Nintendo Wii

Hi, everybody. I've been lurking the forums for awhile, but I finally thought of something I wanted to talk about, so I made an account.

My question is: Was the Nintendo Wii in any way a good idea? Was there a way for it to change the world forever? Was it in any way special? To me, the Wii feels like a dream, almost like it never happened. It made such a huge cultural impact at the time, but these days, people who care about games don't talk about it nearly as much as the PS2, PS3, and Xbox 360. Still, it seems to me that there is so much to say and analyze about it.

For me personally, the most fascinating aspect of the Wii was all the non-game channels it had. This was right around the time when the first iPhone came out, so the idea of downloadable apps on anything that wasn't a computer was still new to me (and I imagine new to a lot of other people too). There were some typical non-fun channels, like the Weather channel and the News channel, but there were also channels like Everybody Votes, and Check Mii Out, which I found both so exciting at their release. They were both incredibly simple: in Everybody Votes you were presented polls on inane topics and selected a choice. After the poll closed you got to see what the rest of the world voted on. The Check Mii Out channel consisted of contests where you had to make Miis matching a particular theme, then voted on other people's Miis. Both of these channels were the kinds of online interactions that at this point are everywhere, but I had a real "imagine the possibilities" kind of moment when I first saw them (I forget which came out first). I assumed Nintendo was going to keep on coming up with more of these non-game channels, consisting of new forms of fun that I had never imagined. Of course they didn't, and most of the other channels that came out were just advertising, like the Nintendo channel.

This is an example of the broader problem with Wii, which was it never really felt finished. Or at least, it felt like every idea Nintendo had with the Wii could have been taken so much farther.

The Wii controller to this day seems like a very good idea when seen as "a mouse for your television." It made it possible to comfortably do things on a game console that were previously limited to just computers. I'm the type of person who finds computers to be very not-fun, and if possible, would rather do all my fun stuff on my sofa in front of the television. Initially, the Wii seemed to fully commit to making that possible in a way that earlier internet based consoles like the Xbox 360 and Dreamcast hadn't. I assumed that over time Nintendo was going to take every leisure activity one might engage in on a computer, e.g. social networking, listening to music, surfing wikipedia, and use their decades of experience making games to make masterful "fun" versions of them. With the way the Wii was written about and talked about, I figured the video games were just a way to get enough people to buy a Wii in order to support bigger and better things. And of course so many people bought a Wii -- but the bigger and better things never came.

Why not? A lot of people felt cheated by the Wii because it promised so many things, but it just ended up being a Wii Sports machine that happened to feature a few other mediocre games with waggly controls. Without anything that used the remote and the built-in internet access to do mind-blowing things that couldn't be done in the past, the whole "sell a console that's no more powerful than a Gamecube" concept clearly had no way of working.

Maybe bigger and better ideas was never their plan to begin with? The Wii U and Switch are both clearly supposed to be 100% game consoles. The Switch really seems to have no real aspirations beyond what the Playstation or Xbox have. It's just a masterfully designed ideal of what a game console should be, and not an attempt to be some other more life-changing means of interacting with the world.

So, what do you think about the Wii? I was still only a teenager when it came out, so I was easily impressed by anything video game related. I'm curious what actual adults felt at the time.

I think the Wii was probably the best marketed video game console ever. Who didn't at least wanna try it? I think when peoples imaginations of what was it was and could do came in contact with reality was when it all just fell apart.

If it had come out and had a more open developer ecosystem like exists now you might have had more interesting ideas. Unfortunately the majority of the games for it were ports, and the developers just did bare minimum to add wiimote features. Nintendo isn't know for supporting 2nd party developers at all, so you had to minimize your risk when publishing your game on the platform. The consequence of that was stuff like waggle controls in replacement of tapping a button.

On top of having the development barrier of the Wiimote, it also had a massively reduce hard drive capacity. So if you wanted to publish it was difficult to sell a lot of copies if you were digital only. Contrast this with Xbox and PSN.

Certainly agree with your feeling of it never feeling finished. I used all those channels you mentioned, and while they were fun there was no depth to them that kept you coming back.

Oh I should mention, as someone who used the wiimote, and balance board to make games, they were essentially nothing more than gyroscopes. very difficult to think of any compelling game mechanics you could make when you can't accurately process any complex gestures.

the problems are pretty similar to the problems all these VR games are having now. Who wants to be swinging their arms around for hours, how many times is someone going to be excited by opening a door?!

I'm not sure I can contribute meaningfully, but I have a few small thoughts!

The Wii is the first and only console I've ever waited outside for a midnight launch of! I had just moved to a new city, and it was weird and exciting and dramatic and a pair of dudes got into a really bad fistfight right in line in front of me, which was wild.

At the time, I felt as though the other consoles were moving more toward big AAA blockbusters and sports games, while the Wii ended up being the home for the kinds of small weird games-- kind of like the PS2 was in the previous generation. I don't 100% agree with that idea looking back on it, but it was probably informed by the people I worked with at the time, who exclusively owned Xbox 360s and played Madden and Halo.

@Karasu#3651 agree with you there about it being the only one going in a different direction. that era always reminds me of the generation of brown looking video games. then you had the wii with some sometimes interesting nonsense.

Just checked out of curiosity, and I own about the same number of Wii games as PS3 (didn't have a 360). People like to give the Wii a hard time now, but I loved that little guy.

@shane#3652 brown looking games is a perfect description of a lot of that era‘s games (I say as though it was a thousand years ago and I crumble into dust)! The other thing I forgot to mention is the Virtual Console! It was absolutely nuts to me that I could buy Air Zonk: Rockabilly Paradise for like ten bucks. I still can’t believe the breadth of stuff that got released for it, and I likewise can‘t believe that the model didn’t stick at all post–Wii. I mean, was it too much work? Did it not make enough money? I obviously don‘t know the story behind Virtual Console’s effective demise but it sure does feel like one person‘s passion project that didn’t survive when they left the company.

This is interesting stuff to think about. I never really considered those non-game channels the way you did @saddleblasters, and it‘s and interesting framing for it. At the time I started even thinking about those channels I was already playing games online on my Xbox 360 with friends - so then this weather channel comes out and I think - this is all they’ve got as far as connectivity?

But thinking about it how you've framed it just makes me think about that overarching emotion game-likers seemed to have with the Wii in genral: disappointment. I do think more could've been done with those kinds of limited-interaction online experiences, but nintendo never really went further with it, and none of that character is in the Switch.

As for the main input device, you can really see how developers got excited by the perceived possibility space, and then dragged back down to earth by the reality of it. Elebits is a good example. What a delightful-looking game and concept! Sucks to play though! And as developers realized the limitations, that's when it really became the "tacked-on waggle" era. And then you had game-likers just hoping for a PS2 port because even if it was visually worse, they wouldn't have to touch a wiimote (and that often happened).

It does in many ways feel like a forgotten console. It's pretty far outside of the conversation unless we're talking mario or zelda.

At the same time, there's a huge library of interesting titles on there. Titles I wish I could play on a switch or any other console. RPGs that never came out anywhere else, fragile dreams, even a sandlot medieval earth defense force-like. But even looking at one gameplay video you can see how the waggle was tacked on. that could've been a dang button!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4Q4dNgELq8

It was like devs were making the game *for nintendo* in order to be on the wii, rather than for players. It felt like nobody, not even the people making the game, wanted that waggle in there. There are tons of games that are "trapped" on the wii, and will never get a remaster or a remake, because it's too much effort and many of the games are at this point too old to hold up visually.

At the same time, the wii is still the only console my nephew has. he's been playing wii games, almost exclusively, since birth, and now he's like... 8? 9? So for him, that's what a game console is.

So was it every worth it? I dunno, the wii motion plus is apparently pretty good, and could've done more of what developers were actually thinking of earlier on. but it didn't get a lot of support.

As shane said it was probably the best marketed console of all time. And as you said, I think the "less interactive" channels were actually a neat idea to go further with. And as nintendo relaxed the wiimote requirements, allowing games to just use traditional controls, things opened up a bit. But I think if that'd been true from the start, and the wiimote was good for taking on the Ellen show and whatnot, but you could still play most games traditionally, they'd have occupied a greater portion of people's memories. I think your traditional game-liker was happy to leave that era behind.

But Nintendo could've pushed it all further and supported it more from a developer standpoint. If they had, I wonder where we'd be now?

Was it a good idea? is a weird question given the success of the console. New games are still being released for the Wii in 2020.

I am disappointed game designers worldwide fixated on motion controls instead of the pointer interface, which was probably the most innovative feature of the Wii and one of the most accurate interaction methods possible to interact with any regular TV screen. You mentioned the parallel with mouse controls but I would argue it was even more intuitive and faster. A lot more could have been done with analogue + pointer and it remains pretty much the best interface on paper for both TPS and FPS. Also an untapped potential for sports games: Winning Eleven Playmaker is probably the last soccer game to innovate soccer simulation in any meaningful way, for instance. So I’d agree with the overall _what could’ve been_ sentiment.

Agreed on the pointer thing being a better use of the peripheral. Why weren't there more RTS games on there? or more innovative uses of it? I do think there was that developer perception of it being for kids and grandmas, so they rejected the idea of making core experiences there. At the same time then, why make Reginleiv with waggle at all? Why not make it a pro controller game, or just make a different kind of experience?

Interesting days, back then.

Might be better to ask "did the idea have lasting relevance" rather than whether it was good, because clearly it sold. But that ethos doesn't seem to have carried forward into future consoles or initiatives. I mean the Intellivision Amico (lol) has based its entire business plan around "the wii is gone, someone should recapture that experience."

Here is my slightly different take. The Wii in its afterlife is a beast of a system. For a couple of complex reasons.

1.) Can be had cheaply and easily and in good condition (we were drowning in them while I worked at the Ewaste recycling place)

2.) Can output 480p no problem, so easy to connect to modern displays, even though a Component to HDMI adapter the picture looks great

3.) Many of the good games are very easy to grasp for people not used to playing games.

4.) And this is tricky one, but... VERY easy to hack. I have given a bunch of friend's kids hacked Wii's with a currated library of mostly first party stuff ripped from my personal collection and it has been a boon to both parent and child. I also did this for friends who were not really into gaming and a few years later they went out and bought Switches. Kids who were thrilled to play Punch Out! after seeing speed runs, adults who never got into game running through Sakura Wars multiple times.

The Wii has had this weird long tail in my life over the last decade. Shoot even now I'm enjoy Shakedown Hawaii on it more than on say the Vita. I love that its one of the last systems to have light gun style games. I dunno, I guess my main issue would be the waggle-y games which yeah, never feel great, and put a wear and tear on my arms.

@Karasu#3656 I‘d forgotten to mention the Virtual Console too. One thing that seems a little amazing to me now is that I and many other people still had a CRT back when the Wii came out, so playing games on the Virtual Console didn’t look terrible. Later on when I got an HD television and plugged my Wii in to play some Virtual Console games (which was the main use I had for it at that point) I was shocked by how gross these old games looked.

@chazumaru#3665 @exodus#3667 Yeah, "lasting relevance" was more what I meant by that question. I guess a better way to phrase what I was asking would be "Would Wii-like controls still be a good idea now?"

I was really impressed with Dreams for how it used the PS4 controller as a pointing device. I'm too lazy to ever really learn it to the degree necessary to make anything good, but it's amazing how much control and flexibility you can have with just a default PS4 controller. I suppose that indicates that in theory anything that could be done using the Wiimote can be done using a traditionally shaped controller, though pointing with the Wiimote is obviously more natural.

@robinhoodie#3671 I was gonna say the Dolphin emulator is really the best Wii now. Those analog people should release a modern sensor bar, usb-c powered, with a wii mote that‘s got a lithium battery. I’d buy the heck out of that!

this is an interesting thread! there‘s obviously love out there for the Wii but it is bizarre how a console so popular and with such a huge library feels like an anomaly in the vid games canon. I’m looking over at my Wii collection (which is one shelf) and it's “games that would be better on the DS”, “games I wish were on the PS2”, “Nintendos”, Dreamcast/arcade ports with Fragile Dreams/No More Heroes being the only real standouts.

Other people have already explained the issue with a lot of the third party support but even if we choose to define the console by the "Nintendos" the Wii represents their least endearing design era to me. You could argue this started earlier but when I think of Wii games I think of clinical white dentist waiting room backgrounds, compromised ugly aesthetics where it's still cartoony "but for grown ups too!", rectangles reminding me to take breaks and where the A button is. The hot Mario and Zeldas of today ran screaming in the opposite direction of the Galaxys/Skyward Swords of the world to the point where they're deliberate subversions as opposed to evolutions which usually informs Nintendo sequels.

Also one of the gamey games I associate with the Wii the most is Donkey Kong Country Returns; a game where it is physically impossible to praise anything about it without ending the sentence with "shame the game makes you shake the Wii mote to slap the ground tho"

Thinking about while typing, I feel the real reason why the Wii seems irrelevant now is the trophy for penetrating the mainstream with "simple games that anyone can play" was swiped by mobile games and they ran so far with it that grandma playing Wii bowling at Christmas feels like a relic of the past now. Also, if anyone's played that new Clubhouse Games on Switch - the bowling on it sucks! What happened! It's like Nintendo don't even remember they made the Wii.

Motion Plus was dope tho, Wii Sports Resort is my fav Wii game and it's not even close, we would be having a different conversation if they had believed in t!

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@exodus#3667 At the same time then, why make Reginleiv with waggle at all? Why not make it a pro controller game, or just make a different kind of experience?

The genesis of the game is explained in this interview.
https://www.nintendo.co.jp/wii/interview/rznj/vol1/index.html

In summary: Nintendo was interested to work with Sandlot, who pitched an idea they had for a game in which you slay giants but couldn’t find any funding for it (I guess the expected budget was way too high for D3P). The concept and scope did not really fit the DS, so they co-developed Chōsōjū Mecha MG together instead. Then Wii got announced, and the Wii Remote seemed like a good fit for a game in which you slash giants, so Sandlot pitched it again as a Wii game in Summer 2006.

@Lesmocon#3677 I will very much give you the idea that most of these games would be better served or are better represented on other platforms, but I think its neat to have so much variety on the system. Again, in the giving someone a single system to get them into games, just about every genre is available in some form on the Wii. ESPECIALLY if you include the Gamecube backwards compatability. But yeah, about the No More Heroes, and I would also add Silent Hill Shattered Memories are about the only games I can think of that weren't better elsewhere.

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@robinhoodie#3671 I love that its one of the last systems to have light gun style games

I am still kinda mad that Sega did not port their entire arcade light gun library after the bonker sales of Ghost Squad. (I think it sold over a million copies?)

We did get a couple more ports, and that original The House of the Dead game sadly arrived a few years too late, but there are a bunch of games that missed their chance for a comeback: Confidential Mission, Treasure of Kings, Vampire Night, the Virtua Cop trilogy, The Ocean Hunter etc. I wish Sega had gone all in between 2007 and 2009.

Also Link’s Crossbow Training is easily my favorite Zelda game on the system, Virtual Console aside.

https://youtu.be/Z5L8K4c7vgo

Speaking of arcade light gun games, I remember enjoying the umbrella chronicles a lot on the Wii! Which I now see was made by cavia, so that makes sense!!

Yes! I remember the two light gun games being piled on at the time because Capcom was not respecting fans by not giving a « true » Resident Evil experience after the success of Resident Evil 4’s port (another pointer gem), but they were actually pretty high quality games in their own right.

I know its too much to ask for a Time Crisis on here, but the no Virtua Cop is very surprising. Especially since we got LA Machine Guns and Gun Blade. Or like, they could have done House of the Dead 1 and not have that forever stuck to the lack luster Saturn port.

I think a larger point here is that the Wii can actually shine when it comes to delivering simple experiences. Wii Sports fits into that, but light gun or arcade experience also fit into that. The one genre I would say the Wii really lacks in is Arcade Racers, even with the Gamecube included your best option is probably Burnout 2. Daytona USA could probably have run on the Wii and done gang busters with the cache that game has / the instal base.