Ahh, the Wii... Current market leader, widening the market immensely with its minimalist charm and motion controls. But, yet, for those who are deeply passionate about interactive entertainment are quite apathetic, nay, disappointed
in Nintendo's current console. No, it's not the "casual craze" that the Wii and it's portable brother, the DS, has spurred; it is much deeper than that. I know that Wii "bashing" is as popular in "hardcore" gaming circles as gender-bending is to shopping centre-lurkers, but I wish to give a reasoned argument why this is so.
A Revolution It Is Not (The Way We Intended)
Yes, we all know that the Wii was called the Revolution during its development. We also know about the actual gaming revolution such a devise would bring. For once, Nintendo seemed like they weren't talking out of their arses: They were right.
We weren't the intended audience, however.
The revolution I envisioned (and I'm sure many of you did too) was to be one of a Renaissance in gameplay, storytelling and game design. The "Revolution" was meant to be the art house cinema to the Xbox 360 and PS3's Hollywood blockbuster, where our very perceptions and ideals were to be challenged and questioned. Instead, the Wii turned out to be the Martha Stewart of video games: getting impulsive, sheepish soccer Mums to shell out $AU400 just on 5 tech demos that they would only play for 20 minutes.
Anger aside, the actual "revolution" was needed. In order for this medium to be widely accepted as a true art form, the appeal of it had to reach outside the box. In a way, it changed our perception of what is a video game, and our industry is better for it. As for the Renaissance, it's happening - the explosion of indie games on XBLA, PSN and Steam, the gradual advances in emotive storytelling, and the growing respect for IP rights.
It just would have been nice if the Renaissance included changing the way we interact with games...
Bad Infrastructure! BAD
The main offender for deterring the Game Renaissance from the Wii is its creator: Nintendo. Despite what Iwata or Reggie try to make you believe, Nintendo hasn't changed a bit. They are still arrogant, close-minded and extremely paranoid. The Wii is what it is only because the GameCube wasn't a big enough success. Sure, they made profit, but not as much as they would have liked.
Nintendo are the radicals of closed-platform ideology. They love control, and they want it to stay that way. For such a different machine like the Wii, the only way to keep it "safe" was to implement poor infrastructure. A insufficient flash drive, a storage solution that is cumbersome, an online "service" that borders on inanity. Why bother putting stuff like that when you can retain profitability? Sadly, Nintendo are right in this regard. However, this does not bode well when one wants to develop for the Wii, especially third-parties.
What if Sony or Microsoft came up with the Wii? Would their approach be radically different to Nintendo's?
Third party support for the Wii leaves a lot to be desired. With barely any solid exclusives and woeful ports, one must think "What the fuck, guys?!" Sure, Nintendo make good games, but that doesn't mean you can't make some of your own! There is a reason why third parties are so neglectful when it comes to the Wii:
It caught them with their pants down.
All the big players put their money on a bloody duel between the 360 and the PS3. No one wanted (or expected) Nintendo to bother after the mediocre life of the GameCube. Yet, Nintendo won a new market with a device leveling the playing field. Publishers don't understand it, developers are conflicted to try something new on weak hardware. Only the likes of SEGA, Capcom and EA have actually given the Wii some respect. Still, the majority of developers want to push visual, audio and online over "gimmicky waggle", and shovelware seems to keep most of the publisher's shareholders happy (which is a shame).
Leaving Them Half-Way
Nintendo's software efforts on the Wii have been solid, if a bit shallow. They have opened the eyes of millions to a new form of entertainment with the likes of Wii Sports, Wii Play and Mario Kart Wii. But, with any medium, tastes mature. Once a kid becomes a teenager, they want to pick up a skateboard instead of an action figure. Nintendo are showing people the door, not the path.
No, I'm not saying that Wii Sports is childish (Wii Bowling is fun on wheels). What I am saying is that there isn't much choice for expanding one's gaming taste and skill once the Wii Sports training wheels have been lifted. Yes, there is Metroid Prime 3, No More Heroes, Okämi and Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Nintendo (or, better still, the third party developers) have to expand the experience, or Nintendo will lose another audience, just like they did when the Playstation hit the world stage.
The Wii has so much potential, and that's its problem. Sad to say, it will never reach it, unless Nintendo start to LEGITIMATELY embrace change and quality third party developers start treating the system with the respect it deserves.