James Temperton takes a look at Nintendo’s latest home console and outlines how Nintendo are trying to make it the must have item for gamers and non-gamers alike.
The Wii is Nintendo’s latest attempt to crack the home console market after fairly underwhelming results with the N64 and GameCube over the last decade. The Wii represents a massive leap forward in gaming technology, but for some it is a bit of a daunting one. What Nintendo will be trying to push over the coming weeks is why we want to buy a Wii. But rather than let Nintendo tell you the virtues of its own product, I’m going to take the time to explain to you why you should (or for that matter shouldn’t) go out and play with some Wii...
The main thing about this console is clearly innovation and the controller is the obvious place to start. Having played about with the Wii controller for quite some time it is pretty damn easy to use. In titles like Wii Sports and Wario Ware the movements are entirely natural and related to reality. The approach Nintendo are taking here is one of replicating reality through virtual reality. This has been done in the arcades for years now and has proven to be a very successful means of getting idiots to spend stupid amounts of money. If you’re reading this and you haven’t jumped on an arcade machine firing a gun wildly or riding a bike or swinging a golf club or God forbid dancing on a dance mat than you’re just not human.
It is this side of gaming that Nintendo are trying to squeeze into a tiny little white box and package at a low, low price. Something rather important though has been compromised to keep the price down. There has been a lot of murmuring about the actual technical capabilities of the Nintendo Wii, with some people calling it a GameCube 1.5. Admittedly when compared to the XBOX 360 and the PS3, on paper the Wii is a far weaker machine. However, as Nintendo have gone to great lengths to point out, it isn’t all about power on paper; it is about ideas in action.
And the Wii is a very bold idea. A good point of reference for Nintendo when selling the Wii to the press has always been the DS. The console has been a landmark success for the company and has highlighted that a system that puts innovation above everything else can succeed in the console market. In outselling the PSP and being the home to some of the best selling titles of the last twelve months, the DS has dominated the gaming landscape. Titles like Nintendogs and Animal Crossing have been great successes on the console and Brain Training has proved that with innovation Nintendo can expand the gaming demographic.
Enter the Wii. But the task Nintendo face here is a lot tougher. The technology is a lot more complex, people will demand better graphics and more expansive gameplay and in general the task of totally changing the face of home console gaming is a bit bigger than introducing the DS into a fairly settled marketplace. One thing the home console will never be is settled.
So Nintendo are of course looking to software to provide the answer. Titles like Wii Sports and Wii Play will surely form the foundations on which the rest of the Wii software will be built. Games like Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda and Metroid will provide the Wii with the credibility it will need amongst the more avid gamers. Obviously, games are going to be the most important aspect for any console, and with support from major developers like EA and UbiSoft, Nintendo are in a very strong position. There is a lot of quality third party software to back up Nintendo’s impressive first party offerings, with a good range of different types of games to appeal to different types of people.
So then, that original question pops up again, why buy a Wii? I think that in terms of innovation and software available it is a pretty attractive option, and the low price point is also something that will surely make the console an attractive prospect to many people. But for me the whole ‘Wii experience’ that Nintendo are trying to sell is one of the biggest draws. Having recently picked up an Apple MacBook there is something about the clean lines, the great presentation and the gorgeous interface that screams out to the gadget loving side of me. And the Wii very much follows in this sort of thinking. Aesthetically it is a real work of art and will look stunning aside most people’s ever growing ‘entertainment hubs’, the glowing blue light, the way the console swallows up disks, the look of the menus, the layout of everything, it all just fits. In a world where everything is electronic and there is more and more competition for people’s money, the little things can often make the difference. What Nintendo have done with the Wii is made it a very attractive proposition right out of the box.
You’ve got Virtual Console titles, you’ve got the Mii system, the GameCube backwards compatibility, the web browser and of course the DS compatibility, something that we all know tantalisingly little about. The Wii is a console that offers more than any Nintendo system ever has and there will surely be more features unveiled after it launches. The Wii is a system that Nintendo are putting a lot of money into and there is a certain gamble involved, but when you see how excited developers are getting and how widespread the support is from within the gaming industry, you surely have to think that the Wii is doing something really exciting. For me, the Wii represents the most significant shift in the gaming industry since the shift from 2D to 3D, anyone who doesn’t want to be part of that revolution will really be missing out.
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