Pre-E3 assessment: Wii

As mentioned in the PS3 and 360 posts, I’m taking a look at each of the consoles ahead of the E3 event next week and discussing what I perceive to be their weaknesses, and what they could announce at E3 to improve things.

As before, each console will broken down into three categories: hardware (concerning the actual console itself), hardcore software (with “hardcore” being shorthand for the dedicated gamers who read video game news sites and are part of gaming communities) and casual software (with “casual” being used to describe both the gamers who enjoy the hobby but don’t immerse themselves in it, and the expanded audience that has been attracted to gaming by the Wii).

Wii

Hardware

Wii01

Current Problems: There aren’t really any.  The console is acceptably cheap for the masses (and makes a profit on each unit sold) and is relatively free of hardware trouble.  Generally the main criticisms that could be levelled against it are that it’s not HD (making it forever unattractive to a certain portion of the hardcore market), its storage solution (using SD cards as additional storage space) is inelegant, and its online and community features are lacking.

Possible Solutions: All fairly basic; an HD Wii with a larger internal memory, and an update to the Wii’s software to expand its online functionality.

Likely E3 Solution: An HD update is unlikely.  It risks making the original Wii into an inferior model that can’t play new games, makes games more expensive to develop when cheap development is one its strengths, and makes it easier to make games simultaneously for the Wii HD, PS3 and 360, losing the Wii a lot of exclusives and potentially watering down the motion controls.  An overhaul of the Wii Menu and online features also seems unlikely because online home gaming has yet to come across as a priority for Nintendo, and would likely be part of their next console (and maybe not even then).  A Wii with a larger storage capacity seems the most likely of the three, but is still in no way guaranteed.

Likely Result if No Solution is Announced: Nothing much.  Some gamers will continue to dismiss the console as a fad or inferior machine, while Nintendo sells a ridiculous amount of hardware and software each month.

Software (Hardcore)

Wii02

Current Problems: A rather significant problem is that a lot of gamers feels the Wii has no games aimed at them, and that Nintendo in particular have given up on the hardcore to chase the currently more lucrative casual gamers.  Since the last E3, Nintendo’s hardcore Wii games have essentially been Punch Out! and a 2D Wario game.  There have been some third-party releases to help with that, but not enough.

Possible Solutions: Lots of exclusive, hardcore games being either revealed or confirmed as 2009 releases, and ideally several for early 2010 as well.

Likely E3 Solution: It’s difficult to tell what Nintendo will do.  Last year they believed they had satisfied the hardcore by showing Animal Crossing: City Folk and Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, so this year could end up equally lacklustre.  Alternatively, Pikmin 3 (which was only casually mentioned in conversation last year) will likely make an appearance, even it’s not exactly a AAA hardcore system seller.  Both the Mario and Zelda teams are working on games and it would be great to see something from them.

Likely Result if No Solution is Announced: Likely very little.  A lot of hardcore gamers will continue to dismiss the system as being a casual/kiddy machine with little or no real games, casual gamers will continue to buy the big casual Nintendo releases, and hardcore gamers who own a Wii will feel unappreciated again.

Software (Casual)

Wii03

Current Problems: None at all, really.  The Wii’s major casual releases dominate the software charts – at least, those released by Nintendo (although Wii Music was a surprise failure for them).  Third-party games don’t do as well as Nintendo games, but there are still publishers who are doing well from the Wii.

Possible Solutions: None.  Nintendo could maybe try to more closely integrate third-party games with the system, but that problem isn’t necessarily something Nintendo can deal with (although some third-party games will ship with the Wii Motion Plus addon, which could help with their sales).

Likely E3 Solution: No problems, so no solutions.  Nintendo are expected to unveil at least something new for the casual audience as well as showing off Wii Sports Resort, which would serve to keep that audience happy for some time.

Likely Result if No Solution is Announced: Things will continue as they are.  As far as the casual sector goes, Nintendo have things pretty much sown up.  Even if Microsoft and Nintendo both unveil their own motion control devices, Nintendo is already firmly entrenched as the leader in this sector, and the Wii Motion Plus addon should keep the excitement levels up for the Wii.

Image Sources:

All images: Amazon US.

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