We were bitten by the Wii bug over the Thanksgiving holiday. We gathered at my parents’ house for the usual family time, and my little brother brought his new Wii. The experience was remarkably different from the behavior I’m used to seeing around consoles.
In previous years, nobody would have wanted the Playstation 2 to be in the living room during a family gathering. It would have stayed back in one of the bedrooms, and the guys would have taken turns sneaking away from the group for a little fun blowing things up and eviscerating a genre-appropriate bad guy. The older generation and females would have been indifferent to the thing, and they would not have shown any interest in the game if they found themselves in the same room with it for a few minutes.
By contrast, the Wii was a welcome and natural addition to the living room. Everyone enjoyed watching it. Suddenly all the non-gamers were able to connect with the game and care about what they were seeing. My mother actually looked at the Wiimote and asked to take a few swings in baseball, something that would have been unthinkable if we’d been doing the same thing using Dual Shock controllers. My eight year old daughter was able to play bowling against an adult, and the resulting game was fun for both of them and interesting for everyone else.
I’ve heard the Wiimote referred to as a “gimmick”. I didn’t have an opinion before because I’d never used the thing, but now that I’ve held one and experienced it for myself, I will say it is not a gimmick but an innovation. Instead of improving visuals – which are already so good that even bad graphics are still pretty awesome – Nintendo decided to improve the input device. And not by adding another thumbstick or more shoulder buttons, but by looking at the way people played games and figuring out how to make it more fun. It worked. Wii Sports (the game you get with the Wii) is about as simple as they come, and there was never a moment where anyone grew bored of the thing. In fact, we amused ourselves with just bowling and baseball – two of the (I think) six games available in Wii Sports. I’m more convinced than ever that people who laugh at the modest graphical abilities of the Wii and tout the raw visual prowess of the XBox / PS3 are missing the point of gaming entirely.
We decided we want one for ourselves, although now is about the worst time of the year to come to that conclusion. The thing is neigh-unobtainable at the height of summer, and here in the frantic runup to Christmas we may just as well be in the market for Sasquatch on a unicorn.
What’s the deal, Nintendo? You’ve had a whole year to work out this production problem. You’re missing out not just on the money you’re not making by not selling units that people want to buy, but you’re missing out on all the money they’d be spending on games and controllers. You’re pissing away millions, if not billions. Convert some of those giant robot factories you’ve got over there in Japan, fill it with Meganekko schoolgirls, hire some Ninjas, do whatever you gotta do. Just build some damn Wiis already.
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