Opinion: Wii Won't Rock You

A Revolution or just a controlled uprising? With the Wii's launch there's an incredible amount of hype for the system, but is Nintendo's new console really going to take the game industry by storm? Not from our perspective. Read on for five reasons why Wii won't rock you...

Posted by David Radd on Friday, November 17, 2006

Before we get started, let's make sure we're clear on what this editorial is not about. We're not arguing that the Wii will be a wash for the Big N; to the contrary, we expect Nintendo to profit greatly from the system. In fact, the Wii will likely buck the trend of Nintendo consoles selling fewer units than their predecessors.

However, what this editorial is about is dispelling the notion that the Wii will mark Nintendo's return to the top of the home console world. Nintendo is trying to reach the great, untapped masses with their system, similar to what they've started to achieve with the DS. However, we believe that the system will ultimately end up in third place in terms of global market share, echoing the sentiment of numerous analysts. [It's not like the analysts are always right! - Ed.]

Here are five reasons why we believe the Wii won't rock you:

Not Enough Games
One of the main factors that decided the PSOne/N64 war was Nintendo's lack of software support from third parties (Square famously went over to Sony's camp in the early stages). This past generation, third-party support was better for the GameCube, at least at first. However, that support waned over time, slowing the supply of new titles to a trickle and creating a dearth of GameCube exclusive titles.

For this generation, the Wii has a cautious amount of support from third-parties. While some major publishers (like Ubisoft) are jumping in with both feet forward, providing extensive support and new franchises like Red Steel, many others (like Electronic Arts) are giving a much more measured and calculated response with a handful of offerings from established franchises, such as Madden, Harry Potter and The Sims. Looking over the Wii titles, there's a definite pattern with established franchises and licensed children's titles. With the PS3 eventually getting titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII and Xbox 360 getting heavy hitters like Blue Dragon and Mass Effect and BOTH the PS3 and 360 recieving Grand Theft Auto IV Nintendo needs more third-party star power to compete down the road.

It's also worth noting that some key franchises are missing from the launch lineup. While the Wii will launch with a new Zelda title (it's amazing what happens when you keep delaying a game from the previous generation), the Wii marks the second straight console release by Nintendo without a new Mario game in the launch lineup. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the lack of Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Holiday 2006. Super Smash Bros. Melee is the best selling GameCube title ever, with over 6 million copies sold worldwide, and SSBM was available for the GameCube's first Christmas. Excite Truck surely isn't a proper substitute for Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

While Nintendo will have a lineup of titles for its virtual console, it is unknown whether this can be a major selling factor for the system. Besides, Sony will have similar offerings for their part and Microsoft already has plenty of Xbox Live Arcade titles. All three systems also feature varying degrees of backwards compatibility, but if anyone has the marked advantage in that are it would be Sony, with the PS3's support of the PSOne and PS2's huge game libraries.

Graphics Really Do Matter
What defines "good graphics" is admittedly subjective and the level of visual quality expected by today's consumer is equally hard to gauge. However, when dealing with the next generation of consoles, a good percentage of consumers will look for something that "wows" them—sorry, Mr. Iwata, but we just haven't had the urge to say "wow." Many consumers want to have a console with graphics that will not only impress them, but also their friends and family. They want their new console to be a centerpiece for their home theater system. When looking for a showcase system like this, consumers aren't likely to pick up the Wii.

Now, Wii games certainly don't look bad; in fact, by current-gen standards they look quite decent. However, when compared to the top 360 and PS3 titles, especially on an HDTV, the Wii is blown out of the water. Games like Gears of War and Heavenly Sword absolutely pop and the Wii just doesn't have the CPU and GPU power to match that.

The Wii's relative lack of power will no doubt turn off some developers. While Nintendo would like to emphasize their motion sensitive controller (and we'll be getting to that in a minute) not all developers are looking to make games with a different input method. Many are going to be looking for more triangle-pushing ability to make their 3D models and environments more detailed and more processing power to make physics effects more realistic.

It's not necessarily cool or "hardcore" to say that graphics matter, but it's still a fact: graphics matter.

And some developers will also be looking to the internal hardware for better audio support (another category in which the PS3 and 360 trump the Wii "soundly"). Some (like Factor 5) have already expressed their disappointment in the Wii for this reason. "When I heard what was going on at Nintendo, I cringed," Factor 5 President Julian Eggebrecht told EGM. "It's audio is relatively mediocre. It's essentially GameCube 1.5."


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