Looking at my games library, I see more white cases (and a red one) than I see clear or green cases. There’s no mistaking it, my Wii has gotten the most attention this generation than my PS3 (which I got 2 years after the I got my Wii near launch). A Nintendo Customer Service rep (long story) even looked through my Wii account and said it was the largest account he’d ever seen. “Points redeemed, points redeemed, points redeemed…” is all I heard for about a minute. So yes, you can say that I’m a satisfied customer. I like the Wii, and thank god it came out when it did (the world would be a browner, grayer place if it didn’t). But still, there’s always this niggling feeling that I get; that the Wii is capable of something more. Maybe the Wii does have that “something more.” But with so many problems plaguing the Wii now, and with Project Cafe potentially being revealed at E3, the Wii may never reach that “something more.” And that’s a damn shame.
To me, the Wii is a Dreamcast of a different sort. SEGA got many things right with the Dreamcast, and put SEGA back on the map after so many blunders. But that return to glory would be short-lived, as SEGA discontinued production of the Dreamcast, effectively ending the SEGA line of consoles and SEGA becoming a third party company. But the legacy of the Dreamcast lives on, with many gamers still having the console plugged in, remakes/ports/sequels of Dreamcast games being demanded, and games still being made to this day for the console (where do you thing Triggerheart Exelica came from?).
So how does this compare to the Wii? Well, like SEGA, Nintendo had its own troubling reputation (depending on who you asked), this time being looked at as the “Kiddy Game Company.” The N64 ended in second place. The Gamecube looked to make a repeat at launch. But things got so bad near the end of the lifecycle, with EA Sports and other major publishers stopping support, and loss of exclusivity with Resident Evil 4, that the GC would be first to bow out (meaning first to have games no longer made for it, not a halt on the production of the console), making the console 3rd place near the end. Nintendo sought to change their image, their vision, and their goal. With a renewed focus on the casual market, the Wii was released, and suddenly Nintendo was back on top of the game, selling Wiis like crack in a South Bronx street corner. But what about the “hardcore”? At first, they bit and held on. But over time, the worm started tasting like shit and they let go. In other words, they sold their Wiis after realizing that they were being duped and largely ignored. But for those that held on, we enjoyed it. Our games were different than the ones on the other consoles, and we liked it. For the “hardcore,” is was too late as the moved onto a another console, just like the Dreamcast.
But what makes this slightly different from the Dreamcast? Well, the fact that it’s still alive, officially, long after the hardcore left, is one difference (I’ll get to the second difference later). The flame of the Wii still burned brightly, but others were busy looking at the green and…black…red (look, whatever color represents the PS3). Admittedly, we probably wanted others to notice the blue flame, to notice the Wii and see that it’s not as bad as “hardcore” gamers and media outlets put it. But no one was going to notice. But why then? Why were “hardcore” gamers ignoring this console? Why did they adopt, only to give it back, so early? In the end, it all pointed to Nintendo…of America. You see, corporate tomfoolery on NoA’s part probably contributed to our games library being vastly different from Japan’s games library. It started pretty early on too. Project H.A.M.M.E.R. was canceled early on (for all territories) and Disaster: Day of Crisis looked like it was dead too. But lo and behold, it came out in Japan and Europe. But America? Nope. Nintendo of America had no interest in releasing the game here (And we’re very obviously not gonna get the game now). The second bit of idiocy involved someone dressed in spandex by the name of Captain Rainbow. Wii Gamers demanded the game to be released here. But NoA wouldn’t budge, and continued to cater to the casual audience.
Other complaints started mounting too. The Wii not having a hard-drive was one of the earliest ones. Laurent Fischer from Nintendo of Europe was quoted saying, “The only people concerned about the Wii not having a hard-drive are geeks and Otaku.” Ouch. She quickly changed her stance after after Wii gamer backlash (read: “I stand by my statement, but I’ll say it kinder this time”). Even though this was from the European branch, her statement resonated in the US as well. The next thing that bothered Wii gamers was the promise to make everyone smile. Cammie Dunaway, in all honesty, annoyed the hell outta us. She joined in 2008, and she, along with many other Nintendo employees, embarrassed the living shit outta the the entire Wii universe at E3 3008. This was the last straw for most owners of the Wii, and the mass exodus was started. Wii Music came out later that year, and while it did sell over a million copies, it was vastly lower than what Nintendo had anticipated. This was a sign that Nintendo was slipping on its grasp on the casual market. The lukewarm release of Wii Fit+ was another sign, as barely anyone even noticed it came out.
Nintendo had to do something, and fast. They did with E3 2009 with the reveal of Metroid: Other M, Sin & Punishment: Star Sucessor, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Finally, Nintendo seemed like they were on their “A” game, making games that, well, looked like games! Of all the games mentioned, Sin & Punishment got the lowest sales (but was an excellent game). Metroid: Other M was hotly anticipated (I remember being speechless for the rest of the day after the reveal), but turned out to be unexpectedly average at best (and to some, downright awful). But the other two games,SMG2 and NSMBWii, in all honesty, were the most hardcore of the bunch. Outwardly, they looked really easy. But when you started playing the game and got further into the worlds, the stages got downright sadistic. Nowadays, if Nintendo releases a game with the Super Guide, we know the game is gonna be fuckin’ hard. Nintendo finally returned as the King of Nintendo Hard. E3 2010 kept the Nintendo Wii Hype train going with the reveal of Donkey Kong Country Returns (and the 3DS, but let’s focus on the Wii).
But something was amiss. While many were busy looking at the games Nintendo was showing, some got curious as to what certain other games were getting released by Nintendo in Japan. Answer? What…the…freakin’…hell!? A game from the creators of Xenosaga, another from Mistwalker, a game from Sandlot, and one from…okay, who cares, the games look awesome! And so everyone begins to wonder, where were these games a few years ago? How come Nintendo of America hasn’t decided to release these games yet in America. So far no one really knows why (and if they were using Sin & Punishment as a test, that’s really unfair). One reason for their creation could probably be to reel in the hardcore again, like they did at the Wii’s launch. But like the Dreamcast, it may be too late. The only people who probably own a Wii now are the most dedicated of Wii owners, or the real hardcore games who never sell back their games/consoles. Looking at Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, it’s almost like looking at the past glory of the PS2 era, when games pushed the limits of art and did their hardest to play good. We want these games on the Wii. But the “hardcore” really don’t care, and NoA has no interest. At this point, it looks like there’s no hope for these three games (including Xenoblade), or games like this.
This is far from over. Check out Part 2, where I cover the missteps on third party support from Nintendo and their terrible marketing choices.