Nintendo’s Wii, Part V: Closing Thoughts (For Now) | iLounge Backstage


Nintendo’s Wii, Part V: Closing Thoughts (For Now)

Having spent the last six days with Nintendo’s Wii console, which is coming out in the United States this weekend, I wanted to just add a few last-minute, “big picture” thoughts on the entire experience that might help some people currently on the fence about the machine, and its competitors.

Yesterday, the Wii component video cable arrived, and as expected, it bumps up the resolution, and hence clarity of Wii’s video signal from 480i to 480p - a difference that’s noticeable, but still nowhere near the 720p and 1080p standards supported by Nintendo’s competitors, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3. In all honesty, I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that Nintendo just doesn’t care about high-definition video, true multi-channel audio (there’s no optical-out on the system), or any of the other features that are selling game systems to HDTV buyers and other early adopters. And here’s the shocker: right now, I’m not caring too much, either.

For the last week, I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had ten years ago with an executive from Sega. He pointed at the company’s then-latest arcade motherboard, and said correctly that the game we were watching - Virtua Fighter 3 - had reached a level of technology past which point advancements in resolution and graphics would soon suffer from diminishing returns: additional visual improvements would be expensive, but only noticed by hard-core gamers, just like hard-core audiophiles can hear minute differences between speakers or headphones. But average people just wouldn’t care. So here we are ten years later, and yes, there have been major visual improvements since then - lots of them, really - but virtually all of them are lost on 80 or 90 million of the people who buy game consoles. I’ll call them Bose gamers - people who are just looking for a good entertainment experience, and aren’t as concerned about specs as simplicity.

The Wii is the Bose Wave Radio of game consoles. It’s simple, maximized for fun game-playing experiences, and it just works - despite the fact that it has some unique features, mostly in its controller, which could have gone all wrong. True, it’s a little more expensive than some people thought it should be, but literally everything you need is just sitting inside the console’s cabinet already - there’s no need to spend $100 more for Wi-Fi (like Xbox 360 or the $600 version of PS3), or for wireless controllers, or for online gaming. Given what Microsoft’s charging for its wireless components, and as annual fees for online gaming, I can’t overstate the value of not having to deal with these sorts of added fees - Wii just makes it all easy on the consumer.

I’m not going to tell you that Wii is the end-all, be-all game console. It’s not. Putting aside their BluRay Disc and HD-DVD players, which really do nothing for me at all, Sony and Microsoft have both secured exclusive games for their machines that look appealing, and frankly better visually than what the Wii will ever be capable of delivering. In a perfect world, I’d be playing Virtua Fighter 5, Ridge Racer 7, and Gears of War some time in the very near future. Someplace in my head - the same one that bought HDTVs more for games than for TV or movies - the fact that these games look really cool is appealing. But I have to tell you that the high prices of the Xbox 360 and PS3 have basically turned me off entirely to the idea of being on the “cutting edge” of game graphics - so much so that I’m resigned to passing on these titles until their consoles come down in price to more reasonable levels, and the games are selling for $20 in bargain bins rather than $60 as “OMG I gotta have it now” titles.

And I’m very much okay with that. If Sony wants to charge $500-600 for a game console, that’s its choice. Let the 88,400 most excited people (or their line-holding proxies) help Sony recoup its staggeringly high development costs - most of which I’d argue were unnecessary, given that Microsoft came so close without having to create its own chips from scratch. In the meantime, I’ll be playing the much less expensive Wii, and having every bit as much fun. To me, right now, that’s what really counts. And when Mario comes out, I’m going to be locked inside the house for a few days playing it, no matter what else is out there. Zelda’s a strong start, but my money’s on Mario as the system’s true killer app.

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The Bose analogy makes a good point, but misses one too. In comparing Bose equipment to Audiophile equipment, they use the same software (recordings). The video game systems do not. I think the choice of which system to buy comes down to the software. Buy the system that has the games you want to play. For me, that’s always been Nintendo. As long as they keep making good Metroid, Zelda, and Mario games, as well as innovative new stuff, I’ll keep buying.

The only things that have ever tempted me to other systems were Final Fantasy and Halo. Those were never enough to get me to buy a whole system.

Posted by mattwardfh in Texas on November 15, 2006 at 4:23 PM (CST)


i agree with matt, basically people can argue for days about which system has the best specs and the best games, the coolest controller, who’s the biggest damn fanboy in the world, or which has the sweetest plastic case. 

but really it all comes down to opinion. i’ve owned basically every home console since the NES dropped back in the day, the majority of time spent with N64 and PS2, until i played Halo.  I was a sony fanboy, i wasn’t fanatic but i’d sure defend the system if some talked trash, i played Halo: CE tossed out the PS2 and bought an Xbox a week before Halo 2 came out and i’ll never switch back.  simply because i prefer the games that M$ releases, i don’t like sports games which most often perform best on the PS2, and im over the cartoony childishness of the nintendo games(thats just my opinion please don’t kill me).

also, why is ilounge giving so much time to technology that has nothing to do with ipods? granted im already sick of hearing about the ill-fated zune, but this seems pretty off topic fora DAP site

Posted by shutupndiethnx on November 15, 2006 at 7:37 PM (CST)


We have been reviewing non-iPod products on Backstage for two years now - we cover what interests us. The archives are here.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on November 15, 2006 at 8:12 PM (CST)


thanks for the great coverage. i really appreciate a quality review and commentary from a non-gaming source. i wish you’d give Red Steel a try though.

Posted by mrfett in Washington, D.C. on November 16, 2006 at 10:50 AM (CST)


can you comment on the online play? does it exist? what’s the status on playing other ppl over the network connection?

Posted by mrfett in Washington, D.C. on November 16, 2006 at 11:54 PM (CST)


The network’s not turned on yet - it will be on Sunday. We hope to check out Red Steel at some point.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on November 17, 2006 at 12:48 PM (CST)


It seems as if you have to use the remote and nanchuck in a physical way in every game is this true?  Can you just use the d-pad an 1,2,A buttons like a normal controller for each game?  I’ve also heard you can use gamecube controllers? Are these soley for gamecube games or can you use the old controllers for Wii games?

Posted by phoich on November 17, 2006 at 11:20 PM (CST)


Nice write-up Jeremy I agree with you on the Wii but I’ve got to disagree with you on your PS3 assessment.  Is it expensive…yep…too expensive that’s questionable.  Considering I’ve paid $399 for an ipod the $499 to $599 for the PS3 was really moot for me.

I was lucky enough to score one of these for retail and IMO it is one impressive piece of machinery.  Believe me I was as skeptical as you are about the machine, with all the bad press surrounding Sony lately but being a die hard techie I simply couldn’t bear not having the latest in bleeding edge tech.  I have been really impressed with the system.  The two games I have are really good and you can see the POTENTIAL for Sony to make this the digital hub they and MS have been promising for years.

P.S. - Red Steel is awful!

Posted by ArtVandelay on November 21, 2006 at 10:25 AM (CST)


My concern, that you touched on, is that the 360 and PS3 are for the cutting edge of technology. I think Nintendo is doing it right and making the correct bet that most people around the world either do not have tv’s that take advantage of HD content or can’t afford it. Also, with the technology to run the HD content being as new (read: expensive) it makes a lot of sense to hold off on that aspect of the gaming world until the prices come down for the system componants. By that time Nintendo will have (hopefully) the motion sensing down pat and the HD content will be easier to obtain, putting Nintendo back above everyone else, come the next series of consoles.

Great 5 articles, I appreciate the input you guys have given. Now if I could only play on a Wii vicariously through you…

Posted by aighead on November 21, 2006 at 10:29 PM (CST)

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