One observation about the Wii which seems to have been consistently made by Nintendo fans is that their decision to suddenly begin catering to the “casual” crowd with a daring new control scheme came out of the blue. I don’t believe that this is the case and to cut to the chase I want to prove that this choice wasn’t as nonsensical as it might have seemed.
The Gamecube in the Sixth Generation
I think most of us are of the opinion that the Gamecube had some real gems, and the critics agree, titles like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker are, to this day, held up as some of the best examples of great games on Nintendo platforms, but as enjoyable as some of what the Gamecube had to offer may have been, it was falling behind in terms of sales. Many tend to think of the original Xbox as a console that was flagging behind during its time and this is somewhat true, but it still managed to push more than 24 million units by May 2006 as opposed to the Gamecube which only pushed less than 22 million by the time of September 2010, but much more worryingly the Gamecube was being mercilessly dominated by the Playstation 2 which managed to sell 150 million units by Februrary 2011. Even taking into account the fact that the PS2 had a much longer intended lifetime than the Gamecube, these figures are still representative of the fact that Nintendo were taking a serious beating in the console wars and this is without even looking at software sales.
With their loveable moustachioed mascot, a proud lack of mature games and a console that was almost toy-like in appearance Nintendo were trying to taut a strong family-friendly appeal, but playing video games was just not something that families did. Video games were very largely the pursuit of the young male alone, the Gamecube’s image ended up as more kiddie than they had hoped for, and as those looking to publish, develop and play more mature games turned to the PS2 and Xbox, Nintendo lost out. Perhaps even worse though, the inferior hardware of the Gamecube in comparison to its rivals, made it an unappealing choice for publishers looking for a strong platform. Interestingly the Gamecube seems to boast both a CPU and GPU with more power than the Playstation 2, but it was outclassed by both competitors in terms of RAM and internal storage, and the fact that Nintendo were still insisting on using their own media storage format for their games probably didn’t help either.
Entering the Seventh Gen
I certainly don’t disagree with the fact that what Nintendo did with the Wii was pretty wild and ballsy, but like any other console manufacturer, Nintendo were and still are a business and like any business they were going to do what was most likely to make them the most money. Many game-consuming bystanders considered it only logical that Nintendo were going to bring out a Gamecube 2, nothing as radical as the Wii had been tried in the industry before, but whether people recognise it or not a Gamecube 2 might well have been a very poor decision for Nintendo.
They were down on hardware sales, much of the popular third-party software out there was setting up shop on other systems and if they were to march into the next generation with little more than a box of new parts then they would have faced the impossible task of trying mass-manufacture and sell a piece of hardware better than one of the world’s biggest powers in electronics and one of the world’s biggest powers in computing. With Nintendo’s humble roots as a video game and toy manufacturer, this didn’t exactly seem like it would have been the sensible course of action for Nintendo, and so it only made sense that they had to devise another plan.
The Wii and the Gamecube may seem like vastly different offerings from Nintendo but in some ways they’re not so disimilar; they’re both games consoles featuring classic Nintendo franchises, alongside a family-friendly image, it’s just that the Wii managed to do the family-friendly part much better than the Gamecube did, and boy did it need too. If the traditional audience were more interested in the brute power of hardware than anything else and Nintendo couldn’t do brute power, then they needed a new audience, and so they had to come up with a new idea, if they couldn’t make a very powerful console, perhaps they could make a very accessible one and so the Wii was born. Of course Nintendo were probably no doubt spurred on by the success of the DS in the casual market but it must be observed that work began on the Wii long before the DS started proving that console gaming could achieve significant popularity beyond young tech-savvy men.
Duder, It’s Over
I think the lack of new Nintendo IPs and the way their old IPs are continually rehashed is a legitimate weakness, but I also think it speaks to the ingenuity of Nintendo that they’ve managed to provide a completely original experience to millions with the Wii and that they’ve come from a position of being the most down-and-out of the big three, to becoming the console manufacturer all others are playing catch up too in a single generation. Whether or not you like what Nintendo is doing I think you have to admire them for being able to do it, however, while the Wii may have been a slightly crazy idea, I hope I’ve made my case for why I believe it was never a crazy decision to try out a crazy idea. Good luck, have Meat Boy.
- Xbox Sales
- Nintendo Gamecube Sales
- Playstation 2 Sales
- Nintendo Gamecube Technical Specifications
- Playstation 2 Technical Specifications
- Xbox Technical Specifications (Source 1)
- Xbox Technical Specifications (Source 2)