So, before I get cynical, let me be perfectly clear:
If you want to buy me a great holiday present, buy me a Nintendo Wii. I want it, I love it, I need it. Get it for me.
Now, as the buzz builds, and I see machines priced at $300 over retail due to the scarcity of the machines, I thought I’d comment on why I want one.
It’s not because of the name. Wii? Are you serious? Even the codename, “Revolution” was better. If Nintendo needs to trim the fat on their marketing expenses, I’m pretty sure we can find some of the people responsible for that name to top the list.
It’s not because of the new controller. Nintendo really seems to have gotten the press going after E3 this year. All I see now are articles highlighting this new controller that lets you “swing a bat” or “cast a rod”. It seems to have hit some sort of chord with journalists who for the most part don’t play video games, but see some sort of excitement in a video game system that has more interaction in it and is easier to learn. Forbes has even reminisced about the old codename for the machine, by saying Nintendo’s Wii is a Revolution.
But you are talking to a Nintendo fan from the mid-1980s. Someone who bought the Light Gun. Someone who bought the Power Glove. Someone who has been promised these type of innovations before, and eventually realized that they are, in fact, just a gimmick.
Some of the best games ever had a single joystick and a single button. Or used four keys on keyboard. There have been exceptions – games that became famous because of their input device. I’m thinking of Centipede with the trackball or Dance Dance Revolution. Sometimes they create an entire genre of games (how many shooters with pistols have you seen in the arcades over the past 10 years.) In most cases, however, the input device does not define the quality of the game.
I’m just not convinced that Nintendo is going to redefine the input device for all games, which means that most good games will be designed for a traditional controller. And that means that someone is going to make a lot of money selling a traditional game controller for the Nintendo Wii very soon.
It’s not because of the price, although who would have thought $249 would be the “low end” price in late 2006 for a modern game system. And that’s without HD!
No, I want a Wii for a very simple reason, and it is the reason I’ve wanted every game system that I’ve ever owned since the Atari 2600.
It’s the software, stupid.
Nintendo continues to make unique and great games. Games that you cannot find on the other platforms, games that are better designed for all ages. I want to play the next Zelda, I want to play the next Mario. I’m excited about the fact that in a year or two I’ll be able to play the next Mario Kart with my son. I’m even excited about the fact that I may be better than him at it… at least until he turns 6 in 2010.
Sony has tried this round to differentiate themselves with better graphics. It’s ironic, since this was the approach that Microsoft tried to take with the first Xbox, and failed. Why? Because in a world where most games are made by third parties, the games tend to be cross-platform. Cross-platform means lowest common denominator development, in most cases.
That’s why it was rare to see significant improvements in the Xbox version of a game over the Playstation 2. And that’s why it’ll be rare to see significant improvements in a PS3 version of a game over the Xbox 360.
Microsoft is smarter this time. They have unique software for their platform based on in-house game developers that they have built or acquired. Of course, Microsoft has it’s own strategic fault, which is that they are a dual-platform gaming company. They continue to build games both for the Xbox 360 and for Windows. As a result, since most people have a PC, they can buy a PS3 and know full well that they will be able to play any game from Microsoft on their Windows PC, and any others on the Sony PS3.
I’m sure I’ll end up with an Xbox 360 or PS3 at some point, when the prices come down, and when I actually have an HD television in the living room.
But for now, buy me a Nintendo Wii. I need to start practicing now if I’m going to maintain my video game edge over my son through 2010. After all, he’s already 2.