Looking at the Wii on paper, it can be difficult to immediately see what all the fuss is about. It has processing power that seems to be on par with last generation, it lacks true HD capability (or anything on par with/above 720p), and still hasnít taken the jump to optical sound for anything past Dolby Pro Logic II. With videogame systems continually emphasizing pushing the envelope in terms of graphical presentation and power, why would a developer in their right mind put out a graphically-dwarfed system? The answer lies in the same thing that Nintendo is betting on to keep the Wii afloat through its lifespan: gaming innovation.
The Wii has gotten off to a wonderful start so far, with overwhelming consumer demand that surpassed even the best analystís projections, and a handful of games that have really pushed new boundaries and used the innovative control scheme to their advantage. Even though that small handful of titles have pushed new boundaries, the underoverwhelming majority of titles released have either been ports or simple games with a little motion waggle tagged onto their package. In order for the Wii to remain on top, publishers need to realize that the Wii is more than a casual game/port receptacle. Iím as excited as the next guy to play through Okami the way that I always thought it should be played (on a Wii), but we need more titles like Opoona that are going to push things to the next level in terms of innovation and overall style.
After all, everything boils down to the games at the end of the day, and unless unless new, original content is paving the way for a unique and awesome experience like the DS has, the Wiiís momentum will start to slow, and everyone who owns a Wii will suffer. Publishers need to abandon Youichi Wadaís misconception that the Wii isnít a games machine or is capable of having ďreal games.Ē While itís true that next-gen titles on the Wii may not hold up to their counterparts, the idea that graphics are the only factor in a titleís success is a crazy one. What the Wii lacks in terms of processing power, it makes up tenfold in its overall potential to create innovative gaming experiences that can be found nowhere else.
What exactly about the Wii lends itself to such forms of innovation? For starters, itís low development cost. Since the Wiiís hardware is extremely similar to that of the GameCubeís, publishers are already familiar with the things they can do with the system and how to proceed to get the best results. Because of this, developers donít have to waste as much of their resources trying to harness the systemís power and figuring out how to work with a whole new platform, allowing for more games to be developed for less amounts of money. This gives the Wii a distinct advantage over its competitors, since the titles that are created for cheaper can more easily turn a profit (since they can create a game for almost half as much as they could elsewhere), allowing for developers to take more risks and try new things. This lends itself perfectly to the innovation that the Wii is all about. As uniquely beautiful titles such as No More Heroes, Zack and Wiki, and the upcoming Opoona demonstrate, the Wii is capable of itís own immersive style, gameplay and beauty that is not found anywhere else. All of these things come together to give the Wii one of itís strongest aspects that must be addressed throughout this coming year: itís potential.
Out of all three next-gen systems, I would have to say that the Wii possesses the greatest amount of potential for both developers and gamers. With such a low opportunity cost for developers to experiment with the Wiiís innovative technology, and the huge userbase willing to eat up worthwhile games (when theyíre made aware of their existence), the Wii has the potential to allow developers all kinds of creative freedom not found on any other console.
The innovative controls also potentially allow new ways for developers to envision how a videogame is supposed to work. Itís important for developers to experiment and try new things with the Wiiís control scheme Ė simply adding a bit of waggle to a title wonít make it a groundbreaking experience. Taking a look at games that have got it right, such as WarioWare and Mario Galaxy, we find that the Wii Remote has lots of potential in many different areas. Mario Galaxy demonstrated how well that standard control works with bits of motion ďflourishes,Ē while WarioWare was one of the first titles to really show the diversity of ways that the Wii Remote can be utilized for tasks and other innovative situations. The more that developers can utilize this potential in the control scheme and use it for more than just silly gimmicks, the better off Wii games will be.
Itís important to point out one of the biggest shortcomings of the Wii when looking at the problems it faces throughout the next year, and one of the most questionable areas for the Wii lies in its support from multiplatform blockbusters. Many larger companies who are focused on pushing the boundaries in videogames through cinematics and graphical presentation are finding development for the Wii to be a problem. How can developers ďdowngradeĒ a graphical powerhouse such as Assassins Creed or Gears of War to make it compatible with the Wiiís dwarfed hardware? And will the results be anything worth spending money on?
Both questions are some of the most pressing issues facing the Wii, especially as more and more of last-generationís blockbuster exclusives become multiplatform behemoths. Many of these games rely on similar enough hardware and controls to make the game look and perform in the same manner on different consoles. With the Wii, neither the control scheme nor the graphical capabilities are the same, resulting in a lack of developer interest in including the Wii in their multiplatform plans. Will the Wii be able to host Resident Evil 5 if itís multiplatform? Can Grand Theft Auto ever appear on a Nintendo system? These questions will have to be worked out by developers and Nintendo, who obviously want to reach out to the largest userbase of the current generation. Itís going to be an interesting battle, and one that can only be figured out over time.