In January Sony officially discontinued production of the PlayStation 2 console after selling an incredible 150 million systems over a 12 year period. Despite the unstoppable march of technology, Sony had managed to keep its best-selling console running — albeit in a much diminished capacity — alongside its successor the PS3, which itself will be surpassed by the PS4 at the end of 2013.
Think about this impressive lifespan when you digest the news that Nintendo has announced that Wii production will soon cease in Japan — seven years (and 100 million consoles) after it hit the shelves.
The Wii U may be coming up to its first birthday and arguably needs all the attention it can get right now, but I think that Nintendo has abandoned its previous console — assuming Western territories follow suit, which seems likely — much too soon. Walk into your local video game store and there are still rows of Wii titles, suggesting that a healthy demand for software still exists — despite the fact that no new games are coming.
Every hardware manufacturer wants its customers to focus on its latest products, that much is obvious. But the fact of the matter is that not everyone upgrades the moment a new system is released; there will be millions of families all over the globe who will cite the original Wii as their "main" system right now. Surely releasing a few games here and there wouldn't have hurt — and with 100 million consoles out in the wild, any new titles wouldn't have to sell massive numbers to scrape a profit. The other bonus is that Wii U owners would also be able to play new Wii titles, thanks to the console's backwards compatibility. Having a few AAA Wii titles in 2013 may well have helped Wii U owners get through the software drought which has impacted that machine.
I also think that Sony's recent announcement of PS Vita TV should have Nintendo's executives kicking themselves. Vita TV is a low-cost micro-console based on the company's struggling Vita handheld, and it's aimed squarely at parts of the world where no single company has managed to crack the set top box idea yet. Reaction from both the press and gamers has been incredibly positive, suggesting that Sony is really onto something with its new device.
Nintendo should have been thinking of this approach years ago with the Wii. Instead of giving us the Wii Mini — the system no one wanted — Nintendo could have launched a super-cheap micro version which removes the disc drive and connects to a new and improved Wii Shop Channel. Every single first-party Wii game could have been made available for download — at reduced prices, naturally — and stored on internal memory. Third parties would be given the chance to republish their popular Wii titles — allowing them to essentially make money for little effort — and the fact that the Wii has seen seven years of Virtual Console releases would mean a massive selection of classic content would be available from day one. To top it off, upscaling could render Wii games in HD, and movie streaming services such as Netflix could be supported — all built around that intuitive Wii Remote interface we know and love.
Such a move would have allowed Nintendo to maintain the Wii's popularity with developers, too; a cheap micro-console with motion control would provide the perfect breeding ground for innovative indie studios, especially as Nintendo has now relaxed its indie development policies.
Sony is aiming the PS Vita TV at developing Asian markets such as China — which has millions of potential customers — and Nintendo could have done the same. Given the brand power of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong, it would no doubt have been a massive seller — adding valuable cash to Nintendo's bank account at a time when the Wii U simply isn't delivering. Such a console would also help maintain momentum in the west, where systems like the Ouya and GameStick are threatening to sneak into the living room and steal market share away from the likes of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.
A revised Wii system in a smaller case and low price point — complete with the likes of Super Mario Galaxy 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Metroid Prime Trilogy — would surely be more attractive to potential buyers than an Android-based console plagued by freemium experiences and half-baked mobile ports.
Granted, most Wii games look pretty poor when compared with the kind of graphical masterpieces modern consoles are capable of — this is a system which is based on the GameCube, after all — but mobile games have proven that visuals aren't the bottom line when it comes to popularity. With the aforementioned upscaling in place, the disparity in graphical quality would be less blatant, anyway; it's fair to say that the very best games the Wii has to offer are easily as playable and enjoyable as anything we've seen so far on the PS4 and Xbox One.
You can't hold onto the past forever, of course — and Nintendo's focus on making its current machines as successful as possible is commendable — but by closing the book on one of its most popular pieces of hardware so soon strikes me as a mistake. The Wii has provided millions with hours upon hours of entertainment, and has the legs to keep going — if repackaged in the right form and armed with the right online store.
Would you buy a "Wii TV" if Nintendo released one? (318 votes)
- Yes, it sounds like a fantastic idea!26%
- No, I think it's a terrible concept and Nintendo should focus on the Wii U48%
- I'm not sure either way26%
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