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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

When Will We Get Hardcore Content On The Wii? Soon. Very Soon.

Up until now, the Wii is being viewed as a lightweight console, and with good reason. Taking a look at the major releases through the end of 2008 is kind of lackluster. As some people who are stuck in the 80's might say, "Where's the beef?" Indeed, where is the beef, Nintendo?

I am here to tell you that it coming fast and furious, and your hardcore console of choice will soon become the Wii. This isn't going to happen overnight, of course. It probably won't happen next month, or in six months. But it will happen, and it will happen soon.

To prove this point, one of my major points will be the Nintendo DS, which shares many similarities to the Wii. When the DS launched, it was underpowered compared to its nearest competition, the PSP. It had a weird touch interface that had many people wondering why on earth it was there in the first place. It also went supernova, and before its lifecycle is done, it will almost definitely surpass the Game Boy as Nintendo's number 1 system of all time.

Similarly, the Wii is underpowered compared to it competition. It has a weird motion interface that has some developers confused on how to use it. It also has gone supernova, and before its lifecycle is done, it will be Nintendo's most successful console by far. The next most successful console is the NES with 61 million units sold. The Wii had 45 million units sold by the end of 2008, a mere two years into its lifespan. It has more than likely surpassed the Super Nintendo by the time of this writing.

So comparing the two systems isn't a horrible reach, as they both had the same initial reception (namely, "...?") and seem to be following the same path toward acceptance. How do the games break down?

At first, the DS library was pretty barren. There were a few decent games out, but most of them weren't very inspiring. Here's a list of everything until about May of 2006:

Super Mario 64 DS - Nintendo
WarioWare Touched - Nintendo
Metroid Hunters - Nintendo
Yoshi Touch & Go - Nintendo - (By the way, this game STILL sucks.)
Kirby Canvas Curse - Nintendo
Meteos - Bandai
Super Princess Peach - Nintendo
Nintendogs - Nintendo
Pokemon Trozei - Nintendo
Advance Wars - Nintendo
Mario & Luigi Partners In Time - Nintendo
Resident Evil DS - Capcom
Animal Crossing Wild World - Nintendo
Mario Kart DS - Nintendo

There are some decent games in there, but on the whole you have a lot of non-core content. However, you can see that there are a lot of similarites to what's out for the Wii. In the past two years, you had a WarioWare game, Animal Crossing, a Wars game (in the Wii's case, Battallion Wars 2), a Resident Evil remake, a Metroid game, and Mario Kart.

Now, of course, the DS has tons of core content. It's still not the home of shooters (although Moon was halfway decent), but for strategy and action RPGs you really can't beat it. Developers are willing to try cool ideas for it, and new talent is coming up regularly. Of course, it's still the home of silly little kid's games and lots of remakes, but developers can't ignore it anymore. There's just too much market penetration to do so.

Let's go back to the Wii. The library thus far has been comparable to the DS' library over the first two years of the system. We've had great games like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, some middling games like Battalion Wars 2, and some weird things like Wii Fit and Wii Music.

Nintendo's strategy is usually to pump up the console during the first three years or so and then let the third parties take over while Nintendo focuses on the next console. It didn't work before because developers didn't want to make games for the N64 because it was so expensive to make. They didn't want to make games for the Gamecube because nobody had one so it was a waste of time.

This strategy WILL work for the Wii. If you're a developer, you will start putting out games for the Wii, because games on the Wii (like de Blob) actually sell. In a tight economy, you're going to redouble your efforts on the console with the most market penetration. Core content will begin to shift from the 360 and the PS3 over to the Wii. It's already starting.

(However, here's something that I don't get: The PS2 could handle shooters, and so could the XBox. The Gamecube had its fair share as well. Now, all of a sudden, a system that's three times as powerful as the Cube and more powerful than the PS2 and XBox CAN'T handle shooters? Why is this? Does that make any sense at all?)

More and more companies are going to start learning this. Since they won't be making games that live and die on graphics, that should drive development costs down, thereby making Wii games more profitable. How can this not work? How does this not make sense? I mean, it's pretty cut-and-dried to me. I suppose we'll see after E3 and the TGS if publishers are on the same wavelength.