Friday, December 26, 2008

Wii: 2008 year in review

2008 was definitely a strange year for the Wii. We saw events that made longtime Nintendo fans doubt their relationship with the Big N. We saw the launch of Nintendo's downloadable game service WiiWare. And we saw a lack of first party games towards the end of the year that ultimately resulted in mixed feelings from the "core" gaming crowd. Today I'll be looking back on the past year (as if it hasn't already been done by hundreds of other blogs and game sites) and stating my thoughts on 2008 as a whole. I'll break this into four sections: games, news, events, and the future of the Wii. Enjoy!

Games of 2008
Nintendo published a measly 8 titles (in the US) in 2008. The Big N kicked off '08 with the casual, soothing game that is Endless Ocean in January. Next up, in March was Super Smash Bros. Brawl. One of the biggest games (on the hype-meter) for a Nintendo system in a long time. The game's also one of the Wii's greatest with super-balanced and fun gameplay. April saw Mario Kart Wii released with it's awesome online and hectic races. While May of 2008 was home to the release of a landmark title for Nintendo: Wii Fit. With it's innovative gameplay and how it fits specifically into Nintendo's Blue Ocean Strategy, this one's still selling millions into the holidays.

In the rest of the year we got the other half of Nintendo's '08 lineup. This half: not so great. While Wario Land: Shake It! was a pretty awesome, retroish game, Mario Super Sluggers, Wii Music, and Animal Crossing: City Folk were all received generally less favorably, with complaints such as not enough gameplay (Wii Music) and way too similar to the GameCube and DS versions (Animal Crossing). All in all, I feel Nintendo's 2008 games were lacking. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was of course the biggest, but it was really scheduled for 2007! Nintendo really needs to step it up in 2009.

As for third-parties, we got a decent amount of quality titles to do what Nintendon't. Despite the continual tsunami of Petz titles, Imagine games, and minigame fests, many third-parties are starting to get the Wii. 2008 saw some of the best third-party games to hit Nintendo's shiny white box since it's launch. We saw releases of Boom Blox, No More Heroes, Blast Works, a Guitar Hero and Rock that can rival the other systems', ports of the PS2 hits Okami and Bully, and de Blob: all great games.

The Virtual Console service has been a huge success for Nintendo. It lets older gamers relish in nostalgia and new gamers experience some of the classics. But it wasn't until 2008 that Wii owners could download original titles via the WiiWare service Nintendo launched in May. Some became instant classics like World of Goo and Mega Man 9. Despite huge titles like these, WiiWare was home to some other great releases, such as a LostWinds, Tetris, Dr. Mario, and intriguing new series from Nintendo called Art Style. But much like the Wii's retail library, for every World of Goo and LostWinds, we get a dozen Frat Party: Beer Pongs and SPOGS Racings. Despite these blemishes, WiiWare had a fairly good first year in my opinion.

News of 2008
Probably the biggest news throughout the year was how Nintendo now full swing in their "expanded audience" ideas with titles like Wii Fit and Wii Music to prove it. While these ideas are great and are really what'll keep the industry alive in the end, more "core" gamers like myself couldn't help but feel left out.

As for sales, the Wii is breaking records and taking names. It sold 800,000 units on Thanksgiving weekend alone (in the states only!), that's almost as many as the 360 sold that entire month. The Wii seems like an unstoppable juggernaut when it comes to selling hardware, as it's two years after the Wii's release, and it's still unlikely you'll walk into a store a see a Wii.

One of the bigger things to happen on the Wii this year was the launch of WiiWare. With it came original, smaller titles that were filled to the brim with quality. After a fairly good launch, a drought of any good WiiWare games struck the system, but once fall and winter came around, we started seeing some of the better games emerging like World of Goo and the Strong Bad series.

Two new peripherals were announced this year; one which was released. They were the WiiSpeak microphone and Wii MotionPlus device. WiiSpeak came out right along side Animal Crossing: City Folk and finally allowed voice chat in Wii games (unfortunately AC:CF is the only to support it at the moment). Wii MotionPlus was leaked shortly before E3 2008 and was showcased at 2008's Electronic Entertainment Expo. It allows "true 1:1" controls and is going to be packaged with WiiSports Resort. A definite game to keep your eyes on.

And finally, Club Nintendo was released a few weeks ago. Users found the overall experience to be buggy and slow. But if you ever did log on, you'd find a place to register all your Wii, DS, and WiiWare games, earn coins for filling out surveys, and purchase Nintendo fan-service items with those coins. The biggest and best thing available currently is a Game and Watch collection for the DS going for 800 coins. Currently, the site's down for maintenance, which is good, seeing as my experiences with it have been ridden with login errors and massive slowdown.

Events of 2008
The first of the three major 2008 events was Nintendo's Spring Media Summit. It was here we first learned about WiiWare. Mario Super Sluggers was also announced to be developed by Namco. Those were the only two big announcements at the show, but many first- and third-party games were showcased which resulted in a plethora of previews and impressions from major game outlets like IGN.

Ahh, E3 2008, such memories I have of you. And let me tell you: they're (mostly) not good. Here was when many brokenhearted fans claimed, "Nintendo's given up on the hardcore!!" Nintendo seemed to give the hardcore, longtime Nintendo fans the cold shoulder by showing off only their casual lineup including games like Animal Crossing: City Folk and Wii Sports Resort. No news of a new Pikmin or Zelda came from the press conference. (But at least later into the show Miyamoto confirmed the Mario and Zelda teams are working and that Pikmin 3 is in the works.) Oh, and that not-so-surprise-showing-of-Miyamoto-with-a-kickass-game... didn't happen. He showed off Wii Music in one of the most ridiculous presentations I've ever seen. E3 was deader than a doornail this year, and Nintendo's showing made many want it to die out all together. But fret not, as E3 2009 will supposedly be restored back to it's former glory. Let's just hope Nintendo can put on a quality show that time around.

And finally, we have Nintendo's Fall Media Summit. This is more of an apology to the hardcore for E3 than anything else. While the main attraction was no doubt the latest Nintendo DS model, the DSi, the Wii saw some great news come out of the event as well. We got announcements for two big, first-party games, Punch-Out!! Wii and Sin & Punshiment 2. From the show also came confirmation of the rumored "storage solution." Iwata announced you'd now be able to save Wii Shop items directly to the SD card. The show also saw announcements of minor games like an Endless Ocean sequel, Trace Memory 2, and Cosmic Walker (think Endless Ocean in space, and it looks awesome!). It may have been an apology to the "core" Nintendo fan, but the show was still one of Nintendo's high points of the year.

The future: 2009 and beyond
While the Wii's 2008 year may not have been all that great, the future is definitely shaping up. We already know of quite a few games that are going to make '09 all the better. To name a few... we'll be getting MadWorld, the Conduit, House of the Dead: Overkill, Punch-Out!!, Sin & Punishment 2, Muramasu: the Demon Blade, Wii Sports Restort, Cosmic Walker, LIT (WiiWare), and Cave Story (WiiWare). Plus we already know of sequels for third-party Wii hits Boom Blox and No More Heroes. Thanks for reading, and here's to an awesome 2009.

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1 comment:

  1. It's good Club Nintendo is down? On Christmas Day, and today? I can't register my kids' game - which they say to do BEFORE you play, so you can get 15 mo warranty. I call their 800-line and am disconnected when I select to speak to an agent. Three times, so far. This, to me, is not "good."