Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why the Wii is next-gen and everyone who says otherwise is a hypocrite


I have recently had a bemusing exchange with a PR rep from a German agency, working for a number of clients in the videogame industry. "´Dragon Ball Z Burst Limit´ for Xbox360 will be the first Dragon Ball game on next-gen consoles", she said. "But," I replied, "´Budokai Tenkaichi 2´ was already available on Wii…?" She was adamant that she was right, though: "No, the Wii is not a next-gen console," she lectured me. I tried to hesitantly voice some doubts, but she made her stance quite clear: "You may say the Wii is next-gen. But no real gamer would ever say that."

Apart from this being a textbook example of extremely bad PR (insulting clients should not be a priority), it simply annoyed me that people in the industry (albeit merely a PR agent) thought this way. To me, there are a few reasons why the Wii is, of course, as next-gen as the two competitors. But I will only detail the most convincing one for now.

An example

Consider a generation of three consoles, by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, respectively. One of the three is considerably underpowered when compared to the others, which keen gamers notice in the visual quality, yet the console outsells its competition in most markets and is the clear market leader worldwide. Gaining momentum among third party publishers as a result, the portfolio is growing fast. But there is an increasing amount of ´shovelware´ - cheaply produced games that are ports, cheap knock-offs or uninspired sequels, all designed to make a quick buck off of the market leader and the hype surrounding it.

Now, in this scenario, would you really consider that console not next-gen? Would you not think it on par with the competition? If so, you have just judged the PlayStation2 inferior to the original Xbox and the Gamecube. Yes, the PS2 was significantly underpowered compared to the competition. Its portfolio was impressive in numbers, but riddled with shovelware. But it was the clear market leader. The above situation is evident both with the PS2 last-gen and the Wii now – but noone ever refused to call the PS2 next-gen back then.

The only difference, of course, is that the PS2 came out some time before the other two (which also explains the significant gap in hardware power) and we did not have a chance of comparing it with the competition. Or did we? Way before the advent of Xbox and Gamecube, back in 2000/2001, there were two consoles competing for dominance in that generation: Sony´s PS2 and Sega´s Dreamcast. With a headstart to market, Dreamcast games looked far better than the launch portfolio of the PS2. The ´Shenmue´ series and ´Jet Grind Radio´ were impressive visual feasts back then and no PS2 game could match that at or around the launch of Sony´s console. Developers simply had not yet had the experience necessary to use the PS2´s hardware. Particularly the low graphics memory plagued developers and this struggle is evident in those earliest games.

I mean, when have you last thought about ´Fantavision´ or ´Ridge Racer 5´? Check Wikipedia´s Chronology of PlayStation2 games and see how many pages you have to scroll down before you get to a decent title. But I digress.

My point is that back then noone considered the PS2 last-gen compared to the Dreamcast. Later, noone thought that Gamecube and Xbox were in a league of their own, though one might have argued that they were, from a purely technical point of view. But the overall gameplay experience on all three consoles was near enough to think of them as equals. And with the Wii nowadays, it should be no different.

Wii Titles like ´Far Cry: Vengeance´ or ´GT Pro Series´ obviously do not do the platform justice. I mean, Ubisoft had a total of seven or so Wii launch titles. Even a giant like Ubisoft cannot churn out that many AAA games, let alone on a brand new console. Accept shovelware for what it is and recall how much crap we had to sift through, and still do, in the PlayStation2´s portfolio.

Instead, I ask you to compare ´Metroid Prime 3´ and ´The Conduit´ to ´Halo 3´ (in standard or enhanced definition). Or compare ´Super Mario Galaxy´ to ´Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts´. There is as much (or as little) difference between those games as there was between a ´Soul Calibur´ on the Dreamcast and ´Tekken Tag Tournament´ on PS2 or a ´Resident Evil 4´ on Gamecube and the same game on the PlayStation2. I ask everyone to be brutally honest here. If the PlayStation2 was not last-gen then, then neither is the Wii now.


DeepCutstheKnife said...

While I understand your point, because by virtue of being a new system with new technology it is next-gen, the way most press, PR, developers, etc talk about next-gen the Wii is not in their category. Next-gen systems is HD and becoming more like a PC. I actually refer to the Wii as New-gen. Nintendo is taking a direction of market distruption and the competition isn't who has the prettiest graphics, but one of ideals. New-gen being one of easy-of-use and pickup-and-play, where as Next-gen is shiny graphics and bigger processors (in otherwords a continuation of the last twenty years).

Taken in that context, one of ideals, Wii is not Next-gen it is something competely different. It uses it's technoloy which is very sophisticated to moves games in another direction. Sean Malstrom explains it more eloquently than I in his articles on his site, but I'm sure you get the idea. As someone you covers the industry, what are you're thoughts? I've followed your blog since before the Wii launch and have really enjoyed your articles, keep it up.

Solace said...

Isn't that what "next-gen" means? You know, "new!" The problem with this "next-gen" label is that it's a buzzword with a unclear and vague definition and context. Calling the Wii strictly "new-gen" seems counterproductive when "next-gen" has been commonly defined as new. I have always thought consoles were considered "next-gen" by how new it is, not improved. We expect there to be improvements, but just look at Microsoft's Vista.

Some Guy said...

Great topic and an interesting read (I still play my DreamCast every once and a while), my friends and I have actually discussed this a few times.

The Wii is a seventh generation console as are the PS3 and 360 it’s just that so many gamers and some of those in the media associate next-gen with HD and horsepower.

I ask everyone to be brutally honest here. If the PlayStation2 was not last-gen then, then neither is the Wii now.

I understand what you are saying but you must know that there is a tremendous difference with the two scenarios that you are comparing. The PS2 was the weakest (excluding Dreamcast) of the sixth generation of consoles but the gap in horsepower was not nearly has massive as it is today. Both competitors of the Wii have 512 MB ram and multiple cores running @ 3.2 GHz; from a purely technical standpoint the Wii (with 88 MB and a signal core @ 729MHz) is significantly outmatched.

But to be honest I don’t see a problem with this, Nintendo was clear that the Wii was not about horsepower but about unique and fun game play experience.

This is just my opinion, I could be wrong :)

Anonymous said...

As much as I agree with you Falafel, I feel very sad about the recent situation about 3d party support.They keep releasing shovelware on Wii and this crap funds their high profile games for HD consoles.I feel offended.
Surely,Wii is not as much as powerful as ps3 and 360.But I prefer a million times a next-gen control scheme than graphics.
And let's not forget that the impression that Wii is hugely underpowered has been created by all 3d parties crap efforts.
We should judge Wii's horsepower with titles like Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3 and not with,say,Dogz.
I honestly believe that if 3d party deelopers wanted to release CoD4,AC,PoP,RE5 and BG&E2 on Wii,they could do it easily.The problem is the atittude of publishers towards Wii.And that must change.

Falafelkid said...

Hi everyone. First of all, thank you all for your contributions.

Hi Deepcutstheknife.

Next-gen systems is HD and becoming more like a PC.

Who said that? Who defines those terms? Why is HD next-gen, but motion sensitivity isn´t, according to your definition? I mean, HD contributes very little to the overall gameplay experience. Graphics in general more so, but resolution is a minute factor in the equation.

I find motion sensitivity the most important aspect of next-gen. I have owned a Wii since it was available here and still I get joy from simply navigating the menu and feeling the rumble response. Of course, I do get wowed by a higher resolution, but to me that is not the most critical aspect. Playing an FPS or a rail shooter on Wii is an unrivalled next-gen experience to me.

Hi Solace.

Isn't that what "next-gen" means? You know, "new!" The problem with this "next-gen" label is that it's a buzzword with a unclear and vague definition and context.

My point exactly. I agree wholeheartedly.

Hi Some Guy.

The PS2 was the weakest (excluding Dreamcast) of the sixth generation of consoles but the gap in horsepower was not nearly has massive as it is today.

That is probably true (you know more about hardware than I do), but I wouldn´t call that difference ´tremendous´. In fact, I am concerned not as much with a difference in hardware specs, but actual videogame output.

Again, if you compare such Gamecube games as ´Bloody Roar: Primal Fury´ with a similar PS2 game, the difference is pretty much equal to that between Wii games and titles on the two rival systems.

You are right, of course, but I am arguing precisely against comparing raw hardware specs. Nintendo are masters of efficiency. Comparing the visual quality of Xbox and Gamecube does not betray the huge difference in hardware specs. And, similarly, a few Wii games do match up to Xbox360 and PS3 titles. Let´s hope there are more of those coming.

Hi Anonymous

The problem is the atittude of publishers towards Wii.And that must change.

Precisely. Maybe ´The Conduit´ and Factor 5´s project will mark a watershed for third party rationale.

meh said...

In these times of focus on environmental friendliness, one thing people seem to ignore is the fact that while the 360 and PS3 are monsters when it comes to eating electricity, Wii uses only 1/3 of the electricity used by the GameCube.

In this sense, Wii is the only next-gen console because it is extremely energy conservative.

Indeed, in the mobile world, making phones use less battery power is part of the overall progress. Bigger and more power-hungry is not necessarily better, and phones that draw a lot of battery are often considered to be out of date.

Anonymous said...

I don't know but all I can say is that from my personal expirience it's like once you get past the visuals what really counts is the fun factor.

At the end of the day graphics simply don't make a game...I
am not terribly impressed by Soldier Of Fortune for Ps3 for example...neither graphically nore gameplay's a typical shooter...nothing special

I think that's one of the main gripes I have with the so called next gen titles ..they are just higher poly higher resolution versions of the same old games...
It's just nothing you haven't played before oneway or the other

Let's leave it at that I am just not terribly impressed by anything rightnow.

I think what really counts are the true blockbusters that come around now and then......and they are on all like Galaxy, GTA4(to some extent.. the driving becomes tiresome the mission design ain't all THAT great), MGS4, Okami,etc. regardless of graphics

Sure 360/PS3 graphics look better but so what?who gives a shit?....I am past that....I want interesting games....not merely good looking ones

A lot of them look plasticy anyway...

Okay GTA4 looks great except for the chractermodels sometimes...

Nowadays its all about artstyle, raw technics don't count that much anymore


Anonymous said...

excellent editorial falafelkid. i'd like to see a more fleshed-out version of it in the future. i just love the matter-of-fact stance you take when calling hypocrites on their bullshit. lovely :)

...and you know, i'm starting to wonder if anybody even remembers who Crossbeam Studios even IS enough to make your upcoming article on them relevant anymore ;) i kid, i kid. but seriously... that article and the Sacha Baron Cohen interview are quickly becoming falafelkid-vaporware, aren't they? ;)

-"superfan" tactics.

p.s. i hope you plan to ream the fuck out of kenton bailey in your crossbeam article. that guy sucks ;)

muckdog said...

With the Wii, Nintendo has introduced "playability" to consoles. It's all about the Wiimote and bringing new gamers to the market. That's why Wii won.

msa said...

this is absolutely correct.

i also use that same example when talking with friends who consider the wii a nongamers-last-gen-console that no serious gamer would be.

ALL of them have a playstation2, but they consider themselves are real gamers, because they have a 360 or ps3.

this is so awkward to talk to them, because they are like stupid babies. they dont have a single argument when i ask them about that.

Anonymous said...

Play MGS4 then talk about this issue

Mach1Canuck said...

I love it when people get stuck on graphics and huge processor/hard drive numbers when they talk next-gen. It doesn't matter how many pixels your system can push out, if they are only making the same crappy games from 5 years ago in a slightly better resolution, with better fog effects.
Revolutionary gameplay is where its at baby!
The WIi has opened up so many more demographcs to play video games, it is terrific for our industry.
Great blog!

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