Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wii Impressions (and Next-Gen in General)

Here's your two-word summary for the lazy among you: Nintendo won.

It's not easy to get the wireless connection working properly. The power cord is too short. The little thread that connects the controller to the retention strap is too flimsy. Even with component cables, the graphics aren't impressive. There will be a ton of crap games, with developers not using the motion-sensing capabilities properly.

So let me repeat this: Nintendo won.

They won because the Wii is the Guitar Hero of consoles. It is immediately, absolutely familiar to anyone. It's a hundred times more intuitive than a standard console controller (which is not inuitive in the slightest).

Pressing a button to fill up a "swing meter" is nonsensical. It exists to compensate for the limitations of hardware. Swinging a controller is perhaps a million times more fun.

I said months ago that Nintendo was going to have the largest installed base of this new generation, and that Sony was going to be a distant third.

That may sound crazy, but it's correct.

Here's what people didn't realize, although now they're finally starting to understand: the appeal of the Wii is not based on marketing. Neither is Guitar Hero's. In both cases, the appeal is based on people actually trying out the system/game and showing their friends.

The media coverage misled most people leading up to the launch, because so few people outside of E3 had actually had the opportunity to use the Wii. As soon as the mainstream press started trying it out, they were thrilled, because people who don't play games immediately feel comfortable with the controller. It's the way, in their minds, that games should be played.

And it is the way games should be played, if you think about it. They're games.


So what feels more like play? Sitting your ass on the couch and using a six button controller with shoulder buttons and trigger buttons, or standing up and moving?

Easy answer.

Right now, the media coverage is a little misleading, because everyone is falling all over themselves to praise the Wii, while Sony's getting a tremendous backlash. The reason there's a backlash is because all of Sony's pre-launch press wasn't based on any kind of reality--it was almost entirely based on Sony's marketing and outrageous claims.


So the media was slanting positive because they were tools, and now that they can actually use the console, they're saying things like "OH SHIT! THIS THING IS SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS!" and other amusements.

If you charge six hundred dollars for a game machine, it better be perfect, and the PS3 isn't. It's quiet, which is quite an engineering feat, but it's very expensive, and how many people really want to pay six hundred dollars to play Resistance: Fall of Man?

In the gaming press, people are tougher on the Wii--because they're asking the wrong questions. I hear Red Steel kind of sucks, and you know what? The overwhelming majority of people who buy a Wii don't care.

Seriously, why exactly does the Wii need to have a killer first-person shooter? Those are a dime a dozen, and those are the games that companies spend ten million dollars to make. Oh, and most of them are very repetitive games taking place "in the long corridor."

Here's another question. If you took a look at the people who actually make games, are they going to be sitting around playing the PS3, which is going to look almost exactly like the games for the 360, or are they going to be playing the Wii?

Sony also has production issues, and they are going to fall farther and farther behind in installed base. However, those production issues pale in comparison to the games issue, because there's just nothing coming out to make people buy a PS3. Take a look:
12/5 Fight Night 3
12/12 Full Auto 2
12/12 Blazing Angels
12/19 Sonic the Hedgehog
1/15 College Hoops 2K7
1/31 Rainbow Six: Vegas
2/1 Oblivion
2/65 Eye of Judgment
2/5 Godfather
2/5 Sing Star
2/6 F.E.A.R.

Port, port, port, the two hundredth Sonic game, port, port, port, gimmick, port, interesting (Sing Star seems kind of fun), port.

That's it for the next three months?

Not to mention that some of those games will get pushed.

Right now, if you look at the "coming soon" pages at EB or Gamestop (which includes accessories and strategy guides and all kinds of crap, so it's not just games), you'll see that the Wii's entries take up 5 screens (twelve entries per screen). The PS3's take up 8 screens. The Xbox 360's take up 7.

Just wait. By the end of February, the number of Wii entries will double. The PS3's will shrink.

Sony's bizarre talking points for the last year have basically demanded that we be grateful to them for all that they've done for us, and that we be grateful for them making a console that costs $600 and allows us to play HD movies. And somehow, the media bought it all.

It won't take more than a very small dose of reality for all of that to unravel, though, and it's already begun.

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