In many ways, the Nintendo Wii is the Charlie Brown of this generation. It’s the butt of many jokes, called names, and generally looked down on by the core gaming community.
But what we fail to remember is the Wii’s true influence. It was a powerhouse in the console market for years, and is still considered one of Nintendo’s most successful endeavors to date. And with the Wii U’s recent release, I found myself considering not what the Wii did wrong, but what it did right, ending up with three major things it excelled at both in the gaming industry and beyond.
A HEALTHIER CONSOLE
Time Magazine of all people did an interesting report about the Wii in 2007 that took a look at the therapeutic and health-related benefits of the Wii, citing use of the Wii by medical professionals in physical and occupational therapy, encouraging physical activity in patients undergoing chemotherapy, and aiding many in achieving fitness goals and successful weight loss programs.
Now, I know the core gaming community is not necessarily interested in motion controls. Trust me, I’m not either. But the numbers don’t lie, and the sales of both the Wii balance board and Wii Fit were impressive by any standards. Plus, the program worked well and encouraged people to get up and move, all while interacting with something and offering people another option to get healthy outside of the gym. Regardless of your feelings on fitness in general, it’s encouraging to see something like the Wii giving people more options to improve their lifestyle.
And as someone who has worked in Physical Therapy for years, I know all too well the benefit of new developments to aid patients in re-training their brain and body to work together in harmony. Software created for the Wii helped do this in an impressive fashion by, once again, using games as a distraction as the patient performed the exercises in rehab. Patients ranging from small children in outpatient facilities to elderly people in nursing homes were able to use the Wii as a revolutionary new form of therapy, and part of that is owed to the Wii’s approachable motion controls.
A WIDER REACH
In its early days, the Wii was a complete craze. Moms fought each other at Wal Mart over consoles, Wii Sports was frequently broken out at family parties, and grandmas and grandkids were finally able to sit down and share in the experience together. It seemed like everyone had a Wii, and it was one of the first consoles to successfully grab hold of both the hardcore and casual markets upon its release.
Say what you will about casual gamers, but they’re an important part of the ecosystem. The Wii was a totally approachable and easy-to-use console that didn’t leave your relatives scratching their head and staring at a controller like it was covered in hieroglyphics. Its design and nature were so well done that it was a much simpler and open experience that anyone could jump into, regardless of whether or not they’d played video games before. Because of this, it helped increase the popularity of gaming and aided in legitimizing the practice as a whole. Sure, some people might still imagine “gamers” to be dudes in basements, but the Wii had a hand in helping break down that stereotype by ushering in a whole new group of people into the wonderful realm of gaming. The more people there are playing in the world, the better. And the Wii played a big part in bringing games to people outside of our comfortable sphere.
A GREAT FIRST-PARTY LIBRARY
It’s true that the Wii struggled with third party support, often dealing with less-than satisfactory ports of games that appeared in much better versions on other platforms. But despite the poor turnout on the third party end, one fact remained true throughout the Wii’s lifespan: Nintendo makes great games. And they did it several times over with the Wii.
Titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl all top a long list of great first-party games released on the console. These games not only built on some of the greatest franchises in gaming, they also offered new and original experiences unlike any we’d encountered before. Add to that an extensive list of great classic games available on the Virtual Console, and the Wii proves that it had more to offer than many of us gave it credit for (myself included).
Sure, there are a lot of reasons to be down on the Wii. I still partially blame the Wii and its success with motion controls for the creation of the Microsoft Kinect and the PlayStation Move. And although I played my fair share of motion control games like Wii Sports, I don’t enjoy wagging controllers around my living room.
But for all the Wii’s faults, it still managed to be a console with a great amount of appeal and benefit to all different kinds of people. There’s something to be said of its ability to cross lines and bring in both the casual and hardcore crowds all while aiding ailing people and boasting a brilliant first-party library that suggests maybe it was a better console than many of us would like to admit.
What are your thoughts on the Wii? Tell me in the comments below!