Will the Wii be more than a party console?

by Samm Bennett
Holidays tend to be a big time for me to play games, as it's quite infrequent that I have a day off with nothing that needs to get done. With the release of the Nintendo Wii, I fully intended to focus my days on clearing through the new Zelda and a few other games. Ultimately, I didn't even touch Zelda and the reason is clearly the fault of Nintendo. Due to the high accessibility of games like Wii Sports, I was unable to pry my Wii away from the hands of relatives during the many family gatherings. I'm not referring to teenage cousins though, I'm speak of my forty something aunt, my parents, and my two-year old nephew.

Despite my support for Nintendo's direction, I had been skeptical of the machine's capabilities until coming home to see my family playing with my Wii. To put this into perspective, my mother can barely use a computer and the last game my dad really played was Doom in the early 1990s. Yet there they were, bowling with the Wii. At that point I realized that Nintendo will succeed, at least in getting their consoles sold. But the question that comes to my mind is this: will these purchases result in dedicated gamers, or a crowd that just plays Wii Sports on a rainy day?

If this is the case, then a large install base won't really do Nintendo much good, and in fact could cause a disaster for Nintendo's hardcore gaming market (excluding fanboys). While the system is still in its infancy with very few titles available, it doesn't take a genius to deduce the system will have a huge number of party games to try to take advantage of the new gaming market. What happens then, when the novelty wears off and there's an over saturation of games simulating real life events that no one actually wants to do?

For the most part I'm fine with having a large amount of party games available (in fact I'm looking forward to drunken WarioWare); however, I am curious if the expected influx of new gamer's might take attention away from the creation of games not typically reserved for the casual market. Will we ever see the system's full potential in other game genres, such as survival horror, espionage, and platformers? If Hideo Kojima (producer and director for the Metal Gear Solid games) does get his own Wii project, can we expect something along the lines of his popular franchise (with an emphasis on story), a mutated Metal Gear Solid with tacked on Wii controls, or perhaps just another party game?

The Wii's ability to survive in the hardcore gaming space ultimately relies on how much effort third party publishers are willing to invest in making the controls impact gameplay. This does not necessarily emphasise intuitive controls or ease of use. Developers need to leverage the system's unique control methods to enhance the immersion of the game; otherwise these gamers will flock to the Playstation 3 or XBox 360 to increase the immersion via visuals and an enhanced online experience. Why spend hours trying to coerce a character on screen to do something with minimalistic graphics when instead four person, online coop is available with amazing graphics? This is exactly why I own Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the 360 and not the Wii.

Despite the pessimistic outlook, I have high hopes for the Wii. Nintendo has the opportunity to once again revolutionize what video games are, how they are played, and how they are perceived. That little white box has the potential to create games and applications (via the Wii channels) that we can't even fathom. Just about every develop wants to develop a game for the system, and all that's left for the audience is to wait and see if the Wii becomes more than a party console.

Originally published by The Triangle Newspaper.