Where are Wii?

There are a few key things that are leading me to reconsider my stance on Wii. #1 on the list is… well, while the great games have been Really Really Great, the fact of the matter is that my Wii library is smaller than both my N64 and GameCube libraries – and my list of “would love to buy” titles (which is pretty long) doesn’t really make up for this (I have similar lists for N64 and GameCube). This is thanks to a couple of things, really:

The first is that Nintendo really hasn’t been good at bringing a balanced set of franchises to the Wii. I tend to try to go after entries in their core series – Mario, Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero – but only two out of those four have seen a Wii game (whereas all were represented on N64 and GameCube). Of course, this is just a small sample.

The second is that Nintendo hasn’t been consistent with bringing traditional first-party software to the Wii, period. 2008’s Wii Music debacle comes to mind, and now in 2011 there are only about four or five actually noteworthy games on their way between now and the day the console’s out – and this is stretching “noteworthy” to mean “titles shown at E3”: Skyward Sword, Kirby Wii, Mario Party 9, Fortune Street, and Rhythm Heaven. How many of these are traditional games? I count two. That means there are only two big traditional games on the list for the entire year and a half between last holiday season and the debut of the Wii U in the spring of 2012.

This is not to say that Fortune Street and Mario Party are bad or anything – they’re still really fun and great multiplayer experiences – they’re just definitely not what most of us were hoping Nintendo would pack into the sendoff year for the Wii (we all know that despite statements that the two consoles will coexist, they don’t even really coexist now). I don’t think Nintendo realizes that the Wii is not the PlayStation 2. It got where it is today by being cheap and producing cheap but fun games – which works when reaching to new customers – but what made PlayStation 2 the most successful game console (okay, apart from being a cheap DVD player) was that it had lots and lots and lots of games. Every kind of game, too, which meant something for every player. PlayStation 2 publishers didn’t just try to make individual software titles that were for everybody – they tried to make software for every individual audience, too. That’s why, despite the best-selling games on the PlayStation all being GTA or Gran Turismo games, the titles it was known for were its RPGs.

I once found a remark by a former GameStop employee about a conversation with a Nintendo marketing representative about their upcoming titles. The representative said that Nintendo was only really concerned with the one or two big titles that everyone will buy up each year. Whether this means the headline Mario game or a Wii series entry, I think we can trace Nintendo’s marketing history with the Wii and see that this has definitely been the case throughout the console’s entire life.

The result is that those of us who go beyond buying the one or two Wii games a year and pick up a game every month or so, those of us who have remained loyal to Nintendo’s brands throughout the years, have grown up with them and now see them as more than just holiday buys, we’re second-rate customers in Nintendo’s book. This, my friends, is the reason why Nintendo isn’t releasing Xenoblade in North America. It’s not really about the game being expensive to localize – it’s not when you get Europe to do it for you – it’s that we’re not considered valuable enough for first-rate service.

Sure, it’s the cheap-to-make, easy-to-sell games like Wii Sports and New Super Mario Bros. that drove the growth of the Wii (as well they should have), but if Nintendo is really a software company – and they consistently tell us that they’re all about software – then why does it seem like all of their efforts are focused on selling the system? Wouldn’t that make them a technology company, not a games company? After all, hardware is not software. I am not a Wii console fan; I am a Wii games fan.

Show me the games, and I will buy them and your console to boot. Refuse to show me games, and I won’t buy either. Nintendo might be able to afford getting away with this approach now that the Wii has such a huge install base, but I don’t think they can get people to seriously invest in an HD console until they prove that they’re serious about consistently delivering the software people expect from an HD console. And if they won’t even do this for their biggest audience with Wii (with already-finished games that need only to be translated), I can’t imagine they’ll do it with the even more expensive (and therefore much riskier) Wii U.

Well, at least they’re finally making real Motion Plus games…

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