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Wii: Yesterday’s News?

NYT today has a story about Nintendo’s bid to revive its downcast economic fortunes by releasing a new Wii system [1] this Christmas season. Excerpt:

But will it be the blowout that Nintendo needs? Many industry veterans and game reviewers are skeptical. They question whether the Wii U can be as successful as the original, now that many gamers have moved on to more abundant, cheaper and more convenient mobile games.

“I actually am baffled by it,” Nolan K. Bushnell, the founder of Atari and the godfather of the games business, says of the Wii U. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big success.”

The bigger question is what the future holds for any of the major game systems, including new ones that Sony and Microsoft are expected to release next year. Echoing other industry veterans, Mr. Bushnell says that consoles are already delivering remarkable graphics and that few but the most hard-core players will be willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a new game box.

“These things will continue to sputter along, but I really don’t think they’ll be of major import ever again,” he says. “It feels like the end of an era to me.”

This is interesting to me. I am not a gamer, and I don’t follow this world at all. My kids have had a Wii system for the past four years. They used to play it all the time. Now they rarely do, despite our briefly successful bid last Christmas to revive the Wii’s fortunes by buying them Guitar Hero.

They game a lot, though, and when they game, it’s almost always playing Minecraft on old iPhones that Julie and I have discarded, or Minecraft on an old iPad, or other games available on the mobile platform. (Matthew constantly plays Kerbal Space Program on his laptop.) They would rather play something like Angry Birds on an old mobile device than anything on the Wii — even though the Wii lets them play on a much larger screen. I’ve been thinking about whether Santa should bring them a new Wii game or two this year, but it seems like that would be money not well spent. I would absolutely not buy a new Wii system, no matter how innovative, because I don’t have the confidence that my kids would use it for more than a week or two before going back to their mobile devices.

What’s your family’s experience with gaming in this way?

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "Wii: Yesterday’s News?"

#1 Comment By jaybird On November 25, 2012 @ 10:28 am

My son got the Star Wars xbox 360 for his birthday this past summer, with the Kinect sensor that allows Wii-style full-body interaction… he played the Star Wars game for a few days, and Kinect Adventures, both of which are full-body-motion games, but now he just uses it for Minecraft, pretty much 24-7.

I’ve never given right-wing conspiracy theories much credence, but if there was ever a subtle, creeping, mind-controlling influence on the Nation’s children, Minecraft is it. Every kid under the age of 12 or so seems to be completely obsessed with it.

#2 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 25, 2012 @ 10:36 am

Every kid under the age of 12 or so seems to be completely obsessed with it.

Sure looks that way from my point of view. I don’t get it. The pixels are crude, and I get dizzy after about 15 seconds of watching my kids play.

#3 Comment By jaybird On November 25, 2012 @ 10:58 am

I’d definitely rather see him play Minecraft that some horrendously violent first-person-shooter… although I suppose that’s probably coming down the pike when puberty & testosterone kick in…

#4 Comment By Mattman On November 25, 2012 @ 10:58 am

The crude graphics are part of the charm, at least for those of us who remember when that sort of thing was cutting edge technology.

But Mr. Bushnell is wrong about gamers not shelling out more money for the newest gaming consoles. Major video game releases are the largest entertainment events of the year. Next generation consoles will make a big splash. The Wii, while popular, is meant more for children and families. It won’t get the same initial sales and excitement of a Microsoft or Sony console.

#5 Comment By Pedro On November 25, 2012 @ 11:48 am

I think people born in the late 70s-early 80s like me will keep buying Nintendo stuff because it feeds nostalgia. I’ll get the Wii U mostly because my Zelda: Windwaker disk is getting close to being unusable and Gamecube titles should be on the virtual console now.

#6 Comment By Catechist On November 25, 2012 @ 11:56 am

Posts like this make me feel like I’m hoarding buggy whips. My children’s gaming experience? The teenager likes Axis and Allies and Munchkins. I refuse to vacuum her room until all the tiny cardboard counters have been put away. Her little sister spent this morning making a pirates-vs-merchant ship strategy game and requiring my longsuffering husband to try it out. Their littlest sister favors Chutes and Ladders – the morality tale aspect of it really appeals to her, and gameplay is punctuated with lengthy discussions of the consequences of the illustrated acts, good and bad, and just why they are good or bad.

This is a combination of a conscious choice of how we want to live and raise our children, and of a simple lack of money (itself a corollary of our choice of how to live).

#7 Comment By Austin Rebreh On November 25, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

I just got back from my family Thanksgiving gathering and noticed that all the children were playing games on an ipad or smart phone. There was a wii upstairs which was played for about 30 minutes but they returned back to angry birds.

#8 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 25, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

My daughter is completely uninterested in video games. My son is a Nintendo Wii fan and desperately wants the Wii U. I’ve told him that being an early adopter is asking for trouble. My opinion is that the future of games is on Android devices. A Nexus 7 is $200 and plays games, movies, and music.

#9 Comment By Hetzer On November 25, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

@Darth Thulhu – making children play DF is tantamount to abuse. That game isn’t just absurdly hard, but it has an awful interface *by design*.

#10 Comment By German_reader On November 25, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

“They game a lot, though, and when they game, it’s almost always playing Minecraft on old iPhones that Julie and I have discarded, or Minecraft on an old iPad”

“old iPhone, old iPad”? Sounds like an oxymoron to me.
And seriously, take care your children don’t become gaming addicts, it could ruin their lives.

#11 Comment By EngineerScotty On November 25, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

You’ll know consoles are dead when Mario Brothers, Zelda, and other Nintendo franchises become available on other devices besides the various Nintendo platforms.

And yes, tablets/phones have obsoleted the dedicated gaming handhelds such as the Nintento DS and the Sony PSP. I expect full-size consoles (and PC gaming) to be relevant for longer–there’s a hardcore gaming market that demands the photorealistic graphics and innovative controllers that these platforms provide, but I expect market share to dwindle.

But it’s interesting: Two of the biggest moneymakers in the past two years are the Angry Birds franchise, and Minecraft; neither of which is graphics-intensive.

#12 Comment By EngineerScotty On November 25, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

Part of me expects Apple to buy Nintendo in the next few years, after the Wii U fails and the stock price plummets, (unlike Sony and MS, Nintendo’s only business is video games), license off it’s coin-op business, and use its flagship franchises to help launch Apple’s long-rumored living-room entertainment device, that will compete with the XBox.

#13 Comment By Johnny F. Ive On November 25, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

I would wait on the new Wii. They are releasing it because the Wii was basically a repackaged gamecube with a new controller. They couldn’t get ports of the games that are for the xbox 360 and ps3 so they put out this new system because investors were screaming at them. Also North American consumers had to petition and beg last year for two of their top games even after they were localized in English for Europe:

My advice is to wait for the new xbox 720 to arrive. I wouldn’t want something that isn’t going to be powerful enough to play new games when it comes out (repeat the current scenario with the Wii). If the Wii U is powerful enough then the price will have dropped and you will have a small library of good games to pick from at a discounted price in a few years. The only age appropriate games worth getting right now is the new Super Mario game and maybe Nintendoland:

#14 Comment By PM On November 25, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

Catechist, Posts like this make me feel like I’m hoarding buggy whips…This is a combination of a conscious choice of how we want to live and raise our children…

Wow, a comment I can identify with. I read this blog as a window into what “the others” (read: liberals) are up to, and man do I grow more amazed every day. Once something becomes permissible, it becomes omnipresent.

We don’t do video games. Or TV. Period. Never missed it. But it’s no wonder so many kids are antisocial and fat these days. Sort of scary; what’s wrong with pick-up sports for urban kids and outdoors for rural ones? What happened to family card games? Has reading and friendly family discussion been completely rejected along with non-processed foods and sit-down meals? One can’t do all that and have the time for video games. It amazes me that parents cannot see how even casual engagement with video games and TV will eventually destroy family life. It doesn’t start out that way, but it ends that way.

jb, Every kid under the age of 12 or so seems to be completely obsessed with it.

Not every kid. Believe it or not, there are more than a few of us out there with kids under 12 who wouldn’t even know what you are talking about.

#15 Comment By elrond On November 25, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

I love this blog. It always seems so timely.

I have a habit of bringing my children to the library after school. There’s a computer room, and my youngest one goes there to play Minecraft. Sometimes there are several other kids playing it, and they invite her into their “world.” While it seems harmless enough, I just don’t get what the attraction is. These are graphics from the 80’s!

Who would have guessed that Wii would have been a novelty, and would lose out to Angry Birds and Minecraft?

My favorite game of all time is Spyro the Dragon, which I discovered belatedly when a relative gave away his original PlayStation. My kids and I used to play that together and have a blast.

#16 Comment By Beyng On November 25, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

“Old iPad or old iPhone.”

Um, what? The iPad is barely two years old. Does such a thing as an old iPad exist? Do you really burn through your iGadgets so quickly that you just have “old” spares lying around for the kids?

I suddenly feel quite old and retrograde. But also smug.

[Note from Rod: We get new iPhones every two years as part of our phone service contract. For some reason we had a couple of previous generation ones laying around. We gave one to a friend, and put the other one into service as a wi-fi device. Julie has a first-generation iPad that she uses, but that she also lets the kids use for gaming. So now you know. Smug shmug. — RD]

#17 Comment By Dakarian On November 25, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

I can give a little insight into this one.

Your kids are Casual Gamers. No, that doesn’t really mean they play very little probably. Casual is….roughly in reference to games you can just pick up and go, then put down and come back later. It’s made in the form not unlike a 10 minute meal, compared to a 10 hour smoked ham.

At the time of the last generation, the Wii was the place for that sort of experience, with games like Wii Sports, dancing games and the like.

Angry Birds, however, stole that market. I mean look at the game. Does it really NEED that big of a screen? wouldn’t you trade that unneeded big screen for the ability to play a game made to just jump in and enjoy on a medium you can just pick up and use from anywhere?

Your Minecraft lover is a different tale, though. It doesn’t seem like it but that game is mostly a big art canvas…with zombies. There’s not many things like it, so now that it’s here, your child loves it. Other games he loves will probably be similar.

Why on ‘old iphones’. Neither game really take a lot of graphics or a big screen. If a batch of kids play Tag all day, there’s no point paying thousands on a playground. Same concept.

As for what you should do.. you’re correct: Your Angry birds lover will be best with a Tablet for more mobile games. Your minecraft lover may find something that’ll demand a laptop..maybe. Chances are, another Tablet will do.

So who should get a WiiU? Those that remember the NES. Those that like party games. Pretty much it for now (the odd control scheme will need a year or two for developers to learn how to use it well).

As for the other systems.. those push for the Big Titles.. the games that make you wonder if they put a movie DVD on instead. The games where the game designers designed bookshelves in the game houses.. then put books in it, then wrote entire novels from scratch for each and every book inside said bookshelf so that you can spend a few RL weeks reading when you get bored of fighting dragons with your bare hands.

(not an exaggeration)

Aka, PS9001 and XboxLoopDeLoop will be fine. Wii probably will be so long as, as another mentioned, Mario and Zelda stay exclusives: nostalgia brings a lot of cash.

But yes, don’t assume and just buy what looks interesting for your kids. Find out what they like first, then buy whatever works for that, even if it only costs $40 for the machine and game.

#18 Comment By Jeffersonian On November 25, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

Kids might get a Just Dance this year, but otherwise the Wii is our Netflix connector and little more.

#19 Comment By Richard Masta On November 25, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

As the handheld super-device proves itself to be the future, I think we can expect the end of new gaming consoles in general. As well as many other devices, such as cameras, mp3 players, cell phones, etc. The one little square computer in the pocket will do it all, and it will be cheaper and more accessible.

There are still markets for the consoles, and will be as collector’s items. I recently listed a Gameboy and an N64 on craigslist. I still retain my Super nintendo and atari 2600 out of love for the system.

Big companies like Nintendo will likely begin releasing new games as Apps that you’ll download for your device, like the Angry Birds (etc) brands do now.

a contrasting point: when I was growing up in the early nineties (the Playstation was mind-blowing back then and the internet wasn’t in every house), my friends played intricate year-long video games called RPMs. Today, kids are playing mindless games on Apps like Angry Birds (fun, but no real attention seems needed). The market clearly sees success in the short attention culture we live in today. More digitally friendly, but less inclined to sit still for long periods of time.

#20 Comment By EngineerScotty On November 25, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

Regarding the XBox 720: One wonders if it will ship with Windows VIII-sta, or if Microsoft will realize the error of their ways, and abandon the folly of trying to support different platforms with the same OS. (You think they would have learned after the massive debacle that was Windows CE; though Windows 8 is the same error in reverse).

Regarding used iGadgets: There are many iBots out there who make it a point of pride to have the newest and best gadgets out there, and are happy to sell their old stuff. Also, Apple still will happily sell you an iPad 2 for $299 (as opposed to the $499 for the entry-level model of the current generation iPad, or $349 for the mini), and the iPhone 4 and 4s are still both available from Apple as well.

#21 Comment By Cole On November 25, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

The Wii U continues Nintendo’s tradition of centering new platforms around controller gimmicks. First it was the Gamecube and its GBA tie-in, then Wii’s magic wand doohickey, now Wii U’s humongous iPad-looking controller. The problem with gimmicks is that they get old, and then you’re left with a lackluster system.

The broader problem with games is the same as the broader problem with movies: there’s too much money involved, and it’s crushing creativity. When a game can be made by a half-dozen people (as in The Olden Days of Yore), they can get wacky and take risks. When it’s made by hundreds of people on a budget of millions or sometimes tens/hundreds of millions of dollars, the moneymen step in. And they like what’s been proven to sell before. But this problem doesn’t crop up so much on handhelds and little flash games, which are made much the same way Donkey Kong was. They can still try new things.

#22 Comment By Pedro On November 25, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

The “wand doohickey” was very well used in Epic Mickey, which, in spite of the camera problems it had, was one of the best stories I’ve seen a video game tell. Could they have done it as well without that controller? I have my doubts.

#23 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 25, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

I could care less about Wii. If I want to play tennis, or badminton, or whatever, I can take a ball or birdie and a racket, and do that for real. This living room stuff makes only slightly more sense than using a $1000 computer system to play solitaire, when a deck of cards will do nicely.

I like space invaders, which can’t be done in real life, and if it could, would largely be done on a screen somewhat like the one used in the Atari original. Electronics should be used to do things we CAN’T do without it.

#24 Comment By pj On November 25, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

Well, we pretty much don’t let the kids do much on the iphone and we only save angry birds (on the kindle fire) for very special occasions. So they still ask to get on the Wii often. In fact we braved the Friday sales to grab a bunch of new games at Big Lots. (for Christmas and the birthdays that follow quickly) Our 8 year old is also into Roblox and wants us to install Kerbal Space Program (after I left your blog post up on my computer!) but I don’t think we’ve got a processor powerful enough right now.

Oh, there is another demographic among which the Wii is quite popular which is also a growth area and which I don’t ever hear anyone consider. We were just checking out nursing homes for one of our parents and the Wii activites (mostly Wii sports) I swear were among the most popular thing at every single one we visited. Watching a room full of elderly, half of whom are in wheelchairs cheer for the latest strike is quite entertaining actually.

#25 Comment By Richard Masta On November 25, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

@ jenkins:

not everyone can play badminton in the yard. some of them don’t have yards. that is the wonderful aspect of console gaming, as outdated as it is. I’m proud to admit, by the way, that as a 26 year old, I’d rather move to the lot with the yard than the house with the living room space.

I like how the American Conservative can relate to those who are “conservative” in the Burkean sense (resistant to change and proud of it), and to those who are Tuckerian anarcho-capitalists (first adopters/Jetsons-worlders). Wonderful world.

#26 Comment By Naturalmom On November 26, 2012 @ 12:00 am

My kids use the Xbox a lot. A LOT. More than I would like them too. (They may be the only 10 and 12 year olds who *don’t* play Minecraft though! After reading some of the comments here, I’m in no rush to introduce it.) They play kinnect games sometimes, but not often. They play mostly hand-held controller games, and they do play a variety: Baseball and Football simulations, LEGO adventure games (LEGO Star Wars, etc.), racing games.

My daughter seems to be able to self-regulate. My sons (the youngest of whom is only 5) seem to get sucked in and addicted. We are on an Xbox haitus until after Christmas for just that reason. I have a love-hate relationship with the darn thing.

#27 Comment By Nathaniel W On November 26, 2012 @ 2:11 am

Dakarian’s basically right: one of the Wii’s big target audiences was “casual gamers,” and it’s steadily losing their attention to mobile app-based games. But apps are never going to win over hardcore gamers, who will gravitate to the PC/Xbox/Playstation. For those of us who are willing to spend months playing a single game of Civilization or years constructing a vast metropolitan area in SimCity, or devote countless hours to perfecting our sniping skills in Counterstrike, gaming on the iPad/iPhone has very little to offer.

#28 Comment By MomofNERM On December 5, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

My kids are under 11. Are they gamers? I guess. They play the Wii. Often. They also play on their iPhones and Nintendo DSs, DSi’s, 3D-Ds.. their PS2 Old play station. They also play sports, they play musical instruments, they are involved in church and church activities such as the Christmas play. They have excellent grades and are even in the excel classes at school. They play outside on the swing set and play on the trampoline. They watch TV. I feel they are well rounded children. News Flash: we also play board games and put real puzzles together! We play chess and cards like Phase 10 as a family. When parents do not set a time limit for games or tv or do not set high standards for other activities or school work, then maybe that is when there are issues with “gaming” . I like the Wii because there are plenty of games that encourage family time and alone time. We all exercise to Dance Party although the kids do not realize it is exercise, it’s just plain fun. Will I look at purchasing a Wii U? No. And for the record, my kids bought their own Ds’ and other electronics by saving money from odd jobs, Holidays, allowance, birthdays etc. They are not simply handed these electrics. I like the Wii and do not see anything wrong with video games.