November 29, 2006


Tech Review: Why Wii Will Win the War ...

...between the Next-Gen Video Game Consoles

I grew up playing video games and I honestly can't decide if that's for better or worse. So for months I've been following the development of the Nintendo Wii enthusiastically and I've felt for a long time that this system will be the rebirth of Nintendo as the leader in the video game industry. Some industry analysts have said that the battle is between Microsoft and Sony for first place in the next-gen war, and that the Wii would automatically take second place, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the battle between Microsoft and Sony is for second place. So I'm listing the reasons why I think the Nintendo Wii will dominate the war between the next-generation video game consoles.

For starters: The Wii is an inclusive system rather than being exclusive like it's competitors. The Wii is welcoming to non-traditional-players and traditional gamers alike. This is mostly because Nintendo has developed an innovative set of motion sensitive controllers that allow you to move the controller threw the air to virtually interact with the games you're playing. (This is what opens the door to non-traditional gamers who would be less inclined to learn the meticulous button pressing patterns in traditional game-play as featured in the 360 and PS3 and would rather swing the Wii's remote-shaped controller as if it were the handle of a racket.) Each player has two controllers which may be connected by a detachable cord; the primary controller is called the Wii remote (because it looks and is often used as a remote control for your television) and in some games this will be all you need to play, the secondary controller is called the numchuck (because it connects to the first controller threw a detachable cord and when connected it resembles a the famous weapon of choice for Michelangelo (and if you don't know what I'm talking about you obviously didn't grow up in the 80s)); this controller contains an analogue stick like you would find in previous game systems, which is likely to be used in games for moving around in the environment. Both controllers are motion sensitive, and as is the case with the bundled Wii Spots: Boxing game, you can use both to punch at the screen as if you were boxing in real life. Reviews have been very positive regarding the accuracy of the controllers. (A side note: The Wii controllers also feature built-in speakers for sound-effects that are related to the objects you are virtually using in the game: for instance in the latest Zelda game (which is likely to be the Killer App of the Wii) you use the Remote and the Numchuck controller to simulate drawing a bowstring, and in the controller's speaker you will hear the stretching of the bowstring.) The controller design will allow game developers to produce games that utilize the motion-sensitivity of the controllers to give a more realistic playing experience and it should make playing a video game for the first time that utilizes the motion sensitivity much easier; the inclusive nature of the Wii leads to the next reason why the Wii will dominate...

The Wii is focused more on improving and expanding the game playing experience rather than expanding the hardware of the system, so there is likely to be more games having a broader appeal that for the Wii's competitors. The 360 and the PS3 are much more powerful systems than the Wii (and therefor much more expensive), because they support high-definition graphics—In fact, the Next-Gen systems by Microsoft and Sony also represent a war between the two new formats of High Definition DVD. The 360 supports HD-DVD (but you have to purchase the yet-to-be-released HD-DVD player that will connect to the 360); while the PS3 has a built in Blueray player, which is part of the reason the price is steeper and why it came out a year after the 360. (Word on the street is Bluray is better than HD-DVD, but being better didn't do much to help Betamax.) The Wii while having enhanced graphics from the previous system, the GameCube, will still look good on standard television set, and look great on a high-def television, but frees consumers from having to have one (or having to buy one) to enjoy the system; rather by keeping the focus on the game play they are also keeps production costs down for game developers by not having to make games that utilize high-definition graphics. This all add$ up to the next reason the Wii will dominate in the Next-Gen war...

The Price of the Nintendo is only $250, verses $400 for the weaker of the two Microsoft systems, and $500 for the weaker of the two PS3 systems; and to be honest, the population of traditional gamers wouldn't even consider buying the weaker versions of the PS3 or 360, because as in the case of the PS3 several of the key connections that make having a Bluray player valid in the first place are not included so most serious gamers would have to spend $600 to get the full-blown PS3 with all the bells and whistles. Thus the Wii is less than half the price of the PS3, which for many people will seem like a lot more justifiable expense.

Another factor to be considered is Style. The Wii is very small and stylish and would look a lot nicer in your living room than it's rivals. Nintendo says the Wii system is about the size of 3 DVD cases stacked together. The Wii is also WiFi enables so it can connect wirelessly to the Internet, thus reducing the cables needed. The 360 resembles a clunky personal computer, and with a connected HD-DVD player will be a mess of components next to your television. The bulkiness of the 360 is what some have credited to it's terrible sales in Japan, which is a country that values utilizing space efficiently. The PS3 is prettier than the 360 but still very expensive which takes some of the glamor out of it in comparison to the Wii

Early indications seem to be much more favorable for the Wii than it's competitors. At this point after only eight days on the market the Wii has sold over 600,000 units. Microsoft's 360 has not performed well in the Japanese market, and while there are plenty of game developers outside of Japan these days, and while it's true that the Japanese market is not an indication of how well the 360 will do in the Americas or Europe, it is true that Japan is a long way ahead in game development.

At the E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo), the premiere event in North America for showcasing what's on the horizon in the video game world, held in Los Angeles over the summer, the line to try out the Wii was about 6 hours for five minutes of play time, while the line to try out the PS3 was little over 30 minutes.

When comparing the product launches of the Wii and the PS3 there has been a striking contrast. For the Wii everything has gone as planned, but there have been numerous complications in the production and distribution of the PS3 leading up to it's launch, including multiple release date set backs; originally the PS3 was slated to be released at the same time as the 360 in 2005 but design changes forced them to wait until the Fall of 2006; problems with manufacturing the bluray player caused a reduction of available units which forced Sony to again postpone releasing the PS3 in Europe and Australia until March of 2007. Reportedly when you purchase a PS3, before you can use it, you have to have it connected to the Internet (some say for up to an hour) to download a firmware operating system update; hopefully this is something that can be changed as the PS3 is being developed. This is presumably to solve some problems with backwards compatibility with older generation PS games; the PS3 initially claimed to be backwards compatible with all older generation PS games, but just days before the PS3 launch it was revealed that over 200 older-generation PS games would not work on the PS3.

The Wii is backwards compatible with all Nintendo Gamecube games, and will also feature another innovation called the Virtual Console, which will likely really appeal to old-school game players. The Virtual Console will allow you to download classic games from all previous Nintendo systems (NES, SNES, Nintendo 64) as well games from non-Nintendo systems such as it's old rival Sega's Genesis console and also NEC's only venture into the console industry, the TurboGrafx 16. SNK, maker of the NeoGeo, has a compilation disk of Metal Slug games coming out for the Wii. The Wii will also be compatible with Nintendo's portable game player the Nintendo DS (“DS” stands for duel screen, the player has two screens, the bottom of which is touch sensitive) by using the wireless capabilities of the Wii and the DS.

Between the two powerhouse systems, my vote would go for the PS3, it certainly has some great capabilities, such as connectivity with the PSP (PlayStation Portable); But Sony needs a game that will be the Killer App for the PS3 make it worth the expense; of course it would also help if they dropped the price some. Bottom line: Despite the fact that Nintendo has always been a great game developer, it's really the third-party game developers who will decide the outcome of battle, and they are going to go where the money is, and with all the Wiis that will likely saturate the market, it should be a no-brainer what system to spend their money developing games for.

Nintendo was the underdog last go-around, this time they have stepped up to the plate ready to hit a home-run out of the park. Unfortunately, I'm still too poor at the moment to buy a ticket.