A Wii-ly Great IdeaMark Fossen

Posted on June 27th, 2007 in Gaming, News, Opinion, Wii by Mark Fossen

From The Department Of “About-****in’-Time!”: WiiWare.

Though there’s been an online marketplace available to the grandpas and soccer moms who have catapulted the Wii into the sales stratosphere, it’s been substantially different than competing offerings available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Those two systems have offered an outlet for digitally distributed original titles, but Nintendo has reserved their initiative for inexpensive trips down memory lane. It always seemed to me that the concept of the Virtual Console was an admission that Nintendo fully expected they would spend yet another console generation preaching to the converted, rehashing their franchises for the hardcore collector and fan.

WiiWare seems a reaction to the console’s success among the casual mainstream of gaming, a mainstream that isn’t particularly interested in the adventures Mario and Link were having in decades past. What this new audience wants minigames and lots of them. They want casual titles that are easy and fun without crossing the threshold into a serious pursuit. The sort of downloadable games that litter that PC gaming landscape, the Bejeweleds and Zumas of the world, already have a proven track record on the Wii, when you think about it … what is Wii Play or Wii Sports, but a collection of download games slapped on a disc?

The fact is, the Wii is perfectly positioned to deliver these casual gaming experiences … and you won’t need to buy them on discs and in collections costing $50. It’s a match made in heaven: casual games for a casual audience. Their price point alone defines the 360 and PS3 userbases as “hardcore”, and ensures that the bulk of system owners are looking for something more substantive than Bookworm or Solitaire. When I drop half a grand on a next gen system capable of incredible 5.1 sound and 1080p graphics …. I don’t want to play Sudoku. Using these hardcore platforms as a delivery vector for Uno has always seemed odd, and seems destined to perpetually be in the background of the console’s target audience.

WiiWare also answers my continual concern about the Wii’s success: longevity. I know the console is selling like hotcakes, but how many of these gamers are prowling the game isles at Target and Walmart for the latest releases? How many Wiis out there are simply Wii Sports machines, destined to collect dust in a few months’ time? For a price-sensitive consumer, how appealing is a game that costs a fifth of what the entire console did in the first place? Games in the ten-dollar range is more in line with what this maintream consumer is used to from their PC and cellphone purchases. It’s going to take education to raise awareness that there is an online store, and how it works, but that seems an easier hill to climb than convincing people to drop $50 on a game when they next hit their local megastore in search of shampoo.

WiiWare may signal a dramatic shift on the landscape of downloadable games, and may prove to be a legacy more significant than waggle by a longshot.

2 Responses to 'A Wii-ly Great Idea'

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  1. dave360 said,

    on June 27th, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    I know I may get flamed a bit for this, but that’s ok. I bought my wife a Wii back in March and I honestly haven’t picked up the controller since Tecmo Bowl came out and don’t anticipate doing so for a while. Short of Super Mario Bros, Tecmo Bowl, and Punchout, I have no interest in any of the games that are out now or any that are coming out anytime soon. My wife plays it all the time, but me, not in a while.

  2. on July 6th, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    […] A Wii-ly Great Idea […]

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