Recently in a Destructoid entry
about Nintendo’s future strategy for the Wii a poster named Vanor presented his/hers point of view stating that besides pretty graphics the Xbox360 and the PS3 really don’t bring anything new to the videogame world and that the Wii though lacking horsepower at least did attempt to innovate and bring new experiences to gamers of all kinds (read: core and casuals), yet it kept getting booed by the gaming community. After giving some thought on the matter i posted an answer to his point blaming third party’s carelessness on their releases for the Wii catalog as the cause of the problem, but even after that i really can’t help but feel that we both are right in some way. Confused? Keep on reading to explain my point.
I feel that the point presented has in theory very valid and solid grounds, it's perfectly true that besides pretty as hell graphics and control scheme nothing is truly different for all current generation consoles, at first sounds absurd I know, but please keep reading. The real problem is that usually theories are rarely a 1:1 relation with reality, and the Wii’s ‘failure’ to the core audience is not exactly based on graphics alone but also on third party influence or lack thereof and in Nintendo’s own failure to correct that trend or foster a better situation for a change.
One of the Wii’s original goals was changing the paradigm of how to play games from the complicated stick and button movements that we have grown accustomed since the very first gen of consoles, into a more natural and simple way of playing. The other was proving precisely the age’s old point that gameplay ALWAYS should come before nice graphics, and though the first has been accomplished, even creating as a result the casual market, it is the second one that is the very root of the Wii’s failure to the original market.
The second cause to the aforementioned failure is something that Destructoid’s Colette Bennett defined perfectly when she said even though the Wii doesn't have half the horsepower, that that is still no excuse to make ugly games; notice she said “ugly games” not “HD lacking games”. I’d like to side with Nintendo’s fanboys and support their cry that most gamers of this generation have grown “addicted” to HD graphics and tend to dismiss anything else as crap, but that would be covering the truth. The second cause of failure is the rampant laziness of developers when creating Wii games, laziness that manifests in myriad of ways.
Now that both key problems have been identified let’s see concrete examples and counter examples of how they patent themselves:
1) Horrible graphics (even for last gen level): Main offenders of this are games like Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, I still can't believe they used the same engine as RE4, i just can't, and if they did, they just did an abhorrent use of it. As a counter to this point, Super Smash Bros Brawl is a perfect example of awesome graphics that aren't HD.
2) Not deciding the audience you are targeting or rather spreading your game’s strong points too thin in order to reach a bigger audience: in essence, go core or go casual, but not both unless you do it right, I'll probably unleash the ire of many here, but an example of this is Madworld, yes, Madworld, how come? Madworld was marketed as a hardcore brawler for the Wii complete with gushing blood and limbs a-flying, so far so good, but if that is the case, then why the hell it takes a group of enemies around 30 secs to decide to launch a punch against you?, if you want to make casuals feel as cool as regular gamers, make a ‘casual’ difficulty level and let people choose, don't force the rest of us to go through the whole game to actually unlock the real 'normal' difficulty level (which seems is now known as 'Hard' difficulty).
3) Stop resurrecting old IPs, resurrect GOOD old IPs or at the very least fix the original problems they had: You know, I’d gladly shelf money for a Metal Gear Solid 3 Wii, should studios still want to take the easy route there are plenty of good IPs that can be properly brought to the Wii, so please stop bringing mediocre stuff, or at the very least give a proper addressing to the problems they had the first time around. As an example of this point I’ll mention Rygar, not even the tiny details such as the arm sticking through the golden disc armor were fixed, just tacked some waggle and release, which brings me to my next point.
4) Cut the waggle over use: If anyone played RE4 Wii they'll know that not only it feels just as good as the original GC or PS2 game, it actually feels (at least IMHO) even better on the Wii, why?, Because motion controls actually are properly implemented, not just tacked on as gimmicks or so poorly and imprecisely executed that they are hindrances instead.
5) Stop releasing half-baked bug-filled games: Deadly Creatures and Tomb Raider Underworld are perfect examples here, anyone that played DC will attest to the level of bugs (no pun intended) that happen when horned lizards appear, from “epileptic seizures” from said lizards to bugs so bad that you have to restart the whole chapter to fix it (not even loading a save will work, you forcefully have to restart the chapter). TR is even worse as the Wii version had a notorious bug on the Thailand ruins level where a missing lever prevented you from going further. I'll admit this is not limited to the Wii in the current generation of consoles, but when you are taking risks by developing for a console, it improves the odds for you as a developer to get good scores by not to releasing defective games.
Nintendo seems to mostly have avoided these issues, granted, they also have gone for casuals, but they didn’t totally forget their core audience, their main fault though is their absolute lack of quality control when licensing IPs for their console, as someone put it “you just have to put crap on a disc and they’ll approve it”. Their second fault at least to the U.S. market is their absurd practices by denying perfectly great additions to their catalog to make the jump out of Japan, I’ll cite games like Fatal Frame 4 or Captain Rainbow (9-9-8-8 and 8-7-8-8 by Famitsu’s score respectively) to name some.
I still believe Nintendo’s claim that a great game doesn’t need cutting edge graphics to be good, I’ll argue though that at least a certain level of polish is required, and when you add that to a satisfying gameplay and a decent story you can obtain unbelievable results, I won’t name anything by Nintendo as an example here, instead I’ll present two from their competitors that have been awarded with a 9 and the ever elusive perfect 10 from the very staff at Destructoid, on a last gen console nonetheless!: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon
and Persona 4
I honestly hope that both Nintendo and rest of publishers realize their errors and start taking steps to correct this situation, especially Nintendo because by allowing this terrible marketing strategy and poor decisions they have slowly eroded their generations-old followers in favor of a new market that could very well last for only this generation, and that as a consequence could bring the untimely end for a company that brought us some of the best stories and characters in the industry.