WiiWare is off to an okay start, but it's going to need some work if Nintendo wants to compete with Xbox Live Arcade.
I think it's fine that the quality of the games varies wildly, but Nintendo should take a bit more of a hold on the pricing structure. I can see having cheapo games like Angel's Solitaire right next to obviously higher-budget productions like Okiraku Ping-Pong, but why do they cost the same five bucks?
Or perhaps it's better to ask why Lonpos, an interesting but clearly rushed puzzle game with one of the least-polished presentations I've seen this side of the CD-i, costs a whopping $10.
More thoughts, plus links to all our WiiWare coverage, below.
Pricing isn't as big of a deal with retail games, which you can rent before you buy -- or, at the very least, trade them in if you don't like them. It's taken care of on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, which allow players to try demo versions of games before they buy them. When you buy a WiiWare game, you can't try it first, and if you don't like it, you're totally boned because you can't sell it to someone else or trade it in. WiiWare needs demos.
And I bet you anything it's not going to get them.
In their absence, Nintendo at least needs to lean on publishers to set more reasonable prices based on the quality of the content. I'd feel ripped off if I bought Lonpos, but maybe not if it was $5.
For that reason, I think Okiraku Ping-Pong is one of the better launch games, as it's just the sort of thing Wii audiences like -- pick-up-and-play multiplayer Wiimote-swinging fun. So it's not feature-rich? So what? It's five dollars. All it needs to do is entertain people for a few days and it'll have been worth the money, and they can move on to something else.
But the more expensive the WiiWare games get, the less enticing they become. IGN said today that the "R" in Star Soldier R stands for "rip-off," and it's tough to disagree. You can go buy Star Soldier for GameCube, which runs on the Wii and contains the exact same two levels in this version, for about what the WiiWare version costs. If you live in Japan, I mean. I think Hudson will end up having the sense to not bring this to the U.S.
At $15, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As a King is an even more challenging value proposition. In fact, it's the single most expensive thing on the entire network. Will enough people bite to convince Square Enix that digital distribution isn't a great plague set to wreak devastation on their company?
But what WiiWare really, really needs is more storage. If you downloaded all nine launch games, you probably had to clear off some Virtual Console games from your Wii's paltry 512MB internal memory first. It's ridiculous that Nintendo hasn't offered some memory expansion feature yet, whether allowing players to run software off the SD cards that Wii already supports, or by allowing USB hard drives, or what.
All I know is that I'm going to have to make some hard decisions about what stays and what goes, when the next batch of WiiWare titles hits.