February 20, 2009 - Bethesda's Todd Howard (Fallout 3) recently made gaming headlines for a comment he made regarding the Wii console. He compared the system to a Teddy Ruxpin teddy bear, explaining that Wii has a "toy value," whereas Xbox 360 and PS3 are better suited for "big entertainment." Regardless of where you come out on that argument, Wii is still marching on as this generation's console leader. But, why is it such a mainstream hit? How is the system affecting hardcore gamers? And what's in store for Wii owners looking for a deeper gaming experience?
When the Wii was first revealed (then known as the Revolution) - through video and other promotional tools - Nintendo conveyed the idea of a system that would allow players to simulate many of the actions that occur in a typical game. We saw a dude rocking two Wii Remotes like they were drumsticks; family members were flying around a living room, mimicking an intense tennis match; and a stately gentleman was wafting a controller delicately as he conducted a virtual orchestra. The reality of these experiences has, in most cases, proved to be quite different from those fanciful visions of virtual reality, yet mainstream America keeps buying up Wiis like they're treasury bills.
Nintendo's new console came to market without HD possibilities, without a hard-drive, and being completely dwarfed in power by the other two guys (360 and PS3). However, what the Japanese mega-corporation brought to the table proved to be the equivalent of a gun at a knife fight. Nintendo assaulted America with one of the most powerful advertising campaigns ever before seen in gaming. They continue to tantalize entertainment-hungry consumers with the promise of an evolution in video games that welcomes everyone.
Another huge factor that can't be underestimated has to be the perception of price Nintendo has fostered with the mainstream. After peripherals, extra controllers, battery chargers, and other bells and whistles, many Wii owners still ended up shelling out close to the same amount of money as they would have for a basic 360 set-up. Again, though, Nintendo's marketing won the day, and when comparing the barebones necessities of each system, many console buyers opted for what they could afford "in the here & now."
The hardcore gaming crowd, however, had already seemed to know the score, as powerful third-party publishers lined up behind the high-def systems before the Wii had a chance to prove its mettle. When the system jumped the starting gate and bolted like greased-lightning toward blinding success, the industry became confused. To this day, it's difficult to shake the feeling that publishers are flying blind as they try to figure out just what type of audience they're dealing with on Wii and what it is exactly that audience wants.