Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 17, 2015

Email: Wii Sports not innovative?

Really? If it’s all about that classic, pick-up-and-play arcade-like experience (a la Nintendo’s Sports Series games on the NES), I suppose you think that Nintendo could have released the same game on the Gamecube instead and it still would have been a hit. After all, it had nothing to do with the controller and therefore nothing to do with innovation, right?


Motion controls already existed in the arcades. The typical Gamecube game is absolutely nothing like the arcade and could be the furthest thing from the arcade. Arcade games are pick up and play. Gamecube games typically were not.

The old pattern with video games has been that graphics do not make the game. Graphics is another way of saying ‘technology’. The process of game development does not match the process of consumption of that product (which is what really matters). If motion controls made Wii Sports, then the D-Pad made Super Mario Brothers.

Despite TVs being unable to play light gun games and Duck Hunt, we still play Duck Hunt and revere Duck Hunt. (An example was Heroes of the Storm putting Duck Hunt into their title screen which you could play). Duck Hunt was not about the light gun.

PONG is a great example of Wii Sports. PONG wasn’t the first commercial video game, but it was the first successful commercial video game. PONG’s genius was whittling away controls until instructions was ‘hit ball for high score’. You could throw anyone at PONG, and they would figure out how to play. Nintendo did this with the Wii early games. Nintendo also did this with the NES (though few people realize this). This was not done in the 16-bit Generation onward.

Sports games also have been the traditional bread and butter hits of the video game industry.

Wii Sports featured a NES era game design. The role of the Wii-mote was making the game accessible. It was, as Iwata said, to ‘break down the walls’ between gamer and non-gamer.

A game console had three wires connecting it: the power, the input, and the output.

No one gives a damn if the power is innovated. Oh no! The game console uses less power. Kids don’t care about that.

The output receives innovation all the time. HD graphics is an output innovation. Color graphics on handhelds were an output innovation.

The input innovations have been quite rare. The NES did many input innovations but especially the D-pad. Some might argue that analog stick of the N64 controller was an input innovation (I’d argue the opposite as it created more walls between gamers and non-gamers).

It wasn’t motion controls that made Wii Sports happen. It was Wii Sports that made motion controls happen.

Just as it wasn’t the Gameboy that made Tetris happen. It was Tetris that made the Gameboy happen.

It wasn’t the DS that made Nintendogs happen. It was Nintendogs that made the DS happen.

It wasn’t the D-Pad that made Super Mario Brothers happen. It was Super Mario Brothers that made the D-Pad happen.

It wasn’t the analog stick that made Super Mario 64 happen. It was Super Mario 64 that made the analog stick happen.

The software always establishes the hardware, never the other way around. Of course, in developing it, they need the hardware in order to make software for it. But this does not matter. No one bought the Wii for motion controls.

Let me repeat this.

No one bought the Wii for motion controls.

They bought the Wii for Wii Sports.

They bought the Wii for Wii Fit.

They bought the Wii for NSMB Wii or some other game.

Yamauchi’s prime console rule applies. Software drives the hardware.

Asking if Wii Sports would be as popular if it was made on the Gamecube is like asking if Super Mario Brothers would be as popular if made on the Commodore 64. (It wasn’t.) Nintendo develops their games as an integrated hardware and software maker. If Wii Sports was made for the Gamecube, it would be utilizing the Gamecube hardware to its finest effect. The Gamecube hardware was designed for better visual output, so a Wii Sports for Gamecube would have been a visual treat.

It would not have generated the same amount of interest for the same reason why the Gamecube failed. People aren’t as concerned about output in games as people think. Even as I write this, Minecraft, a game of blocks, is the best, most consistent, selling game on nearly all platforms.

I think the greatest tragedy is occurring with gaming by assigning the success of Wii Sports solely to the controller. Most Wii games had access to that same controller, yet none of them enjoyed the success that Wii Sports did. Why is that? It isn’t logical to say it was mostly due to the controller. How about giving the game design some credit?

But no, Wii Sports, the game, will never, ever be given credit. Hardcore gamers despise sports games and despise non-immersion. Giving Wii Sports the credit would upend many conventions on how we think about gaming. It is intellectually lazier to simply declare it ‘due to the gimmick’ and call it a day. Even PONG gets more credit for its game design than Wii Sports does today. It’s so sad.

Then again, there are people out there who really want to believe Splatoon is a blockbuster hit and that the Pikmin franchise is popular. I don’t know what to say to these people.

Such people also believe the Wii U is a ‘great console’ even though it is goring Nintendo. If Wii U was such a great console, then the Saturn had to have been a great console for Sega, right? You cannot separate the sales as the sales define the user base which defines the number of games made for that system.

Above: Still better than hardcore games. This is making me want to go and play some Wii Sports!



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