Monday, September 24, 2007

Wii = Gamecube with Motion Controller

"Through some lengthy investigations, we can now say for certain that there was no major leap in either performance or functionality compared to the GameCube. Instead, Nintendo decided to define the Wii entirely by the new controller."

It's over; Nintendo is finished.

Well not really. Amidst all the next-gen gaming hullabaloo, Nintendo managed to somehow successfully market a gaming console that, based on the standards that define a "next-gen console", isn't exactly a next-gen console. The above article proves that the Wii is nothing more than a Gamecube with a motion controller, hardware-wise.

-The difference between the original Xbox and the 360: "The Xbox 360 has a triple-core CPU along with a graphics processor that uses a "unified shader architecture," which, at the time of the 360's release, had never even been seen on a PC."

-PS2 and PS3: "[The PS3 has a] combination of one standard CPU core with seven additional SIMD processors."

-Gamecube and Wii: Broadway CPU, Hollywood GPU, and a "64MB GDDR3 chip manufactured by Samsung." Basically 1.5 Gamecubes + a motion-sensing controller.

Nintendo claims that developments in gaming hardware has reached a point where further improvements in processing power will not improve gameplay. This is where the Wii attacks from: instead of focusing on more power like the PS3 and the 360, it simply changes the way games are played. In essence, or so Nintendo says, the Wii isn't a next-gen competitor--it is an entirely new industry. Furthermore, it's marketed into a different, broader demographic--what video game snobs would call "casual gamers". It's this type of gamer that makes games like WiiFit and Wii Sports possible. But they're not the only market. Certainly, "hardcore" gamers are also included in the Wii market; it's just, they won't be able to enjoy MGS4-quality (and size) games with their console. Wii's "hardcore" market so far is undeniably a small niche (at least, as far as my observation is concerned): Those who own a Wii, or are planning on buying a Wii, probably do so because of Metroid Prime 3 or SSBB. There aren't that many Metroid fans out there, and there are certainly at least three times more Halo fans. But the marketing and targeting has been so good, as well as the price, that Gamecube 1.5 manages to hold its ground.

One of the major problems posed in the article is: What if the other companies develop their own, much better versions of the Wii? Will the original Wii, then, still matter? After all, the only thing that's more fun than playing Metroid Prime 3 than playing Metroid Prime 3 in high definition. Sony is beginning to threaten this with the motion-sensing Sixaxis. Though it's still clunky at the moment, it'll only be a matter of time before, ironically, we get a next-gen Wii.

Another unanswerable question is: how does the new way to play influence the gaming experience? It might seem fun at first to wave that little stick around, but over time it will become tedious and tiring, just like many other things of novelty.

tl;dr: Wii is like those shoes with blinking lights: Fun, original, and novel, but not practical, doesn't provide any more comfort than a regular pair of sneakers, and gets old pretty fast. Once Sony and Microsoft delve into the magical land of motion-sensing peripherals the Wii will be nothing more than another footnote in gaming history.

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