#5: Unsealed Games
These days finding a good title on the Wii is like trying to beat a man to death with a wiffle bat: it's a long and arduous process. A dream come true for crapware developers, the console has become a breeding ground for extremely weak point-and-click party games that would have seen better success on the PC. While the DS suffers a 1:3 ratio it seems as if the Wii suffers from a 1:20. Titles in the console's library suffer from consistently low review scores (averaging 64% on GameRankings). With the Official Nintendo Seal's lone goal of ensuring hardware compatibility and not ensuring software quality you have to ask yourself if Nintendo really cares about anything but making money anymore. All signs point to a great gaming crash on the Wii in the future, something I actually look forward to happening on the wayward console.
#4: Friend Codes Schmend Codes
One of the greatest achievements in the history of technology has to be the creation of the worldwide inter-connected network of computers that half the Earth's population touches at least once a day. Online console gaming has taken advantage of this for longer than you think, existing since the first effort during the 16-bit era on the SNES and then some very honest efforts on the Dreamcast at the turn of the century. Online console gaming really came into its own with the advancement of Xbox Live in 2004 with the help of titles like Halo 2, Crimson Skies, and Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow. The seventh console generation has made online play a standard feature across all three platforms. Well, kinda.
While Nintendo tried to do online play with the Gamecube their efforts were lackluster at best. The Playstation 2 and Gamecube both suffered from reliance on 56k based play and not broadband only like Xbox Live enforced and with killer apps like SOCOM on the PS2 at the time there was very little to hope for on Nintendo's console. This view changed optimistically with the Wii in 2006 when Nintendo promised online play through a friendly open system. Sure, the system does allow for online gaming but it is anything but friendly and open play. Taking a step back of an entire generation in approach, the Wii forces players to use what the call their Friend Codes system, making players enter twelve-digit numeric code specifically linked to their specific console, eliminating the possibility of a unified friends list like the PS3 and Xbox 360. Every single new title you play assigns you a different code and even putting the same copy of a game in a different console forces you to use a new code. What the hell kind of system is this? It is both redundant and annoyingly stupid to use such a system that necessitates actions that are not required on its two competitors! Throw in almost no voice support and you end up having a service that is a detriment to the name of online console gaming.
#3: Virtual Crapsole
Another annoying aspect of the Virtual Console is Nintendo's publisher focus. In the two years it has been since the console was released the majority of titles made available for download are all first party published ones by either Nintendo or Sega. Every single Nintendo 64 title available was published by Nintendo, almost all the Sega console titles are from Sega, and all the Turbografix titles are published by Hudson Soft. The only third party companies to really get any love out of Nintendo are Capcom and Konami, and granted the titles they have listed are good, but there are only a handful of them compared to back in the day. If you go through the list of titles available you won't find but a couple licensed titles at all, almost eliminating the hope that many Sunsoft titles as well many others will never see the light of day. Heck, the only licensed title this author can spot is the original (and annoyingly bad) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the NES. Come on Nintendo, where's my TMNT IV: Turtles in Time?
#2: The Cold Shoulder
In the last console generation all the action was on the Xbox and Playstation 2 with both Microsoft and Sony slugging it out when almost everyone thought that Nintendo would be Sony's true competitor. Sales records told the story though as the Gamecube came in dead last among the systems, being beaten out by even newcomer Microsoft, something no one could have predicted back in 2001. Sometime late into the Gamecube's lifecycle, beginning roughly around the second half of 2004, an interesting pattern began to develop. Developers and publishers began to notice several waning trends in the console, mainly falling sales figures, and as a result, not unlike rats fleeing a sinking ship, the various companies began to abandon the console. From 2003 to 2005 the amount of games published to the Gamecube steadily decreased while the numbers for the Xbox and Playstation 2 increased year over year. Despite being technologically superior to the Playstation 2 and trouncing at the heels of the Xbox multiplatform titles mostly focused their releases on those two consoles and not the Gamecube. Most of what remained from 2005 on were either major licensed titles that were going to be ported to every system known to man or lesser third party crap titles that probably wouldn't sell more than a couple hundred thousand titles worldwide. Seemingly abandoned by the majority of gamers around the world, the Gamecube slid from the scene almost altogether.
Where am I going with this? Well, I don't know about anyone else, but despite the friendly and outgoing nature Nintendo puts on in their commercials, it seems as if Nintendo is bitter and changed company from what it was over a decade ago. The dark side of Nintendo has recently begun to show itself upon the world with the Wii. Now the most successful company in the industry, Nintendo is rolling in more money each month than Scrooge McDuck's tower could ever hope to hold and, as such, doesn't seem to want to appease anyone unless it yields them a monetary result. The first thing I would focus on in this regard is the cold shoulder Nintendo is bringing upon the rest of the industry. The most recent debacle one can think of is the often ridiculed Bob's Game, created by a man of the same name whose only seemingly wish is to be granted a development license, for which he has been steadily denied by Nintendo. This may sound like a weak argument but recall E3 2008 before you say anything. Remember the reveal of the Wii MotionPlus attachment and how it is able to render 1:1 motion control (unlike what the controller should have had at launch)? Shortly thereafter there was an outcry in the development community as no single developer was told of this new attachment until it was revealed that month, leading to absolutely no initial third party support. Why does a company, when putting out a brand new and truly helpful piece of tech not reveal it in secret to those who will be making products that use it?
Nintendo isn't being friendly to players either. Several annoying and critical mistakes have been made on Nintendo's part that makes them look like jackasses. The most severe of these has to be the memory issue an increasing number of players are experiencing. Nintendo has yet to come up with an adequate solution to the system's paltry 512mb of internal memory when it comes to downloaded content. There is a suggested fix coming this Spring that would allow you to save this content to an SD card, but given that this problem has existed since 2007 it's sad to see it take this long for Nintendo to get on the ball. I mean, how are developers like Harmonix and Neversoft supposed to get content that consistently arrives on the two other consoles out to Wii owners without having to resort to creating standard retail track packs? Because of this issue, should this memory fix actually exist and be implemented, the question of whether data can be transferred between different systems cannot be answered, something that this author does not feel will actually happen. Guess I won't be able to let my friends play new Guitar Hero songs without having to take my Wii physically over to their house…
Another trend Nintendo has left out is region-free gaming, something that the Playstation 3 fully supports and the Xbox 360 is working towards. With the 3.3 firmware update last year players cannot use the Wii Freeloader (the successor to its very successful Gamecube counterpart) to load import games and thereby greatly decreasing the library that American and European gamers have been craving. Titles like Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom (the spiritual successor to the Marvel Vs. series) and Sky Crawlers, two games that most likely will never see the light of day outside of Japan, would be strong sellers had region-free been enabled on the system. Sure, I appreciate that Sin and Punishment was made available to North American gamers (despite the fact that it should have received an international release given the port was so close to completion) but we all want so much more to play that if we see a game that's available overseas we shouldn't be hampered by regional issues.
Finally, I must address one issue that simply cannot be ignored: DVD playback. As a DVD-based console, the Wii naturally has the ability to playback DVD movie discs and initially was set to have such ability at launch in 2006. Almost two and a half years later this is not the case, except in Japan. The official story for not implementing this feature is because, since Japanese living spaces are so cramped, Japanese users cannot afford to have both a Wii and DVD player due to space issues. As such, gamers in the rest of the world are left out in the cold despite the promise (made in 2007) of an eventual firmware update would enable playback. Thankfully the homebrew community has stepped up to solve the issue but players shouldn't have to be forced to modify their systems in order to use a feature that is built into the system. DVD playback was available in the Playstation 2 and the Xbox last generation and the Gamecube was even able to do it thanks to Panasonic releasing a Japan-only (AGAIN) version that enabled it. Homebrewers were able to emulate playback on the Gamecube as well so why didn't Nintendo step up when they dang well should have? Sure, I watch all my movies on my other consoles but people who don't have any others should at least have that option on the Wii.
#1: The Gimmick Factor
For all of 2006 and much of 2007 the world was suffering from a debilitating fever and the only cure for it was more Wii. Media madness surrounded the console unlike any other system in history, with stories appearing on every morning talk show and being the prime giveaway on Oprah. Every gamer's imagination lit up when they learned of the control scheme and imagined the sword duels, the intense firefights, the sports you could play and the, er, intense erotic games that could be made. The ad campaign was a great success because it didn't focus on the games but rather the people playing them. It was affordable, extremely backwards compatible, and specifically designed to for everyone to play, from five to eighty-five year olds. Everything was set for what should have been the "Jesus console." Did it succeed? No, not by a long shot. Why the console has sold more units than any other in history is obvious but the question of how many adult owners out there play the console regularly by themselves is definitely a small percentage. Ask yourselves honestly: do you play the Wii more often by yourself or when you in the company of others? For me the answer is the latter. For the majority of gamers out there I feel that the following analogy is very fitting: the Wii is like a fun board game; you never play it alone and really only pull it out when the relatives are over for the holidays. In the past twelve months I cannot recall a single instance in which my friends and I have got together just to play the Wii and I don't think many people do.
In the end the Wii is the greatest piece of electronic gimmickry to ever grace the market next to the Universal Serial Bus port (I'm looking at you USB strip pole). Think about it. Look at all the plastic crap made by various companies like MadCatz and Pelican that attaches to your Wiimote. A tennis rack, a golf club, even a lightsaber attachment have been made all in the name of getting your dollar. I even saw a stinking vibrator attachment once! It is like owning a French Poodle or a Chihuahua: it looks and feels like a status symbol that you dress up in a ridiculous fashion that is completely unnecessary. It's a dog people; let it do dog things! This is the case with the Wii. None of these aid you when you play; they just make you look stupid.
The Wii is a system with incredible potential that has been squandered hopelessly. The first wave of titles released on the Wii ending in the first year of its release showed almost the full potential of what one could do with the Wiimote and Nunchuk. One singular game however showed the full possibilities of the controller and that game is Rayman Raving Rabbids and I have to both thank and curse Ubisoft for both showing what the Wii can be like while also being the harbinger of doom for the console. Follow me on this. All we ever see anymore when we look at the shelves at the store are collections of minigames and licensed crap titles. Rayman was a very fun title that had almost every possible game under the sun in it shown in 2-3 minute snippets. There is almost nothing left to be squeezed out of the Wiimote and Nunchuk anymore and innovation has seemingly stalled out.
What really amazes me is how well the system could work if developers would actually take the time to work within the limitations of the system. Because the Wii does not take advantage of online play and encourages couch play developers could come up with ways to rejuvenate that classic arcade feel standing next to your buddies at the arcade cabinet. The system is basically the equivalent of a supped-up Xbox from the last generation so it definitely is quite friendly to graphical designers who want to turn out a quick product so why aren't developers looking to create new and interesting means of play with all that extra time on their hands?
This is where I feel Nintendo truly went wrong. After the first year of the Wii and all the potential had been soaked up Nintendo realized that in order to continue enticing player to buy Wii products they had to create new peripherals and thus new ways to play physically. Thus was born the WiiFit and thus is the upcoming Wii MotionPlus. Nintendo is limited with the Wii to coming up with new hardware schemes to play games and does not seem to care at all about the good old fashioned button pressing scheme used by every other console ever created. At least with the DS you only use the stylus and trace it along the system's touch screen and every day developers are figuring out how to use that effectively but it's just not working on the Wii. Most first party titles are able to take an old formula from a previous game and make use of it (ie. Twilight Princess and Mario Galaxy) but games from a third party rarely take advantage of what a rerelease could do. Heck, the only truly successful port to the Wii I can recall was Resident Evil 4 and the use of the Wiimote scheme was pretty damn obvious. Most games that make the transition to the system are usually hit with poor sales figures and thus die an early death (rest in peace Okami). So many games from the last generation deserve the treatment too; what's it going to take to get a Shadow of the Colossus port?!
In conclusion the Wii is indeed a good console that deserves respect for taking gaming in a new direction but for most it is being relegated to collecting dust. Nintendo has seemingly abandoned working on any games for it that don't have Mario in the title and day after day the console is being drowned in games that don't use the Wii like it should be used. Good and fun hardcore titles are becoming increasingly scarce and games that get ports to the Wii are increasingly dismal in quality. Microsoft has cornered the market in the proper utilization of an online network but Nintendo could at least steal a few ideas from them. When will you see me playing the Wii next? Why as soon as I finish writing this so I can go and play Deadly Creatures and as soon as Madworld comes out, but don't expect to see me doing much with it otherwise.
[Disclaimer: this article reflects the opinions of this gamer and this gamer alone. It does not reflect the overall opinions of the staff of HookedGamers.com and should not be taken as anything more than that. Stand by for flaming in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…]