With the release of Mario Strikers Charged just around the corner and a USA summer schedule that reads more like a who’s who of tedious party games, isn't it high time Nintendo realised that a balance needs to be found?
But how and more importantly, why?
This week Nintendo announced their full line-up for the summer months in the USA. What it shows, and what Nintendo are keen to highlight, is a balance between the casual and the hardcore, but a rather slanted one. Indeed, were you to shove the ‘casual’ on one side of a scale and ‘hardcore’ on the other the former side would slam down to the ground, overflowing with half-arsed gaming content.
Wii Software Releases (Q3 - USA)
July 30 - Mario Strikers Charged - Nintendo
Aug. 20 - Metroid Prime 3 Corruption - Nintendo
September - Battalion Wars 2 - Nintendo
Aug. 14 - High School Musical: Sing It! - Disney Interactive Studios
Aug. 14 - Madden NFL '08 - EA
August - Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08 - EA
August - Space Station Tycoon - Namco Bandai
August - Brunswick Pro Bowling - Crave
August - Dave Mirra BMX Challenge - Crave
August - Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection - Crave
September - Brothers in Arms - Ubisoft
September - Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal - Warner Bros.
September - George of the Jungle - Crave
Fall Boogie - EA
For hardcore fans this summer on Wii, there will be...Metroid Prime 3 Corruption. The rest of the games comprise of a cartoon war game, a load of sports titles, cartoon based titles and singing/dancing ‘fun’. Whilst some will argue that Metroid Prime 3 Corruption is more than enough to keep hardcore and mature gamers entertained, there is a worrying amount of tat and party gaming to be found on the schedule. Someone asked me a very simple question the other day, but one that had never occurred to me. The conversation went something like this...
“How often do you play on your Wii then?”
“Erm...well, I played Wii Sports a few weeks ago, but I haven’t touched it much since I reviewed Medal of Honor: Vanguard and before that since I completed Zelda”
“I’m just never really in a ‘Wii’ mood, I’d rather play ‘normal games”
“Fair enough, wanna play some Smash Bros?”
And so we did. Afterwards, with my customary post-Smash Bros. headache blaring, I pondered a while on his question, why do I tend to ignore my Wii in favour of more traditional gaming experiences? I think the main problem is, that outside Zelda, there really isn’t very much to keep me coming back for me. The Wii is primarily a multiplayer experience, but having played Wario Ware to death and decided that Rayman was a bit boring after a while, we turned back to the GameCube and to the XBOX 360. There was comfort to be found in Mario Kart, in Pro Evolution and in Splinter Cell.
The Wii is that it is woefully lacking in substance, which is both its blessing and its curse. Some love it for it, some, like me, are feeling increasingly indifferent towards it. A new balance needs to be struck. I certainly believe Nintendo are coming around to this fact and recognising that their release schedule is a little bit ‘gimmicky’ and I strongly believe that what they have to offer in Q4 will be of far more interest to the traditional/hardcore/seasoned/whatever gamer.
Some might say that the problem is perhaps a tad irrelevant. In a year or so the Wii will have plenty of more ‘in-depth’ titles that offer the conventional thrills of console gaming rather than requiring you to wave your arms about like a twit. EA have shown the way to an extent with title like SSX Blur and hopefully more third party developers will come up with less gimmick-ridden offerings. Fun as the Wii is, it does tend to require you to have a harem of fun-loving friends who want to wave themselves around your living room/bedroom/wherever for an hour or two. Whilst I have friends, they would (and admittedly I would) much rather not do that all the damn time. The appeal of the Wii, for now at least, is rather one-dimensional.
So it is with much relief that Nintendo have gone ahead and launched (in Europe, anyway)...
...Mario Strikers Charged. Online play, a bit of substance, something you and your mates can enjoy without looking like twits and not a party game. Just good, clean, stupid, fast-paced, well put-together, Nintendo style fun. Admittedly it is still a silly little sports title, but it breaks the mould of average tripe that has been plaguing the Wii since launch. Nintendo realise this balance between the casual and the hardcore that MSC represents and they are keen to exploit it. The game is seeing a massive promotional drive on the TV and in print media here in the UK. The advert above is being shown during the Champions League Final on Wednesday, it was shown on Sky TV during the FA Cup Final and it will also be shown during key family programmes like Coronation Street, Big Brother and that horrible singing thing about Grease with David Gest terrifying small children as part of the panel. Lovely.
My prediction: this game will sell stupidly fast and in stupidly large quantities. It is just enough of a ‘proper game’ to get snobs like me to part with their cash and it is just enough of a silly ‘wave your arms around game’ to get the assembled masses Wii-ing with joy. This is the ‘balance’ that Nintendo need to find, not that half-arsed collection of crap titles and a couple of good ones. They need to be able to appeal to both markets in one game, a game of quality, a game of skill and substance but also a good fun game that you can play with your mates.
I really hope that titles like Mario Strikers Charged are a sign of things to come. True enough, with Battalion Wars 2 on the Wii due for release later this year all around the world, the fun/serious hardcore/casual issue is set to be tackled again. Whether or not it will be tacked successfully remains to be seen. Regardless, Nintendo need to sit up and pay attention. The Wii might sell well with an endless supply of party games right now, but eventually people will simply get bored of cheap thrills. Stop the rot now and the good times will continue to roll.