Wii Sports delivers fun for all the family - but not a lot else.
Wii Sports was Nintendo's primary launch title for their new console back in November 2006, and as the first game to demonstrate the console's innovative motion-sensing control system, it quickly captured the attention and imagination of a mainstream media that largely viewed videogames as a baffling and incomprehensible pastime beloved of younger generations. In contrast to games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Bungie's hugely successful Halo franchise, Wii Sports was viewed as an inclusive experience that transcended the assumed stereotypes of who could play videogames. With its 'pick-up-and-play' appeal, the game was advertised as a launch title that even your grandparents could enjoy, and contributed enormously to the colossal sales of the Wii console itself.
Of the five games on offer, all of them are entertaining enough for what they are, if somewhat limited. Sceptics argue that Wii Sports is nothing more than a series of 'tech demos' designed to demonstrate the Wii's motion-sensing control system, and there is certainly validity to these claims. The game's appearance is rudimentary and unimpressive, and aside from the main game modes for each there is not a lot of extra content. But despite this, Wii Sports really is a lot of fun. The bowling physics feel spot on, multiplayer tennis is great, and whilst I was less taken with the boxing, golf and baseball modes, it's probably fair to say that there is enough variety for everyone to find something that they like here. The big issue is, just how long will a game like this hold your attention?
So although Nintendo's shift towards casual games (and the subsequent broadening of its appeal) has led to the company making big money, there now seems to be something of a split in the gaming community. Whilst older generations picking up a Wiimote for the first time will find a lot to like in a game like Wii Sports, kids who think nothing of spending eight or nine hours a day p0wning n00bs on Halo 3 will probably not be as impressed. The problem with making games more accessible is that inevitably, those that are kind to newcomers can have lower levels of challenge and ultimately less depth as a result. This is good news if you are terrified to pick up a conventional gamepad, but to gamers used to fragging their friends online every night, the challenge is all part of the fun. Tough games have depth and longevity because there is a degree of challenge involved, and therein lies the problem.
Ultimately, Wii Sports in particular is perhaps emblematic of the big issue surrounding the Wii, which is that these two very different demographics want different things out of their games. If you are a more dedicated gamer, then Wii Sports can be viewed as a reasonably fun multiplayer game that you can pull out and dust off when the parents are round and you have half an hour to kill. Just don't expect to be blown away by amazing graphics or deep gameplay. If you don't play videogames that often, you'll probably find Wii Sports pretty easy to get into. That's the bottom line really. To be fair, Wii Sports is a pretty good pack-in game for the Wii, but as pack-ins go it's no Super Mario Bros.