If Sony’s Jack Tretton is to be believed, the next-generation consoles have roughly 8 years left in their respective life cycles (let the baseball analogies begin). While the Nintendo Wii experienced tremendous early success with its innovative gameplay and family friendly titles, it is yet to be seen if the console can stand up to the test of time. One thing is for certain, time is surely not going to treat the technologically inferior Wii as well as its beefier cousins. If this was a three way baseball game, right now the score might look like Wii – 4, Xbox – 2, and PS3 – 1 at the top of the 2nd inning. Here are 3 things the Wii needs to do to survive the ballgame.
Peripherals, Peripherals, Peripherals
Nothing will energize the Wii over its lifecycle like new (quality) innovative peripherals. Gamers will only be content waggling their Wiimotes for so long. In order for the Wii to sustain its momentum, Nintendo needs to continually release external gaming hardware that add interactivity into games. Gamers were drawn in by the Wiimote; they will stay because of other devices. Nintendo seemed to have already recognized this with “Wii Fit.” However, the Wii Fit’s unveiling at E3 ’07 was awkward to say the least. It is yet to be determined if the Wii Fit board will be a true innovation to gaming or a mere novelty. The peripherals will have to be integrated into gaming experiences instead of having games created solely to use the peripheral. Imagine playing a future Metroid game where movement is controlled by leaning in different directions on the Wii Fit board and shooting is controlled by the Wiimote. If the Wii wants to stay relevant through its lifecycle, Nintendo must make up for what it lacks in graphical capability with innovation in gaming.
Gamers are no longer just content to play solo campaigns or with a friend in their own living room. Online gaming has become an integral part of gaming for the past five years, and its importance will only increase with time. Nintendo has attempted to make consumers believe that it already incorporates online gaming, but in truth, online gaming is all but absent on the Wii. If Nintendo is serious about incorporating online gaming, their first step must be to create some sort of gaming “channel” where users can log on and connect with friends worldwide. The Wii already has avatars for gamers. How difficult would it be to create a syrupy Nintendofied version of PS3’s home incorporating Miis? Wii Shop must also incorporate free downloadable demos of upcoming releases, and for the love of Princess Peach, the friend codes need to be ditched completely. Voice capability must be integrated into the online service as well. After all, half of the fun of multiplayer gaming is the ability to talk to other players. Will gamers ever be able to hook up with a friend across the globe for some retro Double Dragon action? It’s up to Nintendo to decide.
Substance over Novelty
Without a doubt, the novelty of the Wii has been its main attraction. Many consumers have purchased a Wii “just to see how it works.” Parents were intrigued by a video game console that got their kids off the couch and flying around the living room. While novelty may draw initial interest, substance sustains interest. This means Nintendo must continue to release quality titles that integrate motion experience instead of just exploiting it. Collections of mini-games are fun diversions, but rarely sustain long term interest. The main problem with mere novelty gaming is that once a user plays the game once, the novelty is gone. Nintendo has already made some missteps in this area. The Wii’s catalogue is already chocked full of pointless mediocre games with shoddy motion control. Also, from the Forecast channel to Everybody Votes, Nintendo’s previously released “channels” have been nothing more than shiny trinkets. They are fun to look at for a minute, but get discarded almost immediately. Nintendo must release additional channels that provide content that sustains interest. Both Nintendo and 3rd party developers will need to step up to the plate in the upcoming years to provide quality engaging titles that keep the Wii from becoming the “other” system when gamers want a break from playing real games on their 360’s and PS3’s.
While Nintendo has certainly earned its right to puff out its chest and gloat a little, the “game” is far from over. 2008 is certain to set the tone for the years to come for the Wii. With the PS3 seemingly finding its feet and the 360 still going strong, Nintendo must fight to stay relevant in a rapidly changing gaming world. The Wii must maximize its strengths of innovation and unique gameplay to overcome its glaring technological shortcomings. Whether console lifecycles are nine inning ballgames is up to debate, but what Mr. Tretton is right about is that it is still early in the ballgame, and the Wii still has much to prove.