[Over the next two weeks, MyWiiNews is offering a four-part, in-depth series on the biggest problems that face the Wii in 2008. We'll be looking at the problems and offering a few tips for Nintendo & Co. to meet the challenges head on, and keep the console in first place. Stay tuned to catch the whole series, only at MyWiiNews.com]
Welcome back to the third installment of the MyWiiNews four-part, in-depth feature on the four biggest problems facing the Wii in 2008. Today we continue on in the same direction as yesterday’s discussion about third-party developers and march on to discuss how two types of games are currently competing for the Wii’s spotlight: casual and hardcore.
The Wii has had a remarkable run over the past year, uniting people together through videogames in ways that many gaming purists had never thought imaginable. Extending the marketing patterns already in place with the Nintendo DS, Nintendo aimed to create a home console that appealed to different generations and types of gamers. Through their emphasis on casual games that anyone could just “pick up and play,” the Nintendo Wii caught on instantly with people everywhere and became an overnight sensation that has continued on to this very day.
While the new emphasis on casual games has influenced a wider range of people to pick up a Wii, the dangers of being such as casual console are beginning to show. On a whole, casual gamers don’t tend to buy as many games as more core or “hardcore” gamers usually do, since the casual gamers generally aren’t the ones following gaming news and waiting for the latest title to come out. The attach rate (average amount of games sold per system) for the Nintendo Wii has been approximately 5.3 titles per console, which is rather strong for a system that has only been out for a little over a year, but is still trailing behind the more “hardcore” Xbox 360’s 7 titles per system.
What does this all mean? While it’s easy to jump the gun and point a finger while exclaiming that a casual system is a doomed system, it’s a bit too early (and absolutely ridiculous) to call the Wii an eventual failure. One thing that I hope was made clear enough yesterday was how necessary it is for the Wii to have solid third-party support in order for the it to appeal to the widest range of gamers possible. Going hand in hand with this is the importance of having more “hardcore” titles on the shelves in order to keep the core gamers, who will almost always support a system more faithfully than a purely casual gamer, happy and buying.
All of this begs the inevitable question: what makes a game “hardcore” or casual? Gamers may debate this until the end of time, but roughly stated, a casual game focuses on being as appealing and easy to pick up and play as possible. Casual games are games like Wii Sports, Mario Kart, WarioWare, etc. that take little practice to be able to play and enjoy. More hardcore games cannot be enjoyed fully unless a player puts the time into enjoy them by learning about the story, exploring environments, and working towards mastering the game. This does not mean that a casual title can’t be mastered or a hardcore title cannot have a widespread audience that enjoys the game (as is evident with Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and various other games that have sold millions of copies), but simply that hardcore games cannot be picked up at whim like a casual game could.
On a whole, it’s hard to deny how much casual titles are dominating the Wii at the moment. With simple minigame packages, ports, and other shovelware relatively cheap to churn out and make a quick buck from, many developers are using the casual emphasis of the Wii to flood it with the mindless crap that was described yesterday. The lack of emphasis on more hardcore titles will hurt the system in the long run, as gamers will eventually grow bored of the multitude of games with little to no substance. In order for Nintendo to truly appeal to all audiences and compete head to head with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the Wii needs to start focusing on developing more hardcore titles that will draw players in and make them want more.
The effects of the Wii’s stigma as a casual-only gaming machine are something that can be felt when walking down the aisles of practically any electronics store. GameStop has taken this a step further by outright eschewing more traditional core titles in favor of the casual shovelware that currently litters store shelves While this will undoubtedly have a pronounced effect on the Wii in the long run once the casual gamers stop biting, how is Nintendo supposed to manage their casual majority? Can the casual gamers become longtime hardcore fans? We think that it’s possible, and with a little bit of the work we suggest, Nintendo can be sure to remain a success for years to come.
1. Try to Strike a Balance Between “Casual” and “Hardcore” Titles
At the moment, the Wii is overrun with mediocre casual cash-ins that are discouraging publishers from making more hardcore titles. Much like our suggestion yesterday, Nintendo should start to become a more active part of the game approval process in order to focus the market on a smaller selection of worthwhile casual games and make room for more hardcore titles. Both are necessary when looking at the entirety of the system’s users, and striking a balance on the shelves will make the Wii seem like a more quality system instead of a trash receptacle.
As previously mentioned, much of the Wii’s current fan base are casual gamers that picked up the system due to its versatility and ease of use. For some of these owners, the Wii marks their first big gaming purchase, and as such, is a great way for them to get more into videogames. Creating “intro-hardcore” titles that include more “training wheels” for first time casual gamers, such as thorough tutorials, lowered difficulty, and casual options (like the on-rails arcade adventure option found in Medal of Honor: Heroes 2), would be a great way for Nintendo to tap their overflowing resource of casual gamers and help them grow into full blown gamers.
2. Balance Out Individual Titles More Effectively
Building off of the Medal of Honor example, Nintendo and third-party developers should focus on balancing out casual and hardcore elements of individual titles that are released for the Wii. Super Mario Galaxy is a great example of this. It effectively balances a main game that any casual gamer could make their way through and enjoy, while offering an extended adventure for any hardcore player that wants to collect every star in the game. Even though it isn’t quite as “pick up and play” as some might want a casual game to be, Mario Galaxy still strikes that delicate balance between being a core game that any novice can pick up, and a title that presents enough challenge for hardened players to enjoy.
Working on creating more core titles that appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers will be a challenge that Nintendo & Co. will have to work on in the coming year. Finding out the proper way to balance out individual titles will be the biggest hurdle for many developers, as finding out how to make your title appeal to both markets will obviously bring in the greatest revenue possible. More games with separate casual and hardcore elements, a la Medal of Honor’s separate arcade and story modes, will be an extremely valuable way for more casual gamers to start to see games as more than a casual diversion.
Truth be told, Nintendo’s upcoming 2008 release list looks extremely promising. With a pretty solid mix of hardcore and casual games setting the tone for the majority of 2008, gamers should have a lot to play through the year. It’s important to note that this list doesn’t include all of little titles mentioned, as further examination of the February release list uncovers a lot of the shovelware crap on the way as well. As long as Nintendo can work on focusing its resources on promoting the worthwhile casual and hardcore games, we can keep on hoping for the scene to get even brighter. Check back here at MyWiiNews next week for the exciting conclusion to our in-depth series!
Did you miss a part? Ready to read on? Catch the whole series, only at MyWiiNews:
- Part #1 - Four Problems Facing the Wii in 2008: #1 - Shortages
- Part #2 - Four Problems Facing the Wii in 2008: #2 - Third-Party Support
- Part #3 - Four Problems Facing the Wii in 2008: #3 - Saturation of Casual Games
- Part #4 - Four Problems Facing the Wii in 2008: #4 - Innovation and Potential