Round Table: Let's Talk About the GameCube and Wii

From a cube to the revolution

Thomas Whitehead: Do any of you think that the Wii, at the time, was a last throw of the dice for Nintendo after two consoles with only modest sales?

Mark Reece: It was certainly a massive gamble. With the poor sales of the GameCube and the PlayStation brand dominating absolutely everything, if the motion controls and family-oriented marketing hadn't paid off, Nintendo would have been done for: and I think they knew that. Motion control was uncharted territory, so I think they knew that if they got it right, there'd be no stopping them.

Jamie O’Neill: As mentioned earlier Mark, it is indeed a good job we did not place a wager on Wii. I was equally wrong by being dismissive of the DS's chances against PSP. D'oh! I think that there was an element of 'last chance saloon' for Wii, following the relative sales failing of GameCube. Nintendo just had faith in their design creativity. The lesson to learn is: do not underestimate Wii U!

Christopher Ingram: Sometimes I do think of it that way, but somehow I think that if Nintendo continued to make standard consoles at a cheaper cost than its competition, with its great first party line-up, they would still be in the market and doing alright.

James Newton: I agree with Chris: let’s not discount the affordability of Wii and its line-up of software alongside the motion control proposition. I think “another GameCube” would have left Nintendo barely hanging on; still there, but nowhere near the success it achieved.

Ron DelVillano: That thought never even crossed my mind. Nintendo has completely dominated the handheld market for so long that I always figured they'd perfect the home console eventually.

Thomas Whitehead: In terms of the hardware capabilities, did the introduction of motion controls distract from the modest graphical hardware. How relevant are claims that, graphically, the Wii is really a GameCube 1.5?

Mark Reece: Definitely. Even if you have strong feelings about how the Wii lags behind its competitors in terms of its graphical grunt, show me any other current console that's host to a game as magical and perfect as Super Mario Galaxy.

Jamie O’Neill: These claims were relevant until first-party games began to truly shine on Wii. I think that Super Mario Galaxy 2 looks magical, I would be interested to find out if that would even be technically possible to run on GameCube. I look forward to the stronger looking Wii games getting some semblance of HD enhancement on Wii U.

Mark and I both described the Mario Galaxy visuals independently as 'magical' within the space of a few seconds. Great minds and all that!

James Newton: I think Skyward Sword is as beautiful a video game as I’ve seen on any other format. Style is the most important factor in whether a game looks good or not, not just graphical grunt.

Ron DelVillano: This is a matter of quality being based on content rather than appearance. I think that the Wii could have been much better graphically, but at the same time I was never really bothered by it. Games like Super Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess were so good that the way they looked never bothered me at all. The motion controls still feel like a bit of a gimmick to me, and I wouldn't say that they made up for the lack of graphical quality, but they did help to change things up a bit.

Christopher Ingram: There's no denying the fact that the Wii is under powered! I still to this day turn a blind eye to all the games that have been ported to Wii with motion controls tacked on. Wii is at its best when it uses its power in the motion control and gameplay aspects instead of graphics. The Wii has something truly unique with its control interface and that is what pulled me into the system, not the graphics.

Mark Reece: Agreed, Chris. That's why, for me, the Kinect will never be as good as the Wii. They might have the better hardware behind them, but all the games reek of Microsoft trying to ape what Nintendo have already done. There's no soul there, no magic; something Nintendo has always excelled at.

Thomas Whitehead: Could it be that the unique control interface is the real root of the sales success, rather than top-class Mario and Zelda titles? GameCube had great Nintendo franchises, but not Wii Sports and Wii Play. What do you think?

Mark Reece: The motion controls appealing to all the mums, grans, granddads and small kids — as well as those of us already dedicated to Nintendo — was almost certainly what sent the console's popularity skyrocketing. My mum had never picked up a gamepad in her life. Now when I visit she's whupping my backside in bowling in Wii Sports Resort. No other console has penetrated the general public in quite the same way as the Wii.

Jamie O’Neill: We cannot deny that the accessibility of motion controls opened the door for casual gamers to embrace Wii as a family and party-based gaming console. Third-party developers love it for that and have benefited from the wide scope of its potential sales audience.

Christopher Ingram: To be honest, I've stood in the long lines for the Wii and many of its titles and the reason that the Wii has sold to its extremes is because it intrigued the casual gamers, which was in a sense because of the control interface. The sales charts show that the non-games are what have pushed the system to the extremes, not the core gaming experiences.

Ron DelVillano: I would attribute the Wii's success almost entirely to its motion controls as well as its being advertised as a family console. People who had never played video games before bought the Wii because they had families and wanted a new way to interact with them. The motion controls make the Wii something that you have to be more physically involved with, and I think that's especially why it brings people together. The Wii gives people a sense of connectivity to both the games and the people they are playing them with.

Mark Reece: It works in the same way as kicking a ball around a field with your dad. It offers simple fun that the whole family can easily pick up and enjoy.

It (Wii) works in the same way as kicking a ball around a field with your dad. It offers simple fun that the whole family can easily pick up and enjoy.

James Newton: I’m with Mark — the Wii controller’s simplicity is what got it accepted. This line-up of games wouldn’t have sold with button controls: parents who missed the 8-bit and 16-bit days probably thought gaming wasn’t for them, and the Wii Remote changed that. It’s quite brilliant when you think about it.

Christopher Ingram: With all of the Wii's success, I clearly remember my Wii only being played for Virtual Console/WiiWare games for years as all the non-games piled up, and I was literally dying for a new core Nintendo title to release!

Thomas Whitehead: As the lifespan of the Wii starts to wind down, and with these points in mind, what do you think of the games catalogue: does it cater enough for different kinds of gamers, including the so-called 'core' audience?

Jamie O’Neill: Anyone who says that Wii is not for core gamers is talking nonsense. It is a core gamer’s dream. It is also a retro gamer’s dream. If you were only to buy Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Klonoa, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Wario Land: The Shake Dimension and Sonic Colours, you would have a sweet collection of core gamer titles. I would argue that Wii is the best current console for retail (boxed/instructions) side-scrolling, 2D-inspired gaming. This is especially in regard to platform games.

Thomas Whitehead: I wholeheartedly agree with that Jamie. Though I do feel that the release schedule died off badly this year which is worrying with the Wii U still, potentially, a year away.

Christopher Ingram: I agree with Jamie entirely, but most all of these games that make the Wii so great have released late in its lifespan.

Mark Reece: I think the one thing wrong with the Wii's library is the vast amount of shovelware that came out. Wii Sports was such a phenomenally good concept that every developer and their dog was clamouring to get a finger in the minigames collection pie, and now you can't move for those sorts of games. It's undoubtedly great that Nintendo suddenly found itself with so much third party support, but I think the sheer amount of quick Wii-Sports-wannabe cash-ins has been slightly detrimental to the Wii's image in the eyes of core gamers.

Yes, there are great core games too, but they're mostly overshadowed by shovelware.

Ron DelVillano: The core titles are few and far between, but they're still there and they're still awesome. The Wii has been home to some of the best games that I personally have ever played, and it definitely has some of the most interesting and original titles. The Wii market is flooded with family-friendly games and absolute garbage shovelware, but the games that do appeal more to the core gamers are some of the best that any console of any generation has seen.

James Newton: Ron’s absolutely right — there are some absolutely appalling games on Wii, but when Wii is at its best I think it offers experiences up there with the other formats. The Wii’s had two Mario Galaxies, two Zeldas, four Metroids (counting the trilogy!) not to mention some fantastic exclusive stuff from SEGA, Konami and Capcom.

Mark Reece: Agreed. But the problem is that the shovelware fog is often too thick for the core gamers to see through.

Jamie O’Neill: Mark has hit the nail on the head, check out the Wii shelf in your local games emporium and you will have to sift through shovelware to find the quality titles. The ominous shadow of third-party trash has given the Wii a bad reputation.

Christopher Ingram: A lot of core gamers got fed up with the lack of software on the system for long stretches of time and by the time the flood of great games finally did arrive, they had already moved on to the HD systems.

James Newton: I think the Wii’s shovelware problem is exaggerated but other formats have their share of terrible games too: the only difference is that most terrible Wii games are aimed at families and kids, and most rubbish HD games are aimed at core gamers: yes I mean you, Rogue Warrior.

Thomas Whitehead: Considering these thoughts on the game catalogue, and acknowledging the enormous mainstream success, what do you think the console's main legacy will be in years to come? Motion controls, bringing video games to the masses, awesome Nintendo titles?

Ron DelVillano: I think the Wii will be remembered as the family console with waggle control, and that's a damn shame. The Wii is so much more than what we ever expected it to be, but I think that's going to fall away as soon as the next HD console comes out with bigger and prettier looking games.

Jamie O’Neill: From a point of view of my personal taste in gaming , I would not be surprised if the retro gamers of the future mention Wii’s side-scrolling platform games, like I have listed earlier, in the same revered tones as a shmup on the Mega Drive or a 2D one-on-one fighting game on SEGA Saturn. There is a lot more to Wii than Wii Sports Resort and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Don’t get me wrong, those games are great too, but Wii will be celebrated in twenty years for titles like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.

James Newton: People like us will remember it for just those games Jamie mentioned: the wider industry will undoubtedly celebrate it as the motion control console despite its prowess in other areas.

Mark Reece: I think that the Wii is the first Nintendo console whose legacy won't solely be "remember that awesome Mario/Zelda/Metroid game?" That's basically been the case with the NES, SNES, N64 and GameCube but the Wii, as Thomas said, was the console that brought gaming to the masses. It brought kids, parents and grandparents — people who more often than not wouldn't or couldn't play games — and got them interacting and spending quality time with their families and friends. Looking at it from a slightly serious viewpoint, how many families were genuinely brought closer together and have a stronger connection with each other thanks to the Wii? I would hazard a guess it's in the millions. Personally, I think that's something that Nintendo should be proud of.

Christopher Ingram: Hopefully it’s not remembered for all the news episodes showing off the Wii being played in nursing homes by grandparents. It's a great thing that it did stretch out that far, but even today there are commercials for other system’s games that poke fun at the Wii over the mass market push to non-gamers. I truly hope that it doesn't end up being its legacy! Finding a desired Wii title nearly takes an expert at spelunking, as they dig through mounts of shovelware, as the golden titles are buried so deep on the store shelves that it all weighs down on the system heavily.

On another thought, if games like Donkey Kong Country Wii, Kirby's Epic Yarn and Monster Hunter Tri would've released within the first year of the Wii's release, I think that the Wii would've been like a tsunami trapped in a bottle, instead of just lightning.

Jamie O’Neill: I see the legacy of Wii as having many different branches, the most prominent of all will be how it successfully grew gaming as a popular entertainment form for the masses. However, for gamers I envision the success of Wii as following two threads: absolutely classic Triple-A games (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy 2, Skyward Sword etc), and titles that were ace but slipped under many gamer's radar (e.g. Klonoa and Batman: The Brave and the Bold etc).

Thomas Whitehead: To wrap things up. Is it fair to say that the 'kiddie' aesthetic of the GameCube, aligned with poor sales, and the motion-controlled mainstream revolution of the Wii, have substantially changed the image of Nintendo? Can they claim any of the current Xbox360/PS3 gaming market in future, or is the dye set?

Mark Reece: In terms of initial Wii success, they must have had some sort of impact on the Xbox360/PS3's market share. Look at how Microsoft and Sony were falling over themselves trying to get their motion control systems out of the door when they realised that the Wii was proving to be such a powerhouse in terms of sales. But like I said earlier, they'll never understand that half of that Wii success came out of the classic unbridled Nintendo charm and how well they've been crafting games all these years. Sony and Microsoft — as much as I love them — will never, EVER possess those same qualities.

In other words, GO! GO! NINTENDO!

Jamie O’Neill: I am really sorry for being a dull, tech-spec obsessive guy, and this is a bit of a daft comment by me considering we have not seen any official Wii U games or anything on next gen Xbox/PlayStation, but I really wish that Nintendo had pushed Wii U to stand side-by-side technically with its competitors. On a more optimistic note, my fingers are crossed that Nintendo can emulate the success of Wii, based upon the potential of Wii U's unique control design. I’m just wondering if they can recreate such success with a controller that must be inherently expensive.

There are unanswered questions at the moment: How much will a spare Wii U controller cost? Will there be multiplayer games that utilise two screens on two Wii U controllers? Ultimately, I will buy Wii U on day one, so I wish Nintendo the very best of luck.

Ron DelVillano: It seems like it won't be an easy task for Nintendo to draw in the Xbox360 and PS3 crowd, especially with the next console being called Wii U. I don't think there's enough disconnect between the Wii and the Wii U to make other gamers believe that Nintendo is appealing to a more "hardcore" crowd. I think that a large portion of Wii owners will continue forward and get a Wii U, but I don't think it'll have the same impact.

Mark Reece: Maybe not in that regard, but I see Nintendo games as an accompaniment to those games, not an alternative.

Thomas Whitehead: I don't think people will have more than one 'next-gen' console, as the cost of developing HD games and advanced tech will, I reckon, drive prices up. If the Wii U is regarded as a second console it could be an issue.

James Newton: I think we’ll start to see more third-party core games move across to Wii U, but can it offer an experience so unique that your dedicated HD gamer wants to make the switch and pick up the Wii U pad instead of a DualShock? The games have to be substantially enhanced by the controller, and that’s something I honestly think companies will struggle with.

Christopher Ingram: That is hard to know at the moment, but I'll be watching the Wii U really sharply, as right now they're pushing games for the Wii U that will be available for the systems that many of these core gamers already own. Wii U is really going to have to find niche to pull in these gamers that they so desire, as releasing the same games they can already play without the need for another console purchase isn't going to cut it. As for Nintendo keeping their core fans around, Wii U will no doubt be phenomenal and we will all love it! There are just so many creative control interfaces combined with the Wii U that it could be expanded upon to create new and unique gaming experiences that we simply can't imagine, and only Nintendo can dream up. I think Nintendo's dynamic has changed drastically since the Wii released and I think they should simply continue to expand on their new focus of motion control and unique gaming experiences, and not try to just give another system that can do what the others already can.

Thomas Whitehead: Thanks guys. The GameCube and Wii have demonstrated a real progression for Nintendo, and it’ll be interesting to see how they move forward with Wii U. Thanks for all of your insights and opinions, as always.

What do you think about the legacy of the GameCube, and how do you think the Wii with be remembered? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.