2010 has been a year that video game fans won’t soon forget. The year has been stacked with one triple-A title after another – and to say that the last eight months have been a little hard on the ol’ wallet would be an understatement.
Starting with Metroid: Other M, Nintendo has finally joined the club with a release schedule that looks absolutely stellar through the rest of the year. While Microsoft and Sony are focused on the launch of their shiny new peripherals, Nintendo will be bringing the heat with significant re-imaginings to some of their oldest and most beloved franchises. Let’s just say that an updated Donkey Kong Country excites me in ways that a new Call of Duty never could.
Wii haters will certainly decry a lineup that includes a new NBA Jam, a new Donkey Kong, a new Metroid, a new Kirby, and a new Goldeneye as old hat cash-ins. They’ll insist that the inevitable success of Wii Party appeals to that famous notion that the Wii is only purchased by old people and little kids with serious pocket change. Those arguments make very little sense of course, but they’ll still make an appearance. If you were to actually sit down and do the math you’d discover that six Halo games in nine years is a bigger cash-in to development ratio than ten Metroid games in twenty years, but why take the time to figure that out when you could be yelling on the internet?
Now believe me when I say that my Xbox 36o demands the vast majority of my gaming time. I’m an old school, hardcore gamer, with a soft spot for Nintendo-made products and a keen understanding of their current limitations. But there’s a difference between old school and old-fashioned, and it seems like most so-called hardcore gamers approach the Wii crowd like an old man hell-bent on defending the patch of grass in front of his home.
Which begs the question, does all of the vitriol and distaste directed at the Wii stem from a bigger issue than the Wii itself?
Is the Wii underpowered? Yes. Is it’s online infrastructure laughably archaic? Certainly. But do the games lack depth, quality, and replay value? Well… that might depend on who you ask. Sure, Nintendo games aren’t notable for their complex narratives, but does that matter as much in a video game as we’re lead to believe? Or is it mostly about gameplay, about figuring out how the world works and what you can do with it? Would Mario really be more fun if it was revealed that the use of power stars was an allegory for America’s dependence on oil companies?
I mean, as much disdain as the Wii receives from the online gaming community, it obviously has something going for it. My parents haven’t purchased a video game console since 1989 when they bought a used NES, but they own a Wii. My sister has played all of three video games up until five years ago but she now owns, plays, and thoroughly enjoys the 12+ Wii games in her entertainment center. It’s a sobering realization, but it’s altogether probable that the next generation of gamers is less about a date of birth than a state of mind.
But maybe what it really boils down to is that the Wii was never really intended to be our, the hardcore gamers’, sole console. Maybe we just don’t get it. Maybe it’s not Nintendo’s problem, but ours.
Look, I’m not saying that Nintendo doesn’t have some quality control issues to iron out and I’m not saying that third-party developers aren’t seriously slacking when it comes to Wii development, but isn’t it possible that gaming is evolving? Maybe that’s just the way that these things work, but I don’t want to be the guy grumbling about changes in gaming (in the same way that my father groused about punk rock, skateboards, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World).
Because what if history remembers Wii gamers as the hip, trendy, progressive, pick-up-and-play crowd while the rest of us are pegged as the conservative stalwarts, married to our virtual guns, chained to our consoles, and querulously reminiscing about the old days when gaming was more exclusive?
Feel free to draw your own parallels.