Wee bit too tame
By Victor Godinez
The Dallas Morning News
The Nintendo Wii is finally becoming a bit easier to find on store shelves.
Hardcore players, however, are deciding they’re no longer interested.
It’s a shift that Nintendo seems to be aware of and, contrary to what many gamers think, not all that happy about.
Among the crowd that favors gritty, violent, intense and complex games such as Grand Theft Auto 4, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead and Dead Space, the Wii is increasingly seen as a platform cluttered with cutesy games for kids and low-quality imitations of the more mature titles.
While that’s an oversimplification — there are several big-budget, unapologetic, mature-rated games on the Wii such as Resident Evil 4 and the upcoming MadWorld — it’s true that the Wii’s biggest hits are somewhat safe.
Super Mario Galaxy, Animal Crossing, Wii Fit, Wii Play and the ubiquitous Wii Sports are about as edgy as macaroni and cheese.
Of course, those are all games made by Nintendo, and Nintendo has always focused on excellent, family-friendly titles.
No, the only Wii games likely to come with a bit more bite are those developed by outside studios, the so-called third-party developers.
But those gritty third-party games on the Wii often are either rehashes of games that first appeared on other consoles (such as Resident Evil 4) or quick cash-ins by studios eager to profit from casual Wii owners who don’t know to expect more.
Hard-core gamers know, though. And so, apparently, does Nintendo.
Speaking to Forbes magazine recently, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that many third-party developers don’t understand that many Wii owners would like to play the same sorts of visceral games that flourish on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
"I will be able to say our licensees ‘get it’ when their very best content is on our platform," Fils-Aime said. "And with very few exceptions today, that’s not the case."
In other words, too many third-party developers are dumping half-baked software on the Wii just to make a quick buck.
On the surface, it certainly seems odd that the best-selling console in the world doesn’t get the best programming teams.
But I think most game creators got into the industry in the hopes of writing the next Doom or Halo or Command & Conquer and not the next Hannah Montana video game adaptation. So the best game makers gravitate to the consoles that seem to specialize in the kinds of games they like.
Not up to snuff
Nintendo bears some responsibility here, as well.
The Wii is the least powerful of the three current consoles, and you simply cannot easily duplicate a high-end Xbox 360 or PS3 game on the Wii.
Dead Rising on the Xbox 360, for example, was fun and amazing in part because there were often hundreds of zombies on the screen at one time, each shambling toward your brain.
The Wii version under development, though, is limited to a dozen or so monsters on the screen simultaneously, and the downgrade makes the game seem kind of pointless.
But Nintendo chose to go down this path of less-powerful, lost-cost hardware, and one side effect of that decision is that some games simply cannot be ported over.
So as much as developers do need to step up their efforts, Nintendo hasn’t done them any favors.