While details regarding Nintendo’s new “Pay & Play” service remain vague at best, almost all gamers agree that the Wii’s current online service is not worth a nickel. The announcement at GDC ‘08 has generated a lot of speculation and negative reaction among Wii owners. Nintendo also made some major missteps in handling the “Pay & Play” service announcement. Telling people they are going to have to pay for something they thought was going to be free should be handled in a memo meant to attract little attention. It is an insult to gamers’ collective intelligence that they should be “excited” at the possibility of more money leaving their wallets. Also, “Pay & Play” has to be the worst name ever for a service. Why remind people in the title that they have to pay money? Would you eat at a restaurant that was called “Pay & Eat?” Doesn’t sound that enticing does it? Gamers are already paying $50 bucks a pop to “play.” The real name of the service should be “Pay Even More & Play.” Mistakes aside, it is possible that the service could still be a success. Here are 5 things the Wii’s online service needs to succeed.
Gamers love to play online games for several reasons, but the top of that list is because players can interact. Strategizing, joking, and talking smack make online gaming fun. Imagine playing COD4 online and not being able to strategize with your teammates. It would be a disaster. While the prospect of not having 12 year olds call you a bitch is enticing, it isn’t true online gaming until there are mics. Nintendo seriously needs to add some sort of verbal interaction in their online service. Without chat, online gaming just turns into playing slightly smarter less predictable AI opponents. You want to charge money to play games Reggie? Give us our WiiMics.
Lose the “Friend Codes”
Wii owners certainly sleep better at night knowing that they are protected by their friend codes. Who doesn’t like typing in an 273 digit code just to exchange Wii Mail? With the dawn of “Pay to Play” drawing closer, imagine the logistics of getting 16 people to all exchange Friend Codes just to play “Brawl” with each other. The prospect is a nightmare. Still want to keep us safe Mario & Co.? Let gamers choose which level of security they prefer. Parents can still keep the Friend Codes for the little ones who want to “Pay & Play” Pokimon online, but let the rest of us open up our security settings to play and talk to anyone who wants a game. Until Chris Hansen from “To Catch a Predator” nabs a pervert on the Wii, lighten up Nintendo.
Old School Multiplayer & Original Online Content
One of the aspects of Xbox Live that makes it such a smash success is “Live Arcade.” Nintendo needs to roll out some new arcade content that is multiplayer enabled. Gamers love the old school gaming action, but original 1st party arcade content from Nintendo is something worth paying for. Remember when multiplayer meant calling your friend to come over for a game of Contra? Now, imagine playing the original Contra in an online co-op mode. Bringing multiplayer back into those old games will reinvigorate the titles, as well as, bring a tear of nostalgia to every OG’s (original gamer) eye.
The “Check Mii Out” channel proved how truly creative people can be, but there really isn’t that much to do besides, well, check them out. Creating a virtual hub for online gamers almost seems like a no-brainer because everyone already has avatars. We don’t need Mii houses or micro-transaction furniture, but it would be cool to have a virtual place to congregate, talk, and game together. Throw in a little arcade where Miis could meet and play virtual Chess or (gasp!) Uno, and call it a day. It has already been proven that people love making their Miis. Now it’s time to let them do something with their creations besides beat them at Wii Baseball.
It’s unclear what hard drives have done to hurt Nintendo’s feelings, but there is clearly bad blood there. Nintendo has repeatedly denied that they are going to offer a hard drive add-on for the Wii. What is the thought process behind that decision? “Let’s make the least technologically advanced console even more archaic!” Brilliant idea fellas. Keep up the good work. Why are hard drives integral into an online service that gamers have to pay for? Gamers love demos and expect them (thanks XBL) as part of a paid online service. Without an additional hard drive, it would be near impossible download more than one demo at a time without losing all previously saved content. Sure, the on-board memory is good for a million 8-bit NES titles, but don’t we all have ROMs of those anyway?
While no gamer is quite excited about Nintendo’s “Pay & Play” service, it may bring improvements to their pathetic online system. Without a doubt, Nintendo is going to have to add many more features to interest anyone in possibly “paying and playing”. For gamers who already pay for XBL, it may be nearly impossible to drag cash out of their virtual wallets. Until Nintendo releases further details, gamers are left to speculate about what they are going to have to pay for and how much it will cost. One this is for sure, if “Pay & Play” consists of getting a virtual lap dance from Princess Peach, count us in.