Wii Want Change

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It doesn’t take an expert analyst, or even a hardcore gamer, to see that Nintendo’s latest system, the Wii, has been selling like hotcakes. But as we all know, popularity doesn’t always directly correlate to quality. Wii basically turned the gaming world upside down by integrating motion sensing as a core component to a system, but it has missed the mark in a few regards. This begged the question – if I could design Nintendo’s next system, what would I change? Well, here’s a few things that I believe would make the Wii’s successor a dream machine.

High-definition output (or, “Please make your system more powerful!”)

Gotta start off with what is quite possibly the biggest complaint with the Wii – its graphics. Take a look at any screenshot from a Wii game and compare it to its 360/PS3 counterpart and you’ll find that there’s a world of difference. The Wii isn’t powerful enough to compete on the same level. And while the technical specifications show that the Wii is about 1.5x as powerful as the GameCube, a good portion of this processing power is devoted to the system’s motion-sensing technology and its overarching operating system (the main menu and the little menu that pops up when you hit the ‘Home’ button on your Wii remote). When all is said and done, developers aren’t left with much to work with. In order to ensure that a game runs smoothly, the visuals department takes the biggest hit. The Wii is only capable of outputting a maximum resolution of 480p, which is only a minor step up from standard definition. With its competitors able to output at full 1080p, Wii doesn’t cut it, especially in the next generation. There are examples of great-looking games with beautiful art on the Wii, but there are just as many titles that fell short due to the Wii’s lack of processing power.

Blu-ray playback (or, “Hell, DVD playback will do”)

What year is this? 2009? And a video game system that uses a disc-based medium still can’t play standard DVD movies? For shame, Nintendo. Sony and Microsoft managed to pull off DVD playback last generation. Unlike the first point, this one isn’t a hardware issue – in fact, the Wii uses DVDs as its storage medium. Any gamer knowledgeable in the Wii’s homebrew scene can tell you that the Wii can play DVDs through the proper methods. Wii uses DVD storage at a medium. For the general public, however, this isn’t the case – why? In order to cut costs, Nintendo decided to not obtain the license required to play DVDs on its system. This isn’t actually a problem when you think about how cheap and easy it is to obtain a DVD player of some sort, but next generation I’d like to see Nintendo go the extra mile. Now that the dust has settled from the format war and Blu-ray is the clear winner, why not allow the ability to play Blu-ray movies on the system? And if they were to use Blu-ray discs as the official storage medium for the system, it would also allow more data to be crammed onto a game disc, which goes hand-in-hand with all the extra processing power the system would be getting.

Better online infrastructure (or, “You want me to put in how many numbers?”)

When it comes to online play, Nintendo’s a tad behind the curve. It’s somewhat understandable if you think about how console online play didn’t really pop up until last generation, but Nintendo had a chance to rectify its problems before the Wii. After the release of the Nintendo DS, the company created an online system for it known as “Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection,” allowing you to either play random people online or play with your friends through the use of ‘friend codes’. A friend code is a 12-digit code that your game gives you to give to other people so that they may register you onto their friend list. Having to input a 12-digit code for each of your friends would only be a minor annoyance if not for the fact that every game requires a different code. So let’s say that you have 5 different friends all with the 5 same DS games that you want to play online with – you’d have to input 25 different codes (300 characters) just to do so. That’s only just a basic example, and it only gets worse the more friends and games you have. The Wii could have put a stop to this by instituting either universal friend codes or even a username system, but such is not the case. Next generation, I’d like to see Nintendo utilize a system like Xbox Live, which ties all data to a specific username.

Hard drive for storage (or, “I’d buy more games but I ran out of space”)

This one’s fairly straightforward. The Wii contains 512 megabytes of on-board storage, paltry in comparison to the storage options of its competitors, which top out somewhere around 250 gigabytes. Such storage for the Wii goes to save data and downloadable games, but a greater amount could enable so much more. Combined with a better online infrastructure, more hard drive space would allow players to download and watch trailers, try out new games in the form of downloadable demos, and purchase downloadable content for already-owned games, which is practically nonexistent on the Wii. Taking a page from the 360, a bigger hard drive opens up the possibility of ripping the data from a game’s DVD and placing it on the system, resulting in faster load times and better performance. It’s a simple request, and with the low prices for storage these days, it’s pretty much guaranteed for the next generation.

Less peripherals (or, “I don’t have enough closet or wallet space for all this crap”)

The standard Wii remote is $40. It’s nice, but if you want analog stick functionality and a couple of extra buttons, you’re going to need a nunchuk attachment ($20). But wait, if you want to take advantage of some of the newer games’ more advanced motion-sensing features, you’ll also need a Wii Motion Plus attachment ($25). And if you’re hankering to play some SNES games off the Virtual Console, you’ll need either a GameCube controller or a Classic Controller attachment ($20). The Wii Speak attachment ($30) for voice chat capabilities, the Wii Balance Board (~$50) for foot integration, the Wii Wheel ($15) and Wii Zapper ($25) attachments that merely serve as encasements for the actual controller… and all of these are first-party products created and licensed by Nintendo. All of a sudden the $250 (now $200) price tag of the Wii doesn’t seem so measly. What’s worse is that I didn’t even bother mentioning all the third-party peripherals – the cases, the mats, the plastic instruments and sports equipment look-alikes. It would be wrong to say that Nintendo started this recent peripheral craze, but I’m dead right in saying that they’re not helping. Shouldn’t some of these features be already included with the system itself? The Wii comes with one remote and one nunchuk, but after that you’re on your own. Stuff like Wii Speak and the Classic Controller should have been included from the get-go, and stuff like the Wii Wheel and Wii Zapper shouldn’t even exist. Next generation, I’d like to see more functionality with less extras.

Of course, these are not what I believe to be the steps Nintendo should take to succeed next generation – they seem to be doing well enough with what they’ve got right now. This is all simply what I would like to see out of Nintendo in a perfect world. But alas, profit too often gets in the way of logic, and all a gamer can do in the end is hope for the best.

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