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Five years on, what has the Wii's revolution REALLY changed?

A revolution in who's playing

Why was the Wii successful? Because 99% of everyone in the world bought one. So Nintendo succeeded in its plan of creating a glorious, shimmering nirvana of gaming for the whole global populace to share, then? Well, again, kind of.

You see the thing is, while casual gamers are now a staggeringly large part of the global audience (and don’t go moaning about that. It is, after all, just a sign of the maturation of the medium, in much the way that serious film fans now exist alongside folk who’ll just watch something if it’s on TV, and the way that passionate musoes exist alongside people who just listen to the radio), I can’t help feeling that the Wii can’t really take credit for that. In fact, I can’t help feeling that Nintendo’s little white waggle-box just came along at the right time, Nintendo just happening to be sitting on the biggest surfboard in the sea just as a massive wave hit and everyone decided they wanted a go.

The fact is, although it was the casual gaming poster boy for a while (or at least Nintendo’s marketing certainly aimed to create that impression), the Wii certainly didn’t create the casual gaming movement, nor has it remained the focus of it.

Casual gaming, you see, has been happening for decades. It’s just that people only started noticing it as a thing once companies like Nintendo started drawing artificial distinctions between types of game and gamer. People just like having fun. That’s why games of any kind exist. Yes, the increased complexity of modern console and PC video game interfaces has put many potential players off what we in the core gaming community deem AAA games, but in the broader, more encompassing definition of “video games”, everyone has been playing for years.

Everyone has become obsessed with Minesweeper and Solitaire at some point. Everyone has had a few cheeky games of Snake on their mobile. Everyone has messed around with online Flash games when they’re supposed to be working. My Grandma used to love a button-mashing evisceration-fest on Mortal Kombat II, and post-turkey Mario Kart was a Christmas family staple at my house for years. The equation isn’t complicated. Present people with simple fun, delivered with immediate reward and a low barrier of entry, and they’ll grab hold of that fun and become absorbed by it. It’s not marketing or innovation, or a whole new way of thinking about the delivery of entertainment. It’s just human nature.

Above: Simple fun. Not new

So yes, the success of the Wii might have given the rest of the big-budget console industry a nudge in making overtly marketed casual-friendly content (in the same way that a big profit in any industry always inspires copy-cats), but it certainly wasn’t the great visionary creator of a whole new world of casual gaming.

And it’s also worth taking note of software sales. Aside from a few mega-ton party games, third-party Wii software largely has not done too well. While the hardware sales have been through the roof, to this day a great many owners still just use the Wii as a tennis simulator when friends come over. We’re seeing a similar situation with Kinect’s huge hardware sales but small software-attachment rate, and when you compare those numbers to the regular success of iOS, Android and Facebook games, there’s a rather sobering scenario to observe. The Wii console might currently be in a terrifying number of homes around the world, but it’s a bit debatable as to how many of those ‘new players’ are actually still playing.

So the Wii might not have changed things for us as much as Nintendo thinks it has, but how has it changed things for Nintendo? Surely Ninty has to be in an infinitely better position than it was in 2005, right?

Topics

Nintendo

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74 comments

  • Atari2600Forever - September 1, 2011 2:08 a.m.

    Continued... From a business standpoint, the Wii was an unequivocal success. Nintendo's decision to scale down the specs of the Wii may have put off hardcore gamers (like myself), but their ability to offer a much lower price point than their competitors and still turn a profit (unlike the PS3 and Xbox 360, which sold at a loss for years) allowed Nintendo to accumulate mountains of cash and shot their stock price through the roof in the years following the release of the Wii (it has since come down due to lower Xbox 360 and PS3 pricing, the increase in the value of the yen, and uncertainty about the Wii U). The fact that Nintendo stock today is at the moment lower than before the Wii was launched does not tell us that the Wii was a failure; it tells us that companies in a competitive free market need to continue to innovate. Whether the Wii U succeeds or fails is a wholly different question as to whether the Wii was a success. As to the criticism that the Wii lacked enough 3rd party games, this again says more about the failure of 3rd party developers to use the Wii platform than about failure on Nintendo's part. Nintendo is a hardware company with a core group of franchise games with a loyal, devoted following. Nintendo sold more hardware than Microsoft or Sony, and they sold more indigenous software than many software companies, so again the Wii was a success for Nintendo in both the hardware and software categories. Anyone suggesting that the Wii was a failure is flat out wrong. Anyone with the slightest bit of business experience knows that any company would kill to be able to have a game-changing product like the Wii. It's my hope that Nintendo can continue their run with the Nintendo 3DS (which I've tried and hate) and the Wii U.
  • Atari2600Forever - September 1, 2011 2:06 a.m.

    This article is, in short, absurd. The Wii has been a phenomenal success, for Nintendo specifically and for the gaming industry as a whole. Before I get into it, let me offer what will surely be a fruitless attempt to preempt all the fanboys/haters. I have owned systems from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and I've enjoyed my experiences on consoles from all 3 companies immensely. I also consider myself to be a hardcore gamer, which is why I don't own a Wii. My personal opinion of the Wii is that it's a crappy kids gaming system. That being said, from both a business and a cultural standpoint, the Wii was an unqualified success. It is the most important and revolutionary game console since the PS1. First, the cultural imact. The Wii massively expanded the consumer base for video gaming. Video games are no longer the exclusive domain of kids and select adult male hardcore gamers. Elderly people, businesspeople with busy schedules, and even medical professionals are just a few of the groups of people who were able to see the various benefits that video games could bring to their lives. This expanded consumer base benefits the gaming industry as a whole, in that it gets more people interested in gaming. Major news organizations were no longer running stories only about the evils of games (violence, criminality, and profanity) but were writing and talking about benefits, such as fitness, mental sharpness, and ways for families to enjoy an evening together. The Wii changed the way we look at games as a culture by exposing benefits of gaming. Some of these benefits were new, and this was a result of the Wii's motion controller design. Before the Wii it would have been ridiculous to argue that video games can make you physically healthier. By getting people off their sofas and moving around, it created benefits that didn't exist before. The Wii also changed the social aspect of gaming. Video games at parties are nothing new, but the motion controllers made it easy for someone who had never played a particular game before, or even never played a video game before, to participate in the fun. Want to play tennis? You don't need to know which button is a backhand, or a drop shot. You just pick up the controller and swing at the ball. Want to bowl? Pick up the controller and throw the ball. Quality, innovative products spawn imitators. Despite all the flaming about who invented or designed what first, being first isn't nearly as important as doing something right. Nintendo was the first company to get motion controllers RIGHT. This spawned imitation and innovation from both Microsoft (Kinect) and Sony (Move). If the Wii had bombed, neither Kinect nor Move would exist.
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  • NeoTechni - August 29, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    "The classic controller is okay, but not great. The Gamecube pad is better," No, the classic controller is better in every way. Especially once you get one of those $1 grips. The gamecube controller is easily one of the most flawed ones in history.
  • NeoTechni - August 29, 2011 2:11 a.m.

    "With Microsoft and Sony belatedly jumping on the motion-control bandwagon in 2010" Sony jumped on with the Eyetoy, which Nintendo admitted was their inspiration for Wii. "Nintendo is pimp-daddy-king-boss of the Video Game County once again. And that, however you feel about the Wii, is a good thing" No it's not a good thing, and how I feel about Wii is a huge factor. Them being on top makes them complacent. They feel no need to improve themselves in the way the rest of the industry has. Them being on top is why 3DS cost so much at launch, and why it didn't come with the estore, or proper online support (for any system) Nintendo knows whatever they do, no matter how little effort they put into it, will sell. And that makes them lazy. There are PS1/PSP games with higher production values than even Nintendo's biggest games. Nintendo NEEDED the slap in the face Sony got with their $599 PS3.
  • Spybreak8 - August 28, 2011 7:54 p.m.

    Really I would hate it to be in the office hearing this crap, I mean every company claiming their system is going to be the second coming, every week. I can see where you're coming from. Aside from the lack of online functions, achievements and easy friend's list the Wii is a subtle alternative for entertainment but like what I just said is the main reason I never picked it up. It's not just graphics either, it's online infrastructure/physics and AI engines/basically the power to have Crackdown, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, GTA:IV and Just Cause 2 (very huge sandbox games which have amazing draw distance). Let's not even forget about the wonderful world of XBLA that grew out of nowhere, it wasn't going to happen initially, and is the perfect place for indie and risky yet fun games to be downloaded all across the globe. That said I'm loving the 3DS atm though, eagerly awaiting Star Fox, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, and games I haven't even heard about yet. I LOVE that I don't have to pay a subscription for it, because believe it or not I don't have a phone that I have a subscription for. SO no I don't want an iOS or Android phone and I'm good with a 3DS and a phone. Plus I would hate having one device, even able to do everything I want, that's super expensive and having the posibility of loosing the thing.
  • tofu666 - August 28, 2011 5:16 p.m.

    Interesting article
  • UsernameLoser - August 28, 2011 7:13 a.m.

    I see you have come to your senses GR.
  • AuthorityFigure - August 27, 2011 8:14 a.m.

    They're (Nintendo) are in a stronger position than they were at the GCN's retirement, and look what they did after that... They prefer it if you think that they are on the wrong track - it makes their marketing machine work better. If the author thinks that the Wii U announcement was forced from them too early, then we should expect that Sony and Microsoft should benefit further... In other words, he has all of his work in front of him in explaining any success that they may have.
  • AuthorityFigure - August 27, 2011 8 a.m.

    There's no evidence that there is a 'disenfranchised core' to win back, as it were. If the writer is using first-hand experience as the basis for this idea, then the data is too subjective to use. Also, the writer notes that casual gamers were there "all along", yet on the third page he calls it a "casual fad". Doesn't their persistence as an audience elevate them beyond a fad? I'm not convinced that this article is all that intellectualy honest.
  • santaclouse37 - August 25, 2011 9:15 p.m.

    This was an astoundingly well-written and well-thought out article that developed an accurate and in-depth look into an interesting topic. I can't really emphasize enough that this is exactly the kind of thing I love to see Gamesradar do, because no one else does it quite like you guys, if that makes any sense. (Another example would be the analysis of Portal 2)
  • raidramon0 - August 25, 2011 7:35 p.m.

    This is why Xenoblade Chronicles, Last Story and Pandora's Tower are unlikely to get North American releases. AAA titles just don't do as well as they should on the Wii. Remember MadWorld? Great game that's wound up in the bargain bin, the last place it deserves to be. I remember when my stepmom bought Wii Fit and I had to share my system until she got her own. What's the point in having awesome games if your younger siblings keep hogging the machine with their shovelware party games and not give you much time to play the games you want?
  • AuthorityFigure - August 27, 2011 8:16 a.m.

    I'm not convinced that MadWorld could have ever been a success. No black and white game has ever made significant sales, regardless of its merit.
  • NinSage - August 25, 2011 6:40 p.m.

    David- I'm sorry but your inability to credit the Wii for its (rather amazing) accomplishments shows a real lack of vision on your part. Whether they personally enjoyed it or not, anyone who can't appreciate what the Wii accomplished either wasn't paying attention or didn't want to believe what they saw. Now, I know among the "hardcore" gamers that frequent "hardcore" websites, saying that the Wii is a paper tiger is like throwing fresh chum to starving sharks - and hey - everyone likes to be popular, right? But ya know what would make gaming media really popular? Having the guts to embrace the new audience and the security to enjoy it. Instead, everything Nintendo accomplished was dissected and scrutinized until it was deemed a failure. Imagine holding the same standards to our beloved PS3s or 360s? I guess you can't fail at promises you never make? What was the contribution of scoffing at Nintendo's ideas just to imitate them? What does the timeless practice of more pixels = better gaming really say about those boxes? Why are Halo and God of War made successful by core gamers but somehow we think only the unwashed casual masses buy Nintendo products? I've said all this a thousand times before but... let's face it... this isn't exactly the choir I'm preaching to. Yet, I stand by my words... if anyone at all (especially, you, David!) wants to have a respectful chat about this topic with me, I can be reached at NinSage@NinTemple.com - I'd love to hear from anyone brave enough to open their mind!
  • Ben Tyrer - August 26, 2011 6:56 a.m.

    I wouldn't really say this is the case at all. Plenty of Wii games have been well embraced, such as Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby and the recent Xenoblade game. Also, no one is suggesting that it is just core gamers making Halo successful or that Nintendo has no core fans. It's just that core gamers have adopted the 360/PS3 as the console of choice this cycle. Finally, do Braid, Limbo et al full under the more pixels mantra? I personally don't see how the Wii has lived up to the it's potential.
  • NinSage - August 26, 2011 5:34 p.m.

    Sorry, I think we're on slightly different wavelengths here as I never said certain games weren't well-received. But we're speaking generally here and, generally speaking, the gaming media dismisses any positives the Wii accomplishes. Even "good" (3rd party) games are brushed aside because they aren't on the "console of choice." Which, by the way, says a lot that you even phrase the 2 other platforms as the (singular) console of choice. If you'd really like to discuss it with me I'm confident you would understand my points clearly, but asynchronous communication (like this thread) will never accomplish that. If you care to stop by NinTemple.com's chatroom on either a Sunday @ 6pm EST or a Wednesday @ 8pm EST, I'm sure we could have a healthy discussion!
  • EnigmaSpirit - August 25, 2011 6:05 p.m.

    Great article. I found it really interesting. I really hope that they do well with the 3DS. If it get's some good games on it (like what appears to be coming before the end of the year), and maybe a name change then it would be great. Seriously, I can't count how many times I have heard "So... it's a ds, just 3d?" It's not, and I hate having to explain each time.
  • jackthemenace - August 25, 2011 4:37 p.m.

    Well, the only games ever played on our Wii are New Super Mario Bros., but my (younger) sister, Mario Kart, by my (younger) sister(s) when they have friends round, and Resi 4, by me. And with Resi 4 HD coming out on PS3 in the not-too-distant-future, I'll finally be able to wash my hands with the Wii. Except for maybe playing old GC games like Pokemon Coliseum, that is.
  • D0CCON - August 25, 2011 3:28 p.m.

    A great, true, and sad article. As for the future, I really, really, really want the 3DS to succeed. I'm loving the thing, I just preordered Super Mario 3D Land, and I can think of more than 5 games off the top of my head that are coming this year or early next year that I intend to buy. Hopefully the Wii U is great too, but I have absolutely 0 interest in it.
  • raidramon0 - August 25, 2011 3:07 p.m.

    This is why Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora's Tower, and Last Story are unlikely to get North American releases. AAA titles like these just don't do well on the Wii. Remember MadWorld? Great game, but sold poorly. I remember when my Stepmom bought the Wii Fit. I had to share my console with the family until she was able to get her own. What's the point in AAA titles if your family hogs the thing so much with their party games that you can't actually play them?

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