The Nintendo Wii is one of the most popular and successful consoles of all time, single-handedly responsible for bringing gaming back into mainstream culture and reminding America why we started to love video games in the first place.
It also totally sucks.
Yes, I own one. Yes, my girlfriend plays it regularly. I enjoy the system but there are some things about it that I just can’t stand, like so-called “motion controls,” craptastic graphics, and a constant deluge of shovelware titles that are better suited for skeet shooting than consumption by any self-respecting gamer.
Let’s talk about the vaunted “motion controls” for a second, shall we? When the Wii first debuted, everyone was in awe of the ability to swing a controller and have their on-screen avatar do the same. People decided that it was just like actual tennis, or baseball, or bowling, marveling at the geniuses at Nintendo that had delivered this new revelation from on high like Moses carrying his tablets.
Spend any time with Wii Sports, however, and you begin to notice that the revolutionary controls of the Nintendo Wii are not terribly different from those of any other system, aside from requiring you to flail about like an idiot. The controller only really detects motion in two directions, vertical and horizontal, and the IR pointing technology is no more revolutionary than my dad’s TV remote control from 1985.
Most of the time, the controller only detects that you are flailing, not how hard or in which direction. This type of on/off input has been around for years, and is commonly called a “button.” For many of the Wii’s “motion-controlled” games, a pair of buttons, one for horizontal and one for vertical, added to the Wii Remote would render the motion technology obsolete.
One other thing about motion controls. If I wanted to get up and move around, I’d go outside and exercisee, not stand in my living room swinging my controller so hard it breaks free and smashes my TV. Gamers and exercise are diametrically opposed in most respects.
The Gamecube, Xbox, and Playstation 2 represented a substantial leap in graphical prowess over the previous generation of gaming hardware. For the first time, systems had the power to eliminate jagged edges, create massive levels without the use of fog or other obscuring tricks, and throw large numbers of independent enemies at players. The technology was amazing, but that was 2001.
In 2006, Nintendo dropped their next-generation system, a motion-controlled behemoth with graphical technology just ever-so slightly better than the Gamecube. While the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 moved forward into near photorealism with games like Modern Warfare 2, developers on the Wii are forced to take shortcuts to make games playable on the system like removing all the color from Madworld.
When your opponents line up in a Corvette and a Ferrari, it’s generally not a good idea to roll up in a sputtering Ford Pinto.
An inevitable side effect of the Wii’s popularity is the huge number of companies looking to cash in on its success. We have previously discussed the large number of completely useless Wii accessories, including some that render the controller they’re supposed to attach to inoperable. This is what happens when people who don’t actually use a product begin to design accessories for it.
The deluge of shovelware game titles for the Wii is no different. These are the games you see at the checkout counter next to the candy bars and bubble gum, or situated in a display in a store that has no business selling video games, like Bed, Bath and Beyond.
These games are not for people who know anything about games. They’re not designed to be compelling interactive experiences. Their main purpose is to attract unsuspecting “casual” gamers and gift buyers with their shiny packaging and and lure them into purchasing what turns out to be a barely-playable mess. No self-respecting gamer would even touch one of these games. Most Wii owners cannot tell the difference, which is why these turds keep getting produced.
If you’re thinking about a game purchase, check out the reviews first. If you can’t find any reviews, congratulations, you’ve just discovered a piece of shovelware.
Anyone who knows anything about the Wii, having made it this far, probably saw the title of this section and said to themselves: “what online play?”
My point exactly.
Sure, it’s possible to get online with your Wii, but doing so is only slightly more complicated than playing Sudoku blindfolded. First, you need to connect your Wii to the internet, a daunting task in itself for anyone with less-than-average tech savvy.
Then, playing and interacting with your friends is just a simple series of sixteen-digit alphanumeric codes away! Want to trade Miis and send messages to your friends? You’ll need their console friend code. Want to play a little Mario Kart online? Sure, you just need to gather another completely different set of codes for the game. Looking to chat with your buddy while you play a little Smash Bros? Absolutely! You’re just going to need a good cell phone plan with a lot of anytime minutes.
I get that Nintendo doesn’t want our children exposed to the kind of drivel-spewing, expletive-laden communications that come from the general public on Xbox Live, but why make it so complicated to talk to people we already know?
I really shouldn’t complain about casual gamers. Thanks to them, I’m able to make a little bit of extra cash each month writing guides and how-to articles for their benefit. It’s great to have an influx of new interest in gaming, for sure, but I have to wonder what long-term effects the casual explosion is going to have on game design.
Video game publishers are in the business to make money, and the best way to make money is to create games that will sell the largest number of copies. One way to do this is to make sure a game is appealing to the largest possible number of consumers.
While seasoned gamers may enjoy convoluted plot twists, complicated character creation systems, and memorizing endless lists of special moves and 10-hit combos, most casual gamers are going to find these elements unappealing. If casual gamers become the majority, what does that mean for games like Dragon Age and Tekken? Is Dragon Age’s vaunted character creator someday to be reduced to a simple choice between three playable characters? Is Tekken’s intricate system of move and counter move, combo and counter going to someday be reduced to who can press the button the fastest?
I hope that there is room in gaming for all types of players, but it’s hard not to fear the potential impact the Wii’s influx of non-traditional gamers may have on the industry.
Yes, the Nintendo Wii is the most popular system in America right now. Yes, it has introduced an entirely new type of gamer to the mainstream gaming world. Still, with crappy graphics, incredibly complicated online play, and a library filled with so-called “games” with quality control rivaling that of Firestone Tires, you have to admit, it really kind of sucks.
If you’re interested in the other side of the coin, be sure to check out our 5 Reasons that the Wii Totally Rocks, as well.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The Other Side.
Before you get too furious at the author for his views in this article, you might want to read 5 Reasons Why the Wii Totally Rocks… also written by Mr. Sell.