As the owner of a Nintendo Wii, I have been treated to both the pluses and minuses of this innovative game system. On the plus side, there’s the wireless motion control, which adds a lot to games that would require the player to actually perform a motion were the game real (e.g., driving games, sports games, shooters, Domino99, and the like), as well as games that focus more on creating a fun experience as opposed to simply looking dazzling.
On the minus side, I do admit to having a bad case of graphics envy for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The graphics on those systems make the Wii look more than simply “last-gen”; they make it look almost dinosauresque. It is frustrating as a Wii owner to run across promos and advertisements for cutting edge games only to find that they are not coming out on Nintendo’s console.
But rumor mills suggest that change is coming in the form an updated Wii, sometimes referred to in the media as the “Wii 2.0”. While I’m not expecting anything groundbreaking from this improved system, here are five things I’d like to see that would ease the pain for Wii owners who suffer relentless ridicule from their Playstation3 and Xbox 360-owning friends:
5) The ability to rent games on the Virtual Console or WiiWare service. Renting games is not a new idea. Gamefly has made an entire business out of it. And let’s face it, many of the games on the Virtual Console or Wiiware are not games with tremendous replay value. Yet once you spend your Wii points, the game is yours forever until you run out of storage space and want to download a different game. When that happens you either have to save it to a memory card(and very possibly forget about it) or simply delete it. If Nintendo had a graded system that allowed you to pay a certain number of Wii points per day/week, more consumers would give these “one and done” type games a shot. For example, if there is an N64 game that costs 1,000 Wii points, Nintendo could offer it for rental for 100 points per day. There are many games on the Virtual Console and WiiWare that can be completed in only a matter of days. If the consumer finishes the game and decides that he would like to permanently own it, he could pay however many remaining Wii Points are required to reach the 1,000 point purchase price.
4) Shovelware protection. As the Wii is directed heavily at casual gamers, game makers realize that the people purchasing games for the system are not necessarily very software-savvy. They tend to choose games based on the artwork on the box, the movie or TV character that the game is tied in with, or some other non-game-related criteria. This has led to the spawn of “shovelware”, or inferior games that are being sold by the truckful to unsuspecting consumers who are not sure how to tell good games from bad ones. I am in favor of every game being sold for the Wii 2.0 carrying a labeling system that gives these uneducated consumers a fighting chance at finding a decent game. Perhaps requiring a rating sticker from a site like metacritic.com on every Wii 2.0 title sold? This is a very tricky issue, as it is going to be difficult for Nintendo to essentially tell companies that make games for the Wii that their games suck(of which the offending companies are well aware) and that they are going to let potential consumers know it. Something has to be done, however, as many casual gamers are severely disappointed in the crap that passes for games on the Wii.
3) A better internet channel. The current Wii can surf the internet, but it’s slow, tedious, and does not allow you to view all types of web pages or files. I own a wireless keyboard for the Wii which speeds things up drastically from the virtual keyboard that requires you to use your Wiimote to click on each separate onscreen letter to “type”. Even with a keyboard, surfing the internet using the Wii is something I only do when another family member is using the PC. A better internet channel would allow at least minimal web programs, such as java or shockwave, to run and would also be able to handle video files without continuously pausing to buffer. Also, the user needs to be able to surf using a keyboard device alone. The current internet channel requires constant switching back and forth between keyboard(provided you have one) and the Wiimote.
2) More memory. The current Wii holds 512 MB of flash memory. Yes, you heard me right, only 512 MB. If you’ve tried downloading several Virtual Console or WiiWare titles and have been informed there is not enough space, you already know why this is a problem. The Wii is simply not built to hold much internally. Sure, you can buy an SD card for the Wii, but it would be much, much easier if Nintendo simply upped the amount of memory the Wii had to begin with. There would be no need to swap cards in and out to load specific Virtual Console or WiiWare games. It’s not as though most WiiWare or Virtual Console games consume a lot of memory, it’s just that there’s so little on the Wii, to begin with. Adding even 20 GB of internal memory would be a huge plus.
1) A graphics update. You knew this would be in here, right? The current Wii has graphics that are only a shade better than Nintendo’s previous console, the Gamecube. I’m not asking for something in the league of a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. I am aware that part of the idea behind the Wii was a focus on gameplay, not graphics. That being said, improved graphics can actually improve gameplay. For many of the games that Nintendo has brought to the Wii, the graphics were intentionally soft and less-than-realistically styled(think Wii Sports, Wii Music, Wario Land Shake It!, etc.). However, there are a couple of Nintendo’s own franchises that are in desperate need of sharper graphics, specifically Metroid and Zelda. Both of those franchises would reach a previously unknown level of popularity if they just pushed the display resolution up to perhaps 720p. The current Wii supports 480p, which is the standard definition. 1080p is full HD, but not all TVs sold as HD are 1080p(which both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 support). Many TVs billed as HD are actually only 720p. (As a side note, when 720p sets were first being sold, they were more accurately called “EDTV”, or enhanced-definition TVs. Apparently whoever has been marketing these sets has decided that they can sell more by calling them high definition). Having seen 720p displays, there is a noticeable improvement from standard definition.
If Nintendo’s updates of the DS are any kind of example, don’t expect anything major from the Wii 2.0. The DSi added slightly bigger screens, a couple of cameras, and improved firmware. I’m hoping the Wii 2.0 will take the Wii a bit further than Nintendo took the DS in its update, but pretty much any improvements would be welcome.