Nintendo, however, isn’t the only company leading the launch day charge. Ubisoft is contributing nine games within the window, including the new Splinter Cell, Far Cry, Red Steel and GT Pro, which comes bundled with a steering wheel peripheral for the Wii-mote. Midway has a few gems lined up (Mortal Kombat, anyone?), Atlus has the Trauma Center sequel, EA of course has a hefty helping of software…trust me, we’ll be plenty busy.
And the best part is, we won’t even have to wait very long for Wii online. Remember, it took the DS over a year to get an online service. Wii will get it in a much shorter time. Wii arrives on November 19th, less than two months from January 2007. Once we get into ’07, all developers will be granted complete access to Wii’s online capabilities. Nintendo already has three titles confirmed for full online play—Mario Strikers Charged, Battalion Wars 2, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl—all arriving in early 2007.
More are sure to follow, and even the non-Wifi games of early ’07 are going to be record-setters. Mario and Samus will be marching onto the Wii soon after the first of the year, in Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, respectively. For the GameCube, it took Mario, Samus and Link at least two years each to show up. Now, we’re getting all three within a span of months.
Clearly, we have nothing to worry about in regards to big name online titles, and the great launch list will make waiting all the easier.
But let’s take a step back for a moment, and look at the other side of the coin. As gamers, we are looking at Wii online purely from the aspect of gaming. In their all-encompassing, sometimes ridiculed goal to expand their market beyond the gaming hardcore, Nintendo has outfitted their Wifi strategy to include things gamers never would have thought of.
Almost as an answer to gamertags and screen names, Nintendo has created “Mii,” the individual element of Wii. This whimsical new feature allows all Wii users to customize their own personal avatar as a simplified caricature. The feature isn’t slim on options either—everything from hair style to eyebrow shape and placement can be tweaked. Watching the new press videos gave me an idea of just how precisely I’d be able to customize my little extension into the Wii realm. And once I have my little guy built to my refined specifications, I can store him on my Wii-mote and cart him over to a friend’s house, where he’ll represent me in Wii Sports or other games that use the Mii avatars. This is worlds better than friend codes.
The funny little Mii people are a great idea, but they still pertain to gaming. To attract people that have never so much as looked at a video game, Nintendo is cramming their online service with things that anyone would find useful. You can check the weather, on a fully rendered globe that you control with, surprise, the Wii-mote. You can scope out the news headlines. You can store photos from an SD card, then fiddle around with them in a paint program and send them to friends. You can IM, post on a message board, or use the Opera web browser. It may not sound all that special to hardened gamers, but it’s convenient, useful and it’s easy to figure out.
All of this is represented in a fashion that everyone is familiar with: TV channels. Swap over to the Wii menu, and there are all the Wii channels: news, weather, internet, and the all-important online store. Nobody will feel intimidated by this setup, nobody will feel threatened or ignorant or too old or out of touch. Nintendo isn’t just blowing PR smoke; they absolutely mean everything they’ve been saying for the past several months.
Going in, many gamers feared that Wii online would be a desolate, bare-bones gimmick that was only being included to save face. For so long, Nintendo had said nothing of online strategy or a thriving gaming community. We aren’t getting exactly what we thought we wanted, but perhaps what we are getting is even better. Wii online will be a community, with personalization and more options than we ever expected. But it isn’t the complicated, daunting, gamers-only coliseum that Xbox Live is. Yes we will have our online games, and plenty of them. But Wii online isn’t about white-knuckled competition, arm pumping and hunting for noobs, although I’m sure that will crop up eventually. Nintendo’s plan for online is a system that everyone can enjoy. And like it or not, that strategy will attract more customers than the gaming industry has ever had.
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