Nintendo have, with a few exceptions, gone off the rails since introducing the N64. Whilst the N64 had some memorable games (GoldenEye and Mario 64 to name just two) it sold pretty damn poorly. The GameCube was meant to have a huge impact. Obviously prior to that now previous generation, the Playstation ruled the market and the PS2 was liable to do the same. Unfortunately, around the same time, the Dreamcast failed.
The Xbox was huge, with a rather lacklustre line-up. It did however have Live, and the biggest controller you’d ever touch – along with an 8 gig hard drive. Nintendo’s entry was the ill-conceived GameCube. The GC was – well – a cube. It was also in purple. A small handle stuck out of the back, which was apparently useless for anyone over the age of eight. It used tiny little discs, cute, but piracy apart, why not just use DVD? This meant that once again Nintendo were using a rather questionable point of difference by giving the Cube no DVD playback – unlike every one of the competition at the time. Finally, the controller had a big ‘A’ button and awkwardly placed X/Y buttons. Apparently meant for the simple and the young, this did nothing for Nintendo’s ‘childish’ image.
The GC was ‘the’ console for kids, Xbox for the hardcore, whilst the PS2 was owned by almost everyone, making a huge amount of sales. So, the GC had some good games, but was universally mocked. I’m concerned the Wii will go the same way. Firstly, it has not helped that it’s been laughed at over the name. Whoops! Marketing error number one.
Second, yes it is a new console, but the perceived image problem due to the continued use of Nintendo’s staple franchises remain. Gamers are too sophisticated for the likes of the day-glow worlds of Sonic and Mario – Kirby would just get laughed at now. Children these days, whether they should or shouldn’t be, are probably playing GTA. How can Mario stand up to that?
Nintendo need to either totally revamp their franchises for a more mature audience or provide some new ones. I’m not saying that kids should be getting GTA on the Wii – quite the opposite – all markets should be catered for.
Moving on to the controller, is this too gimmicky? I couldn’t decide whether it is a great idea, or a merely average one. Remember, the Wii is noticeably different in terms of power – they built the Wii with the control method – not the graphics – in mind. Frankly, there are still mixed reports. The controller is meant to be more involving, whilst also being intuitive and holding appeal to non-gamers. I don’t see – in my experience, any ‘true’ non-gamer picking it up. By that I mean the older generation, such as my father or mother, would probably have a quick go, but they’d never consider purchasing one. Would yours?
Looking at future proofing, the Wii doesn’t support HD. Okay, so like the minority of us that have it at the moment, it isn’t a factor. Nonetheless, the market penetration is going to just go up and up and up. There is no slowing technology I’m afraid. You could say that’s fine, it’s different. But that’s not going to be much of an excuse when you’re looking at blocky people with bad textures rather than playing something that looks as good as MotorStorm and using a motion sensing controller.
The Wii is not that far removed from the architecture of the GC. That’s fine; the GC could do some cool stuff. But, mark my words, it won’t be enough. Think about four years time when PS3 games (and probably 360 games too) look breathtaking – where will the Wii be? Marketing has never been Nintendo’s strong point, but they are really trying with the Wii. The trailers are good, it has sold really well so far in stores and this trend looks to continue. The price-point is probably about what you get for your cash too – though I’d say the games are a little overpriced so far.
Coming back to the title question, I guess the answer (not that I wish to admit it) would be no. Half of me says that a company as bad as Nintendo at marketing shouldn’t succeed – but the other half remembers just how much fun Super Mario World, Super Metroid et al were. Toys are about fun, so are games.
The Wii is never going to break your TV with uber-hot graphics. However, much like the DS, it will offer something new. In my book at least, that gives plenty of kudos. So no, the Wii isn’t too much of a toy to be successful – but perhaps just toy enough to put a smile back on my jaded face.