Enough is enough, Nintendo. After the sub-par performance of the Gamecube I was really hoping you would deliver something to make me believe in you again. At first it seemed like you pulled it off - the Wii looked like an amazing innovative package full of quality games and groundbreaking motion sensitivity. Well, after bringing you to my dorm this year only to turn you on about 1 or 2 times for the semester, I sold you. And I couldn't be happier. Here's a list of reasons why the Wii has failed, in my eyes.
1) Nintendo has abandoned the seasoned gamer
I refuse to stereotype myself as a "hardcore gamer," but I've played enough games to be pretty well versed in them. Back when the Wii came out we were promised plenty of challenging games from established franchises. Out of all of them the only ones worth playing to me were Mario Galaxy and Brawl. Metroid Prime 3, while equipped with the best implementation of the Wii controller I've ever seen, completely Halo-fied itself and lost what it was originally about, exploring an open world as a lone bounty hunter. Zelda was a complete joke difficulty-wise, both for combat and puzzles. Mario Kart is pretty much like every other Mario Kart, but with bike / stunts / wiimote gimmicks.
This would all be forgivable if Nintendo started to up the quality. It's understandable to make mostly subpar games with new hardware. Alas, there is nothing. Nintendo promised a new big hit for veteran gamers at E3 this year, and what did we get?
A new...Animal Crossing...seriously? Not only is this game aimed for non-gamers, but it's virtually a port of the DS version, with a few new furniture items, and a "city" section which is just a bunch of shops lined up for you. And there's just nothing else, take a look at the upcoming releases for the Wii if you don't believe me. http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/wii/releases.html
So if that's true, how the hell is Nintendo rocking this generation in terms of sales? Well, to my next point...
2) Nintendo now caters exclusively to children and soccer moms
Remember their other big announcement for E3? Wii Fit. Not a game, a fitness application. Nintendo went from having a sub-division for the non-gamer to being their exclusive market. They stopped making technically brilliant games and stepped down to shallow experiences like Wii Sports and Wii Play. Sure, these excursions were fun for a little while with the right crowd, but they got stale fast. I went to the Nintendo store a while back to get some kirby plushies with my girlfriend; we saw that they were holding a massive event for a new game. A few years ago this would undoubtedly be for the next big Zelda or Mario or Pokemon game. Instead we found...Wii Carnival Games. Seriously?
Nintendo is not dumb. They are in fact brilliant. They discovered just how untapped the 4-10 and 40+ demographic is with video games. They figured out that by producing tons of low quality games and hyping them to death with motion gimmicks, people will buy them in troves. They no longer need massive development teams to put together masterpieces like Ocarina of Time or Mario Galaxy - they just need to find the next real-life activity to simulate with Wiimote gestures, whether it be golf, cooking, or raising babies.
2a) Third parties figured out the same thing
Third parties, almost absent entirely in the Gamecube era, came rushing back to Nintendo when they realized they can do cheap cash ins with awesome games like Dogz and Catz. Barely any developer wants to make a serious port to the Wii due to inferior hardware and the lack of their demographic. Why would they, when they can put in half as much money on a cash-in and make twice the profit?
3) The Wiimote does NOT work as promised
When the Wii remote was announced everyone touted it as the revolutionary control device to change games as we know it. Hell, even I did. Wii Sports did a good job of creating the illusion that it actually follows your arm movements as they said, but as games came out it became more and more obvious how off the controller is from their original vision.
First, the movement is NOT one to one, not even close. Besides the gyroscope / accelerometer (which can only detect relative movement) the main way for the remote to work is to position itself with the Wii's sensor bar. What this means is, your pointing is always limited by how your orientation works relative to the bar. The result is that you're very rarely ever projecting your cursor the way you point it. Everything is relative to the sensor bar. Countless times I had to flail the remote around to re-orient the sensor and get a bearing of where it is. Slight movements of the remote shot my cursor across the screen in a flash. One of my original dreams of the Wii, to have an entire genre of awesome light gun games, cannot happen due to this. All attempts at a light gun game are forced to show a cursor on screen, since the player cannot actually aim, fire, and hit accurately. They can only move their remote relative to where their cursor already is on screen.
The other gestures are just as inaccurate. Some of the best Wiimote interactions were the ones that didn't try too hard to be 1 to 1 - like flicking the remote in Metroid as a grapple beam or shaking the remote for a spin attack in Zelda. They don't actually care how hard you flick or fast you turn, just the fact that you did it. In essence, it's a button press remapped to a gesture. And it really feels like a gimmick more often than not. Relying too much on how the remote moves, like in Red Steel's sword fighting, result in a control nightmare.
(A note on the Motion Plus add-on - it shows promise. But I'm sure it'll be wasted on more casual games anyway)
4) The online experience is abysmal
This doesn't really need much explanation. The best thing Nintendo has done here is make it free (though future games may have fees attached to them for online play). The rest is just terrible. Instead of having one uniform ID that you choose, you're forced to have a different 12-16 digit code randomly assigned to you for each online game you know. You can't send friend requests either - both sides have to tediously enter those numbers to play that specific game. If you don't like friend codes, then enjoy the completely paltry random matchups, which include no names, no communication, no way to friend a person after a match, and nearly no options for customizing a match (Brawl is always a 2 minute 4 player fight on a random map with medium items), as well as no real ranking system. There is no community to speak of other than drab ideas like the "Everybody Votes" channel and a Mii fashion show. After giving up on Brawl's online I only used it for occasional firmware updates.
5) The market is ripe for selling
The Wii continues into another Christmas season with completely absurd levels of demand and Nintendo failing to produce enough, resulting in shortages everywhere. The result? People will give an arm and a leg for a Wii. I got rid of my Wii in a trade for a person's PS3 with a controller and game - that's right, I gave him nothing but a Wii and what it shipped with, and I got a system worth $150 more AND a game. Maybe he was dumb, but that's just an example of the demand this system mongers. If you're like me and haven't touched your Wii in months, now's the best time to sell.
6) The Wii is a threat to the future of the video games industry
Okay, I'm going a bit out on a limb here, but hear me through. Nintendo is shunning seasoned gamers while obtaining a massive following from the casual audience. Game quality is rapidly dropping while sales continue to improve. Microsoft and Sony, while initially reluctant, feel obliged to compete with Nintendo's dominance over the casual market. Microsoft recently released avatars for their system, which are really just Miis in higher resolution. They have a storm of casual games coming out as well.
While it would be a different article for me to write, it is also my opinion that 2008 was a disappointing year for games. One thing in particular that bothered me is how easy / casual games are becoming. Games like Fable 2 and Prince of Persia no longer even punish you for dying; they are instead like a continuous movie that never ends in a game over. While this can be argued as video games evolving to a greater level of visceral entertainment, I really believe they are just becoming movies where you occasionally press buttons.
Put these two together, and I come up with two very scary outcomes for the future:
1 - The death of hardcore video games. It's simple math really. "Hardcore" games are getting easier and easier, while casual games are becoming larger and larger. The inevitable intersect is video games becoming, more often than not, simple interactive experiences. They are no longer about gaining skills and dexterity and knowledge in the context of the game world,but linear experiences that unfold the same way every time, and just need simple user interaction to move them along. The only exceptions would be more and more "applications" like Wii Fit, which barely even qualify as a game in the first place.
2 - The next video game crash. To those who think the casual gamers of today will be the hardcores of tomorrow: I disagree. A 40 year old playing Wii Tennis will be content playing Wii Tennis; I can't see him popping in a disc of Gears of War or Mass Effect. What this means is the market will continue to inflate with casual games and people will continue to buy into them. But one magical day they will wake up and grow tired of flinging the remote around like a baseball bat or tennis racket. They'll want to *gasp* do the real activity instead. The Wii carnival games were cool for a while, but they can never replace a real carnival's atmosphere. Wii Fit was nifty, but going to the gym is really the more effective way to go. The hype will die, and casual gaming will fall apart in a flash. Nintendo will scramble to meet sales expectations and fail, and Microsoft / Sony will abandon their casual ventures back to what's left of the softened "hardcore" games, which will satisfy fewer and fewer of the seasoned gamers. We'd much stick to the old school NES through PS2 days of quality games anyway. In short ,the industry would collapse.
By selling my Wii, I am completing my statement that I refuse to support Nintendo's endeavor into the casual market. I only have my DS left which has a flash card anyway, so they won't get a penny more out of me. I gave them one last chance, and they have failed even more miserably than last time in my eyes.