The Wii is a marvelous device. Even though it’s constantly under fire by many in the gaming community that consider themselves “too hardcore” to bother themselves with “underpowered hardware,” it doesn’t seem to matter. Even I’ve been surprised by it all. I always expected the Wii to take a second-place spot behind the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 — on paper, it just seems so underwhelming. Is Nintendo the least bit fazed by this? Not at all.
Nintendo continues to laugh all the way to the bank as Wii shortages continued through yet a second Christmas season, and there’s still proof that people just can’t seem to get enough of what critics compare to discount-bin hardware with yesterday’s technology. Still, it marches on, oblivious to the criticism… and why wouldn’t it?
The control scheme may be starkly different, but the Wii isn’t exactly forging new territory on the hardware front. The PlayStation 2 proved long ago that having the most cutting edge hardware isn’t necessarily the ticket to taking home the biggest prize. Though easily outmatched visually for several years by the Xbox and GameCube (before developers figured out how to optimize the code for it), it came out on top. Hell, it’s still on top.
So why does analyst Michael Pachter seem to believe that the era of the Wii is near about over? He points to continued price cuts (and high profile games) from the competition to erode Nintendo’s lead. There is no doubt that price cuts do spark interest in other consoles, but it’s not exactly like Nintendo can’t do the same. So what is a competitor to do?
More of this, after the jump.
Sony and Microsoft are by now, well aware of what is driving Wii sales — the Wiimote. It doesn’t exactly take an army of scientists to figure it out. What got you excited about buying a Wii in the first place? As much clout as Mario and Zelda have, it was most likely the thoughts of playing these games in a whole new way that first attracted you to the console. After all, we had great first party games on the GameCube (even with impressive visuals that rivaled the PS2), and history shows that Nintendo didn’t take the world by storm with that hardware.
Price cuts and great games will continue to strengthen the positions of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, but they aren’t going to take out the top dog just yet. Somewhere in the well-lit recesses of the research and development departments of each respective company, Sony and Microsoft are taking this into account, and are deep in the planning process of countering Nintendo’s next showing. Sony tried heading it off (this round) at the start with an offshoot of its own, the SIXAXIS controller. It didn’t seem to help, and Microsoft took notice.
Does this mean that Sony and Microsoft need to resolve themselves to defeat and let Nintendo enjoy its time in the Sun? Like that’s going to happen! With time, both are going to continue to cut into Nintendo’s lead by doing what they are doing now: cutting prices and making great games. I’m not going to say that the Wii will stay on top forever, but I’m not going to predict its downfall either. Until near about everyone has it, sales of the Wii are likely to continue. Say what you may about the visuals and quality of the games as compared to the Xbox 360 or PS3, the underdog that is Nintendo is very much holding its own — and like I said before, it has everything to do with the Wiimote.
Flashy graphics and blinding processor speed might be important to the most vocal in the gaming community, but to the average consumer, its all about interesting controllers that let you get off the couch and mimic movements that are familiar to us all on a basic level. They don’t tend to hang out on message boards and blogs like us, but their buying power speaks for itself. We like to take an elitist’s view of the whole situation, but we always seem to forget that we are but a slice of the complete picture. We just bitch a lot more.
I still wonder how naysayers would feel about the Wii if it had hardware that was somewhere in between the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Would they still love to hate it?