I played Mario, Zelda, Wii sports tennis and baseball, and the plane-flying demo at E3.
I’m not sold on the Wii. Nintendo says that to really engage the player and bring in new players, you need to change the method of control. And yes, the man/machine interface is one way to make games more engaging (if done right, both from a hardware and developer support perspective).
But graphics, audio, AI, size and scope of the environment, online features…all those and more are also ways of making games more engaging. Making games look less game-y, making characters animate and move in a natural and believable fashion (I’m looking at you, Mass Effect), making objects in the game react in a physically appropriate way that normal people can easily understand, all make games more engaging. Nintendo is tackling the “engage players” thing one way, Microsoft and Sony are doing it another.
After playing with the Wii, I’m not sold that Nintendo’s way is better. It’s different. Definitely. But I didn’t feel better “connected” with the Wii games. Swinging my tennis racket is more like tennis, yeah. And if I did that in something like Top Spin 2 or Virtua Tennis 3, it would be sweet. But Wii Sports Tennis is completely shallow and unfulfilling. After a match or two, I’m pretty much ready to hang it up.
Controlling Mario was “neat” with the Wii controllers, but also inprecise compared to a normal controller, and it’s not like I felt it really moved Mario games forward, just laterally. The Zelda control kind of felt tacked-on, too. Of course, there is time before release to work on these problems.
Then there’s the whole 15 minutes of fun thing. The Wii controller is going to be the coolest, most novel thing ever in the first 15 minutes of your first session. How is it going to be after you’ve put in 20 hours on your Wii? Already I can see how I’m going to hate playing Wii games for more than 30 minutes or an hour. You can’t just lounge back and play it. You have to sit up front and center to your TV, or even stand in some cases. Waving the controller around, or pointing with the Wiimote with precision, is gonna get old fast in longer play sessions.
And did it sell the non-gamers? I don’t know about that. Michael Miller, a higher-up in our organization, isn’t a gamer at all. He tried the Wii, the thought the controller was “amazing.” I asked, “So are you going to buy one?” “No, probably not.”
One of the girls helping people with the Mario demos was chatting with the guy in front of me in line, and said she’s not a gamer. She said she knows this stuff because she’s been trained, but she doesn’t buy or play console games. She also said the Wii was really neat, but she’d never buy one. She was hyped abou the new DS Lite, and will pick up one of those. I honestly can’t take my experience and judge if that means non-gamers will pick up the Wii or not, because I’m about as far from that category as you can get. I have no perspective on it. But I know two non-gamers who are impressed and totally not sold at all.
I think the Wii’s price will probably be right, and I’ll probably get one. At least I’ll pick it up before the PS3. The Virtual Console alone my be worth the price of admission, depending on how deep the library goes and how much titles cost.
The Wii “won” E3 for sure - it had the most buzz, the most people talking about it, and it made the best impression at Nintendo’s press conference (even if Reggie Fils-Aime constantly looks really angry). But I think Nintendo’s not necessarily in for the slam dunk they think they are.