Wii-actions

I remember when this blog didn’t read like a Livejournal. Those were good times.

Anyway, I wanted to muse a bit on the Wii, and it’s spectacular success, and a little on why what Nintendo has done is working, in one gamer’s humble opinion.

A bit of background: I’ve been a Nintendo guy pretty much my whole life, ever since early days misspent in basements watching other people play Mario Brothers. I got in on the salad days of the SNES, stayed around for the entire tenure of the N64, bowed out for Gamecube, and came back into console gaming for the Wii.

I was one of the biggest skeptics before the Wii was released. Having watched some missteps with the N64 (which was a GREAT system, despite that) and Gamecube, when developers moved to Sony and Microsoft, I was almost certain Nintendo was easily third in the console race. They weren’t going anywhere- Nintendo ALWAYS made money with their consoles, which Sony and MS took a loss selling theirs, in some cases- but after the N64 didn’t get a lot of outside support, and the ‘Cube seemed a step in the wrong direction, I wasn’t sure anything could get me interested in console games anymore, outside of the casual interest I’d always had. My comment in one discussion was: “Ask ten people what an Xbox or a Playstation is. Ask those same ten what a Wii is. Who do you think has the bigger following right now?”

As happens occasionally, I was spectacularly wrong (and completed my about face with my own purchase of the system). Wii was, and still is, a huge success. Almost a year and a half after it’s release, and you still can’t find it on store shelves anywhere (more on that later).

From the start, Nintendo went about it differently this time around: They weren’t going after the hardcore gaming crowd. They would let Sony and Microsoft duke it out over those people. The Nintendo die-hards (me) would follow them anywhere, so they didn’t need to worry. What they needed to do was follow a basic principle of business: Find a new market to sell their product to. In this case, get people who don’t play games to play games. So how did they do that?

There were a lot of things. They made the controller a remote (hereafter dubbed “Wii-mote”), something that everyone was familiar with. They put fewer buttons on this Wii-mote, and added gesture and motion controls- another thing that would be easy for anyone to pick up. They packed in Wii Sports to get people (and developers) used to these controls. And a lot of the games for the system are of the “easy to pick up and play” variety- something Nintendo has always been good at making.

Another factor working in the Wii’s favor was the price- at the time, less than half of what a PS3 was going for. As a company marketing to all ages, this was a great idea. When Mommy and Daddy are shopping for a system for their kids, do they want to spend $600? Probably not.

This isn’t to say the Wii is perfect, because it’s not. No HD support may have been a miscalculation, given the penetration of HD in the last year or two, though that would likely have bumped up the price tag quite a bit. No downloadable content has limited some third party support (notably for me, Rock Band, which isn’t on the Wii because of that), and Nintendo’s online system (friend codes for the Wii AND for individual games, no voice chat, no “Xbox Live”-esque lobby system) is the source of much frustration for some.

And one concern going forward- from Nintendo’s side, and some from the diehards like me- is whether people who bought the system for Wii Sports and Wii Play end sticking around for games with more depth and dimension, or whether those being big sellers will lead to Wii being a haven for really ‘simple’ games. That was part of Nintendo’s plan, and it’s anyone’s guess at this point as to whether it’s working. As someone who invests in both (save for Metroid, a series I’ve never gotten into), I don’t think I could give an honest opinion on that.

Anyway, Smash Brothers Brawl is awesometastic. That is all.

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