Nintendo Waves Goodbye to Gamers


This week we’re going to see just how divided the market has become over the past two years. Two massive titles both being released at around the same time, neither of which will impact the sales of the other in the slightest. This week we see the first clear-cut fork in the road: GTA IV shows us the future of hardcore gaming machines, Wii Fit shows us the future of an entirely new direction in gaming which has become so complex and massive that the term ‘casual’ just doesn’t seem to do it justice anymore.

A week from now a large proportion of the gaming world will be tucking in to a healthy portion of Rockstar’s latest behemoth GTA IV. The hype’s becoming unbearable – even I’m hugely excited, despite having had no love for either GTA III or San Andreas. In terms of worldwide impact in retrospect it’s going to make Halo 3’s launch look like the kind of event that has more food laid out than booze… You know, the sort of party where you spend half the evening nursing a plastic cup of punch trying to brew up an excuse of why you suddenly have to leave whilst your overzealous host orders everyone to get ready to play charades whilst sliding another S-Club 7 CD into the stereo.

So in the gaming world everyone and their dog is going to be playing GTA, that much is clear. But what happens after that? Halo 3’s lifespan was short lived – being quickly usurped by the rather excellent COD4 – but is there anything that could possibly take gamers’ attention away from GTA in the near future?

The fallout is going to be tremendous: how can any release hope to stand tall in the shadow of GTA IV? How long before gamers are ready to start playing something new again? One month? Two? Even triple-A titles such as Haze might fade away without a bang, simply because GTA will be dominating minds and disc-trays of hardcore gamers the world over. At the same time on the other side of the spectrum, how can anything hope to take casual gamers’ attention away from the frenzied word of mouth caused by Wii Fit’s glossy coverage?

The crossover of hardcore and casual gamers between the two console types is going to wane soon enough: whilst all of us had hope for the Wii because of the potential the wiimote provided, it’s been almost two years now and there are still practically no games that make good use of the Wii’s strengths. Sure, we get thrown a bone once in a while- but Mario Kart and Smash Bros. don’t really cut it (the former in particular seems to have ramped up the luck factor considerably, in what I suspect is a planned mechanic to add more of a Wii-sports feel of the playing field being level regardless of skill). Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a fun little console – but as a primary console for serious gamers it’s simply never going to be able to stand up to either the 360 or the PS3.

Movement based controls are fun, but we’ve yet to see them used in a truly innovative way. But then, why should developers bother to work on such complexities when the average Wii user just wants to wave their arms about for twenty minutes? Anyone who still believes these magical games for gamers are going to materialize need to take the rose tinted glasses off and face up to the facts – Nintendo have been sailing their ship in a different direction for some time, and they’re showing no intention of turning it around any time in the near future… Oh, and there’s no point in third party developers making games for gamers on the Wii, because they just don’t sell.

Millions of people shooting people and stealing cars. Millions of entirely different people doing aerobics and waving their arms about. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future.

(EDIT: There’s been a lot of confusion and slander over this article, so let me just make a few things clear: The new path Nintendo is taking is fantastic, opening up the market hugely and giving gaming as a whole huge amounts of mainstream credibility. This article simply highlights the fact that having both GTA IV and Wii Fit being released within the same week really shows us just how much the games industry is changing, and how varied the market is undoubtedly going to become. To suggest that the Wii is in any way in decline in any manner would be ludicrous, but from the backlash incurred it would seem I need to make it clear that this piece is in no way attempting to hype or slate anything: if you feel this is the case then I can assure you that you are misunderstood.)

Matt works with a number of publishers as an independent research analyst for one of the world’s leading video game market research companies.

In his spare time he writes articles and records podcasts for DarkZero.