Is the Wii going to get any better?

Obviously, we gamers need more quality games for the Wii and more fixes for some universal problems (the Wiimote and WiiConnect24, for instance), but is Nintendo currently in a position where they have to address any of these problems? If the rest of the Wii’s lifespan continued to be mediocre and bug-ridden, would it make any difference for Nintendo?

Consider what happened with the Gamecube: a few gems, a sea of crap. Same thing with the Nintendo 64. Nintendo’s last two systems drew the metaphorical short straw and lost their respective console races. And yet, despite these failures, Nintendo was still able to go on and make a new system each following generation.

And now we’ve got the Wii. A potentially amazing, but practically flawed gaming system with a pretty disappointing roster of upcoming games (if you need more than one hand to count the number of 2007’s upcoming Wii games you are excited about, then you probably lost some fingers in a spaghetti cutter or something).


The question is, would it make a difference to Nintendo if the rest of the Wii’s lifespan consisted of nothing but mediocre games punctuated by one or two decent ones?

It may seem like a weird or irrelevant question, but bear with me — this’ll be a detailed (and wordy) analysis of how Nintendo is profiting off the Wii, and what it may mean for us gamers.

And what’s more, not once will I refer to Nintendo as “Ninty.”  

The Questions:

Does Nintendo need (not want, need) to make improvements to the Wii, or create better games for it, in order to come through the console war intact? Is the possibility of Nintendo creating a system for the next generation (as in, post-Wii) already a done deal? Does it matter to Nintendo whether or not the Wii gets any better throughout its lifespan?

Let’s see. 

Nintendo already made a profit

Unlike pretty much every other video game system in the last decade, Nintendo did not take a loss on their most recent video game system (perhaps because the Wii contains pretty outdated hardware, as will be discussed later). While Microsoft will have to wait until 2008 to turn a profit on the Xbox, Nintendo is making money now

Most systems which are sold at a loss do so because the companies eventually make up for that loss by overpricing games: your PS3 cost more than 600 bucks to make, but was sold to you for less than that. The games cost less than 60 bucks to make, but are sold to you for more. On a long enough timeline, Sony will eventually break even, and then begin to make a profit.

So since Nintendo is already making a profit, it is not a stretch to say that there is not as much of a financial incentive for them to create loads upon loads of classic games.

And considering pretty much all of the launch systems (around 6 million) have been more or less sold out, that’s a considerable chunk of change in Nintendo’s pocket. This means that, at least from a financial standpoint, the Wii is already something of a success — or, at the very least, it isn’t a failure. While Nintendo obviously wants people to buy great Nintendo-licensed games (more money is more money, no matter how you look at it), the financial desperation experienced by Microsoft and Sony to sell quality games does not exist.

The Wii’s main flaws are integral to the system


Factor 5 president Julian Eggbrecht says the hardware audio sucks. Free Radical Design says the Wii doesn’t have the necessary horsepower to run any of their upcoming games. Nearly everyone and their mother have lambasted the Wii for its substandard graphics, calling it “Gamecube 1.5”.

Now, what does this mean? Well, firstly, it’s important to note that we’re stuck with this shit. Even the most optimistic of Nintendo fanboys will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that the Wii is what it is, and its hardware will never improve. Granted, we may see its technology pushed to the limit — remember what the Gamecube did with Resident Evil 4 — but quite simply, the Wii will remain visually and aurally underwhelming for the rest of its lifespan. 

 And, to a degree, this was intentional. Before the Wii launch, Reggie and Shigeru frequently told journalists that the Wii was about gameplay innovation and not amazing graphics. Translated from bullshit to English, this means that Nintendo would have given the Wii amazing graphics if it could have, but this would have raised the hardware costs, which would have forced Nintendo to either sell the Wii for a much higher cost (we’re talking double its current price), or sell them at a loss. Nintendo was evidently not willing to take that large a risk on what was essentially an experiment: would gamers still accept a system that favored streamlined gestures over joystick wobbling? A system that prioritized physical movement over button mashing? 

When one considers the strength of the Wii’s launch, it becomes obvious that Nintendo has already gotten their answer.

Gamers have shown they’re willing to try something new


Nintendo’s “gambit,” as it has often been called, has, to a degree, paid off. They now know that gamers will throw away a couple hundred bucks to get a game experience they can’t find anywhere else, no matter how crappy the graphics are. Even ignoring the Nintendo fanboys.

Many, many gamers (myself included) came out in force to buy a system that attempted to accomplish something new. Gamers are getting tired of the same old shit, and the purchase of a Wii is a symbolic way of showing your desire for truly original gameplay. Granted, I say “symbolic” because we haven’t quite gotten anything truly original yet: some innovative games, some new methods of playing, but we have not yet gotten a game that uses the Wiimote to anywhere near its full potential.

But whether or not we do get to play a truly original Wii game within the next few years may honestly not matter that much to Nintendo: they know that we’ll pay good money to get one step closer to virtual reality, graphics irregardless.

The N64 and Gamecube also “lost” the console races, but were still succeeded by more technologically advanced systems


The Nintendo 64 came in 2nd place during the fifth console generation, selling 32.93 million consoles versus Sony’s 100 million Playstations sold. The Gamecube came in third during the sixth generation, selling only 21.2 million while the PS2 and the Xbox sold 111.25 million units and 24 million units, respectively.

And yet, both systems were followed by more technologically advanced successors. While both systems were sold at a slight loss and technically failed to win their respective console races, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from moving on to the next console generation. 

Would it then not be reasonable to assume that, no matter what, we will get another Nintendo system in the next console generation? Is it unreasonable to wonder if Nintendo released the Wii as an experiment, designed to see how a new gameplay method would fare? And if it were, would their true goal then be not to make the Wii itself a fantastic success, but to rather use it as a prototype for the system that was to succeed it? 

It sounds vaguely conspiratorial to put it in these terms, but consider this: 

-Nintendo intentionally uses comparatively unimpressive hardware to lower the Wii production cost, allowing them to sell every system at a profit.

-Based on the Wii’s sales figures, Nintendo now knows exactly how far gamers are willing to go for something new that is risky but innovative.

-With this knowledge, Nintendo can use more advanced hardware (resulting in better graphics, sound, and interactivity) on their next system and sell it at a higher price, whilst taking a loss like every other console.

-Since Nintendo didn’t lose any money on the Wii, the entire system’s lifespan essentially acts as market research data to determine how enthusiastically gamers will respond to a more expensive, potentially riskier investment in the Wii’s successor.

 Again, a bit conspiratorial? Yes. But possible? Very.

Nintendo Fanboys are the most forgiving fanboys in the world


While many gamers might become too jaded by the Wii’s mediocre game library to invest in a post-Wii Nintendo system, Nintendo will always have the consistent backing of its fanboys. While every console admittedly has its own share of tenacious supporters, Nintendo’s fanboys have by far been the most vocal and the most dedicated.

Neither Microsoft nor Sony has the ravenously loyal fanbase that Nintendo has (though the morons in charge of Sony sure seemed to think so before the PS3’s launch). No matter what Nintendo does, there will always be a subsection of gamers, old and young, who immediately equate the word “Nintendo” with “video games” and end up buying every new Nintendo system that comes out.

Hey, look, a concluding paragraph

When written as a list of bullet points, the Wii’s future quickly looks pretty bleak. The hardware will never get better, Nintendo doesn’t need to create dozens of quality first-party games in order to turn a profit, and there will always be a core group of fanboys who will be ready to buy Nintendo’s next system, whatever it is. But to be fair, you can more or less flip a coin to decide whether the Wii will improve through its lifetime, or wither and stagnate as its predecessors did. On the one hand, the Wii has garnered an almost unprecedented amount of enthusiasm stemming from its accessible, innovative control style. On the other hand…well, you’re at the concluding paragraph of an article that has spent several pages talking about how little it profits Nintendo to make the Wii any better. You figure it out.

Anthony Burch