For our second article in the Year Of Wii feature, the staff at NintendoLife sit down and have a round-table discussion; debating and discussing each others views...
The following is straight from the horses mouth, with no alterations from Mr Editor.
Tom: I have to admit that when the Wii was first unveiled I thought Nintendo were in trouble. The recent drive from Microsoft and Sony to get powerhouse console out was something Nintendo had no chance competing with. I've always been a person who puts gameplay before graphics, but I knew that Joe Public tends to like high-powered multimedia systems. When Nintendo announced that they didn't see themselves as direct competition to the PS3 and 360, I got seriously worried.
Sammy: Yeah agreed. The Wii was a very risky idea but I think the eventual success of the console has been somewhat a bullet in the foot for Nintendo. There has been a lot unfounded scepticism from so-called lifelong Nintendo "fans". I presume it's similar to when your favourite band hits the mainstream, a lot of "fans" back away because they not longer favour the underdog. Unfortunately a lot of the scepticism is unfounded.
Ant: Yeah, the industry changed so suddenly with the leap into advanced 3D graphics, Nintendo were dead in the water there for a while.. looks like they've finally got their heads together and tried to think outside the box of pretty graphics,tushé Nintendo, Wii has proven a huge success regardless of the powerhouse graphics on other consoles. There's certainly room in the market for both approaches.
Tom: It's not that much of a bullet in the foot for Nintendo. They have shifted us away from serious gaming (alienating a few fans, true), but isn't that nature of gaming meant to be fun? Either or, direct competition would have killed Nintendo.
Paul: For me, the concept of the Wii is the whole point to gaming - innovation. From their first console, Nintendo have always been the innovator. From things like the handheld controller (NES) to the analog stick (N64) Nintendo pretty much invented modern gaming. It's no surprise that they were the first with the next step in gaming's evolution.
Damien: The issue for me was that I really failed to click with the GameCube so I didn't have high expectations for the Wii, even less so when I heard that it would essentially possess the same kind of graphical power. But you could argue that the jump between the last generation and this one hasn't been as pronounced as in the past; your average 360 game doesn't actually look that much better than a PS2 or Xbox title. So I think Nintendo made the right choice with the Wii - make it modest in terms of power, give it an affordable price point and grant some unique features that make it stand out from rival machines.
Jamie: I was always skeptical about the idea of the Wii. On paper it sounded great, new ways to play games. However there were instantly issues apparent to me about the Wii's controller. Being a lazy gamer I never fancied the idea of been very physical in playing games. Being a fond PC gamer one of my biggest worries was the accuracy of the Wii remote. Fair enough, people claim the standard joypad was getting boring. For me it has always been "if it is not broken, do not fix it". One of the biggest bonuses for me is that the console is tiny and looks incredibly slick. One of the best things about the Wii has to be the DS connectivity. Nintendo could never pull this off properly on the GCN because it was simply too expensive buying all the games. Now you have a second, wireless screen to control and view information about on the game. That's definitely revolutionary to me. The virtual console idea also had me hooked immediately. Retro gaming means a lot more to me than most modern games.
Tom: Yeah, thats actually something I loved about the Wii from the start: It looks lush!
Sammy: The success has been somewhat of a surprise though? I don't think even Nintendo themselves expected such a smash hit.
Ant: It's been a HUGE success, I still can't really believe how popular its been, it's still sold out everywhere...
Sammy: ... still!
Damien: I honestly can't believe they've sold out again this Christmas. And to think Nintendo turn a profit on EVERY unit they sell, unlike Sony and Microsoft...
Jamie: If you told me this a year ago, I wouldn't have believed it.
Tom: Seeing the Wii become such a smash-hit success has been great- I really think it has made a positive impact on gaming. Developers are realising that graphics aren't what makes a good game. Sure, its great to have high definition, but lets face the facts; games are about having fun- I'd rather have a game I enjoy playing, than a game I enjoy watching. But you're right Sammy, the level of success is a total surprise. This is shaping up to be the biggest selling console, ever.
Sammy: The fact that Nintendo has gone from being the underdog to the clear market leader (by about a country mile) is just a sign of how brilliantly the Wii actually has captured thepublic's imagination. Unfortunately a hell of a lot of what you might call "hardcore gamers" seem reluctant to try new things out. There are a serious number of people out there that think the Wii is a gimmick.
Damien: Yeah, it's not helped by the fact that many Wii games are aimed squarely at the casual gamers.
Jamie: That my young pony club has been in the charts for a few weeks...
Tom: I've noticed some of the stick coming from the hardcore gamers too. I suppose Damien is right; the trouble is that Wii represents casual gaming: the antithesis of hardcore gaming. For some people, change isn't what they want. I think once the Wiimote functions stop getting overused (sometimes it just feels like developers add in motion controls just for the sake of it, even though the game would have been better without them) things will start to change and we won't get so many titles with pointless motion controls. This should hopefully reduce that shoddy gimmick factor that hardcore gamers associate with the Wii. But I doubt we have seen the end of 'My Young Pony Club'
Sammy: I understand that the Wii Remote has been used shoddily by some developers but we must understand that this is new technology that developers are having to get to grips with. Remember the camera angle issues that plagued almost every game when 3D first became widely used? On the most part these problems have been ironed out now. It's simply a case of teams learning their boundaries with new technology.
Ant: Correct, however the developers probably are using the controls wisely, it's more the publishers that have caused the initial problems, you can imagine the board meetings: "oh that game is cool, can we release it on Wii as well and bang on them motion controls?". Typical of the revenue hunting publishers.
Damien: There have been some shocking hack-jobs on the Wii of late. Many of these developers just take the PS2 engine and slap in motion sensing controls...it's just plain lazy.
Jamie: Yeah. At the moment the only people doing something right with the controller are Nintendo. Other developers seem to be tacking it on to games that don't necessarily benefit from it. This happened a lot on theDS . I'd imagine the publishers are the ones putting this kind of pressure on the games refusing to take in a game with last-gen controller schemes.
Tom: And as for slapping Wii controls onto a PS2 game engine... I reckon that can work well, if effort is put into it. I've got high expectations for the Wii version of Okami, which is pretty much the PS2 version with Wii controls put in the mix- not a generation up in graphics, but its going to be a damn sweet game (hopefully!). Although I am actually interested to see the boundaries of the Wii, not just porting capabilities. I know its not a powerhouse like the 360 and PS3, but Mario Galaxy looked stunning- I've played a lot worse looking 360 games. It makes me wonder how far it can be visually pushed. But what I really want to see developed are the motion controls- I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'd choose a game with fantastic gameplay over one with awesome visuals any day of the week (I can rent a movie for the latter!).
Damien: I honestly believe we left the last generation too early; if you look at games like God of War 2 on the PS2 the visuals rival many 360 titles. I think with the Wii, Nintendo can push the graphics quite far because they already have a few years of development knowledge behind them, thanks to thechipset being close to that of the Cube. As you say, Mario Galaxy is easily 360-quality in places.
Tom: True, Sony and Microsoft rushed out the last generation, while Nintendo saw a bit of sense and stuck to certain territory. A wise decision by the looks of it...
Jamie: I agree with this one. Nintendo's console is presently the easiest to develop on, using last gen technology and tools. Developers should feel right at home. Microsoft and Sony shot themselves in the foot with all this multi-core and multi-threaded processors.
Paul: Nintendo have made a few mistakes though. The recent Wii channels seem especially gimmicky. I rarely use Everybody Votes and the Mii contest channels. Nintendo should make something more useful, like a demo download channel, or even a channel showing upcoming game videos.
David: I had the same gripe with the Wii. Nintendo's innovation did change gaming by taking it from the mundane stationary position and teaching it how to dance. However, I do feel that Nintendo’s Internet services are somewhat lacking in power and presentation- they still have only a small amount of games with an online capability, plus the Wii channels can be frustratingly slow at times. Nevertheless one of my favourite features on the Wii is the ability to download all those classics games, another great idea from Nintendo.
Ant: Nintendo have missed out with Wii being their first "properly" online console, because Xbox is now second generation dashboard, its far superior in pretty much every way.
Damien: The MS Live service is fantastic, but don't forget that Microsoft charge for online play so it HAS to be good, otherwise people wouldn't pony up £40 for a subscription! I think theWii's online service is as good as you could hope for; it's easy to use, not too cluttered and easily expandable. They seriously need to include online play in more games, though.
Tom: The Wii needs online voice communication! That's why I play games online, for the social element of it. Without voice communication there is no real feeling you are playing against other people.
Jamie: It's not only voice communication that the Wii needs. It needs a whole community. Some of us have been spoilt by Xbox live and crave a proper online community. Nintendo needs to loosen its grip on looking after children. Due to most of this the online service is way below par... You're not capable of listing available games, Nintendo just whacks you in whatever it deems suitable. Pulling together games of friends is difficult because you don't know who is online. Nintendo's got a lot to catch up on and from their attitude they have no intention to.
Ant: Personally I don't have much care for these things, Nintendo have done fantastic in the past 12 months, we've seen Zelda, Metroid and Mario all have their own outings. Problem is, if we're not getting another Zelda for 2-3 years, Retro have retired doing Metroid and Miyamoto won't rush out another Mario game, will the first party Wii titles of peaked too early?
Sammy: To be fair, next year we are going to see a lot of good first party and third party games. Developers are finally starting to get to grips with the controls and what with Nintendo constantly updating the channels and announcing impressive sales figures - I think next year is going to be another corker!
Paul: I'm not too sure.. I hope that we hear from Nintendo soon about their plans for 2008, so far the only first party games announced are Smash Brothers, Mario Kart and Wii Fit! And all in the first few months of the year to boot.
Ant: Yeah, I'm sure we'll see some good 3rd party titles... but Nintendo don't actually have that many big name brands left, the only AAA title next year so far is Mario Kart. Even things like Super Smash Bros and Fire Emblem will have releases by then. It's almost worrying... will they just be releasing health and fitness games? Miyamoto might be a genius and I'm sure Wii Fit will sell in amazing numbers, but can't he get back to making games I want?
Tom: That's actually a really good point. I've been so focused on the games coming out late 07/ early 08, that I haven't considered the lack of 1st party titles later on in the year. I reckon there will be something- I'm putting my money on Miyamoto coming out with Pikmin 3, orLuigis Mansion 2- but it is still worrying to think that Nintendo could have exhausted their reservoir AAA games already.
Damien: I agree. With Metroid and Galaxy out of the way there's certainly not much else on my Wii radar at the moment, aside from Mario Kart, of course. Unless Nintendo has some top secret titles in development, the system is going to have to rely on third party support to get it through 2008. I don't think that's too bad a thing as developers are falling over themselves to produce stuff for the Wii, but we are dangerously close to having a repeat of theGameCube situation...waiting months for decent first-party titles to appear.
Jamie: Yup, there's very few games left that I fancy. My biggest worry is that Nintendo are focusing more on casual gamers.
Sammy: I'm not so sure we're going to see a shortage of top first party games. Mario Kart is obviously the next big one but I would be really surprised if Nintendo don't have some big announcements up their sleeve following Christmas. Disaster: Day Of Crisis hasn't had a mention for a while andLuigis Mansion 2 will more than definitely see a release in the New Year. Let's not forget that Wii Fit is probably going to be the massive success of next year too - whether you like the concept or not.
Paul: I'm rooting for announcements for Pilotwings and F-Zero sequels.
Ant: Nintendo will obviously have more titles under development, they always do, but the question is which franchises and how long until we see some decent releases?