September 23rd, 2006
What Everyone Is Talking About, And Nobody Knows
Looking at the information provided by the various videogame news sources after certain recent revelations, my impression of the Wii and it's various specifics that were finally revealed are that it was . . . about what I expected. Price was within the range estimated by Nintendo, if on the high end of that range. Tossing in a game was nice, though Wii Sports seems more like an orientation video or something to acclimate players to the controls than an actual game. The line-up is basically what has been reported for quite a while, with it's highs and lows. Virtual Console and it's pricing seems reasonable, even if we have to wait a little longer to find out what's actually on it. I'm a little disappointed with the controller situation. Just one with the system? This is supposed to be the party/social console, right?
And that's it. There really isn't much more to say on the issue. Only a handful of people have actually played the games for the system (and they've said plenty) while everyone else can only judge it by appearance and pricing. Although I've written about speculation before, and the damage it can do, but the Wii seems like an especially appropriate case study, worthy of some further examination. Just consider it in the context of it's little brother, the DS, and that handheld's history, and you'll see that the feverish guessing game occuring over chatrooms and message boards everwhere is, well, just silly.
The DS was, from conception to release, widely held to be an interesting but gimmicky experience, not long on influence and importance. And the first batch of games was doing a grand job of fulfilling that prophecy, with ports of old games tweaked to the DS ("Oh look! There's a map! I don't have to press start now.") and dreaded gimmicry. Then, largely through Nintendo's own efforts, games began to appear that made good use of the dual screen. And then more games. And then still more, and the DS Lite. And suddenly the DS towers over it's peers in Japan, and is doing fine in America, and we're all shamefully looking away when asked what we thought of the DS when it came out. We have to remember that there are only three major gaming consoles in the market right now, and a mere four if you include PC gaming. Ignoring one console, even if it has a quirky controller, means ignoring a huge chunk of the market. Companies are going to make Wii games. And enough different ones will be made that some of them will have to be good, if only by volume. But we're going to have to wait for them.
It may (or may not) seem odd when I'm not going to buy a Wii in November because the games look a little too gimmicky right now. (Hold up, there's a point coming.) Maybe next summer, when the software world has started to catch up to the audacious concept. Consoles are long-haul propositions, and the theater of the absurd of decrying or lauding a console that hasn't started much less developed a library more than anything else shows the painfully impatient nature of those who follow the video game industry. Maybe I'll even pick-up a PS3 if the price drops enough, hell, it's already dropping in Japan. The point is that we all want to be able to say, right now, before the next generation of consoles have even begun to really compete against each other. We won't know if anyone is winning or losing until a few years from now, if we're lucky. And even then, a good or two for a console could turn its fortunes around. We won't know until it happens.
The best games for the Wii will probably come from Nintendo, and the worst most likely from third parties. For practical reasons (Nintendo has had the concept in their heads the longest) more than anything else this will be true. But Nintendo has always made fun, exciting games that I can play over and over, so I don't mind if there's more Mario than Master Chief or Metal Gear in my game line-up. One could decry the lack of "serious" or "mature" gaming by Nintendo or on Nintendo's consoles, but I would counter that I don't find games like Halo or MGS to be any more mature or any less silly than certain Mario titles. There seems to be enough third party support for the Wii to bring in some more of those "grown-up" games, even if not all of them look good, so we'll have to wait and see. But, again, I don't really know, as I haven't played it yet.
September 25, 2006
A Physics Lesson for Luke Smith:
Copyright © 2006 Stev Weidlich and Aaron Weiner