to really see the difference”…. All in good fun. But the battles I find strangest are the ones with Nintendo’s Wii.
Despite the initial excitement surrounding the controller system of the Wii it has to be said that Nintendo were behind the eight ball this generation. Most pundits (well the realistic ones) saw the slower sales of the N64 and the perhaps worse sales of the Gamecube and lack of third party support for the systems as a foreshadowing of Nintendo ending up like Sega; a software only developer. That Nintendo can’t seem to keep up with the demand for the Wii system has seemingly even caught them by surprise.cod3suckage.jpg
This ‘fad’ console, as many see it, is still selling like its successful DS system with no sign of letup; and this is despite a once again terribly poor selection of games. Sure it has some great titles (if you like cartoons and mini-games) but not the gaming library of the 360. This is despite the fact that the 360 Core offers more for the same price, and that the graphics on the Wii and lack of DVD capability should handicap it. The fact is that Wiis are wiing all the way to a lot of homes.
Microsoft Xbox’s Head of Marketing, Jeff Bell, said : “Clearly, we have a competitor where they win and no one else wins,” Bell told Reuters in reference to the overwhelming popularity of first-party games on Nintendo platforms. “That is not sustainable, it’s never been sustainable.” Of course Nintendo had a response: Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime told Reuters that 60 percent of Wii game sales came from outside publishers in November (not that most were necessarily any good…). You even have Bill Gates talking earlier this year about the future of video games in terms that sounded a lot like the Wii: read this exchange:
“Imagine a game machine where you can just pick up a bat and swing it or the tennis racket,” Gates told interviewer Walter Mossberg at the D 2007 conference, who remarked (not unreasonably) that Wii Sports already existed. As it happens, that wasn’t quite what Bill meant. “No, that’s not it,” rebutted Gates. “You can’t pick up your tennis racket and swing it, you can’t sit there with your friends and do these natural things. That’s a 3D positional device, this is video recognition, this is a camera seeing what’s going on… The camera will be ubiquitous.”
Fair enough, then - so, a kind of all-encompassing Wii Remote/EyeToy device, perhaps? (Gamersquad)
Forums also saw skimirshes between those who see the Wii as deserving of its success and those who simple could not understand it. Here is a particularly astute opinion posted on the Xbox forum:
“Microsoft is the guy with the fastest, biggest Subaru, and lots of gold chains around his neck… who just does not understand why he’s not pulling the hottest girls. Why not try making games ordinary people can engage with, instead of putting out FPS after violent FPS - great games for gaming fanatics - but if it’s going to keep doing that it has to accept it’s niche position.
A company like Nintendo which caters to humans, and makes things which are fun and playable and approachable - it will always utterly dominate. I love my 360, because I’m an VG freak, but I’m not holding my breath for it to overtake the Wii, ever!
We can be snobby and talk about how ‘repetitive’ Wii games are, but that’s analgous to an Opera fan talking about the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie - it’s fine to be snobby, but you’d have to be utterly deluded to expect everyone to move to ‘Call of Violence 6′ type games, which require specific skills to control.”
Needless to say the thread erupted a bit and got locked. In this comment, though, is where I believe the source of the Wii’s success can be explained. I will easily admit that my 360 is the best gaming console I have ever had. I can also admit that I bought a Wii and that it is very popular with my wife, kids, and non-gamers who visit our home.
The Wii is selling because it caters to a market that has been left behind in the technological Arms Race for console supremacy. The non-gamer, the very young, and even the very casual gamer are not interested in online, or high end graphics, or complicated button pressing. Realistic MA 15 + games do not attract parents dollars’ while the beeps and boops of the family friendly cartoony Mario does.
As a gamer, the Wii bores me very quickly. I have more serious gamer friends who still love their Wii, even if the 360 is where they play the most. Retro fun is the reason they cite most when I ask how they can still enjoy Mario Galaxy after all the other Marios they’ve played. But I played those too, and though I couldn’t understand why the Playstation beat both the N64 and Gamecube (both of which I liked better but seemed to hardly ever have games), I now cannot understand why the Wii, which is best suited to mini-style games like Wii Sports in my opinion, keeps selling so well.
I don’t find the games all that fun and quite repetitive compared to those on the 360. But perhaps it is this simplicity that appeals in a gaming world where online-only multiplayer and fancy game gimmick effects and button combos are so important. The fact is that people who may not have become gamers are at least being introduced or even re-introduced to gaming.
Microsoft may find a way to appeal to some of these gamers. Some of them may gain the confidence to move into a more complex gaming world like the 360 provides. But even if they don’t, the fact is that it helps to mainstream gaming and that helps to shatter the overused “geek” image associated with video games. And that to me is a good thing, even if some like to wear the “geek” tag too proudly. So in the end, Microsoft and Sony may not mind that the Nintendo little piggy does well, even if they, like me, are a bit mystified.