The Software-Less Wii Is A Marvel
I have always been a big supporter of the maxim: "great games sell consoles." Despite all the advancements we have made; despite all the bells and whistles available on current generation consoles, I used to believe that without the must-have software, the hardware simply wouldn't move off store shelves. Now, regarding the Wii, one of two things is happening: either it's the very first console to break the rules and still become a massive success, or - and I apologize in advance, Nintendo fans - it doesn't qualify as a video game console in this generation. Everyone always gets bent out of shape if you compare the software to Flash titles on your five-year-old PC, or if you say it only appeals to children and senior citizens. So I won't say that.
But at the same time, I always find myself standing in GameStop, staring at a giant wall of Wii titles, scanning the racks with incredulous eyes. All I keep thinking is, "...this? THIS?! This is what pushed this console to what appears to be an insurmountable hardware sales lead?" The Wii must be a marvel of the industry; it's the first piece of hardware in history that simply doesn't require decent software. All it needs is the gimmick, which has single-handedly vaulted Nintendo into the stratosphere, and by no means do I fault them for this. They shot from third to first, and they did it when few journalists and analysts gave them a chance in hell this generation. Nintendo recognized that they couldn't compete with Sony and Microsoft in terms of technical achievement, so they simply went another way. Now, you can say that "other way" is unique and innovative, and that would be a valid point. But how can they keep selling Wiis without software? How?
Well, I suppose it's simple. The Wii is more of a gadget and belongs in the same part of the electronics section that holds iPods and Blackberries. You swing a wand around and play a variety of games that all seem extremely similar to one another, and the non-gamers have plenty of options. Wii Fit is a darn good example but there are others. The problem here is this: when it comes time to award the greatest achievement in video games from here on out, from Game of the Year Awards to the prestigious AIAS awards, I don't see very many Wii games making the lists. Look at last year; were there any? The PS3, 360 and PC continue on their merry way, breaking down new boundaries and barriers and providing us with better and better experiences, ranging from MGS4 to Gears 2 to Crysis. What happens when we compare the best of the best on any of those major platforms compared to the best on the Wii? What happens when we do this in the future?
I suppose it all comes down to this: the Wii is a wonder. As far as I can tell, you can just pump out any ol' title for that thing, and it doesn't even really matter what it is. Then, sixty trillion people will buy it so they can play Wii Sports for ten years. I don't want this to sound like I'm bashing on the system; I really do find this amazing, and you just have to give it up for Nintendo. Those guys and gals are all business geniuses to have pulled this off; plain and simple.
3/16/2009 Ben Dutka