I like the small controller. I like the backward compatibility. I even like the concept and active movement by the player. But I don’t buy it.
Let me say for the record, I hope it does well. I hope it’s a success. I even hope it is the new revolution in video gaming. But there is no way Nintendo Wii will be a mega-hit in the United States.
Nintendo has a whole iPod-looking website up right now dedicated to their new, small form factor game console. They have gone back to their roots with signature franchises like Super Mario, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. This is no surprise — Nintendo always phones home when it’s taking a risk. Two Italian guys, some swords, and Excite Bike (Excite Truck in Wii’s case) didn’t save Gamecube, and nothing is going to make Wii an American hit on the scale of Xbox, Xbox 360, and all the numerical Sony platforms. The Public Relations Guys and Girls on all sides are trying to chip away at public opinion as we speak.
Wii has had plenty of publicity. Most video game consoles tend to generate a fair amount of buzz. Nintendo clearly beat Sony in public relations efforts at The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
E3 is often the soapbox that media corporations use to unleash their latest and greatest onto the world. For all intents and purposes, Nintendo swept the hype awards.
Here are a few peeks at what E3 looked like if you weren’t there:
They should have gotten the English-speaking actors for E3. But here is the reaction some people are giving Sony’s E3 showing.
[ADBLOCKHERE]Sony gave a release date, November 17, 2006. They gave a price, which is expensively $499-$599 depending on the hard drive configuration. They’re even offering their complete online gaming experience for free.
Maybe this is why their marketing initiative flopped at E3.
Sony gave too much away — despite the price of the Playstation 3, which I expect to drop by $100 before the launch. They said, here it is, it’s great, here’s when you’ll get it, and here’s everything you’ll get.
Take another look at the first Nintendo Promo Video. No prices; no exact release date. All you’re getting here is a high energy video in a high energy booth at E3 that teases the assembled journalists so that they’ll want more.
Sony put a gyroscope into their new controller — in effect this could be better than the Wii controller because no external hardware will be required by the Playstation 3. However, they kept the exact same looking “dual shock” design that the original Playstation had. Wii’s controller is different — it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Thus, you want to touch it, feel it, and get to know the Wiimote. It may offer absolutely sub-par gaming, but it’s different and journalists love different.
So, Nintendo won the public relations battle at E3 over Sony. Nintendo gets a point.
In other news, Molly Smith, senior director of communications and brand development, one of the top public relations officials at Sony, quit June 1. Gamespot reported that the departure came as the result of changes being made at the public relations level, which included bringing in a former THQ executive.
A problem of specs
Simple problem: Wii only supports up to 480p resolution. Xbox 360, released over a year before the Wii will be launched, already supports 1080i resolution. All Xbox 360 games run at a minimum of 720p. Gamepro confirmed what I had suspected as well, Wii will have no digital audio port. This means you’re limited not only to low resolution graphics (and trust me, 480i will be low resolution by the end of the year) and two-channel audio.
Playstation 3, according to Gamespot, will feature support for up to 1080p resolution and will boast built-in HDMI ports (yes portS) and optical digital audio supporting Dolby Theater Sound.
Nintendo Wii will not feature built-in DVD video support. An external dongle will be required. Playstation 3 will support not only DVD but next generation Blu-ray technology. Playstation 3 will be the only console at the time of release to support that technology.
An Xbox 360 (top) and Wii screenshot of EA Sports' Madden NFL 2007.
Nintendo boasted their new and unique style of gameplay. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata lays out the philosophy:
With each passing year, video gaming has become an exclusive experience. The complexities of some of the newest games have alienated those who used to play games with their entire families. Wii changes all that. Nintendo has created the most inviting, inclusive video game system to date. Thanks to our unique controller, anyone of any age or skill level can pick up and play games on Wii.
I have to say, I agree. Look, when Doom came out in 1994, it basically created the three-dimensional action genre that we know today. And I played that game so much that I am sure arthritis is in my future. But it was simple. Arrows to move, control to shoot, space to open doors. If you really wanted to get creative, you could hold down the Alt key to move side-to-side. Atari featured one button and a joystick to move, NES was two buttons, Sega Genesis was three, Super Nintendo four, and it has risen exponentially since. Nobody is going to argue that gaming has gotten complex.
The learning curve has definitely risen, but this is the price you pay for a better gaming experience. I can play John Elway’s Quarterback for the NES. It features the blue guys versus the red guys. EA Sports has a contemporary solution for modern consoles in Madden NFL 2007.
Sometimes, you have to learn how to fly before you’ll be ready to take off.
The trade off with Wii is that you get easy-to-play games with obsolete graphics and sound technology. People in this country are willing to pay $6,000 for a gaming PC because they want the best possible graphics and sound technology. Price point is not going to make or break any video game console.
The Playstation 3 has what gamers want, great graphics and great sound. Pair that with the selection and variety of games available to the Playstation users, and you have a winner. American gamers are simply not ready to use their other senses in gaming yet, especially when Wii isn’t even trying to max out the visual and audible parts first.
The end result will be in the demographics. Nintendo is marketing to the “masses,” otherwise known as people who don’t currently play games. Sony is marketing to gamers, and gamers want digital audio and high definition video right now.
Here is what I do believe.
Nintendo Wii will gradually continue to be hyped until its release in late fall. It will be priced below the Playstation 3. It will sell very well during the holiday season among families with younger children, new to gaming. It will sell well among hardcore gamers in the 18-28 age range.
It will be one of the most amazingly modded systems of all time.
There is so much potential among those that want to convert to “moving games” that I certainly think that you’ll see baseball bats, golf clubs, guns, and more that employ the Wii technology. I think standup “arcade-style” mods of the Wii will come about. A few, very motivated devotees will even create “Wii rooms” in their houses for a full spatial Wii experience. I think the Wii will fare much better than the Sega Dreamcast did, but I don’t think we’re on the eve of a revolution. I just don’t buy it.