When it comes to hardcore gamers, Wii has had an even worse life than that of its predecessor, the Nintendo GameCube. This is despite the fact that Wii is the most popular console this generation, and the GameCube was the least popular console in its time. How could Wii have alienated the hardcore gamers that had stood by the GameCube, and yet be more successful than the GameCube ever could? Was it the type of games that Wii had, or rather lack of them that caused hardcore gamers to avoid Nintendo’s white box?
No, the sad truth is that hardcore gamers avoided Wii even before it was released, and no game or amount of games was going to change that. There were two things that drove hardcore gamers away from Wii, and both of them were revealed in 2006.
Nintendo first spoke of Wii at E3 2004. It was a time when the GameCube was slowly falling ever more behind the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The Xbox had the best online play, and the PS2 had an incredible amount of must-have first and third party games. What did GameCube have? The great Nintendo games, a few great third party games, and no online play save Phantasy Star Online. It was a learning period for Nintendo. They believed that they would have to change the way games were played if they were going to survive.
Nintendo decided that they couldn’t win the hardcore gamers away from Sony and Microsoft, and instead went in a different direction, targeting the extremely large pool of non-gamers, instead of creating a new, powerful console with great online play and a traditional controller. Today we know that Nintendo’s decision has paid off for them, and they have made record profits over the past few years. But this isn’t about Nintendo. This is about hardcore gamers, and at this time, many still had hope for Nintendo’s console in-development. After all, an amazing trailer had just been shown for a new Zelda game. Things were looking good.
Finally, a year later, at E3 2005, Nintendo’s console was given a name. The Nintendo Revolution. The name was powerful and edgy. Nintendo said that they were going to change the way games were played, and with a console called Revolution, how could they not? However, hardcore gamers were skeptical. They liked their traditional controllers and didn’t want them to change. Even so, they were willing to give it a chance. After all, names really don’t get more hardcore than Revolution, do they? It was also revealed that Revolution was going to have a “Virtual Console” that would allow it to play the great games of yesterday from a large selection of systems. With Nintendo’s extensive catalogue of games, they were one-upping the competition. The Virtual Console was a hardcore gamer’s dream.
Yet, at E3 2005, there weren’t even any games revealed for Revolution, nor was its controller shown. All that was shown was the console, and it was black and badass. At the end of E3 2005 things were looking up. People were excited about Nintendo’s Revolution, and they wanted to see what it was all about. Unfortunately for hardcore gamers, it would be downhill from here. E3 2005 marked the peak of interest for hardcore gamers in Nintendo’s console, more than a year before it was to be released. With everything going so well, what happened? What caused hardcore gamers to turn away?
The first blow to hardcore gamers came on April 27, 2006 when it was revealed that Revolution was going to be named “Wii” instead. Along with the name change, the base color of the system had gone from a sleek black to a glossy white. The console had been toned down, and the Revolution had been quieted. Many reacted negatively to the name change. Forbes highlighted that users believed “the name would convey a continued sense of ‘kidiness’ to the console,” and that it would. Nintendo believed that “revolution” was too aggressive. After all, they weren’t after the traditional hardcore gamers anymore, but those same gamers didn’t know it yet.
The change to Wii was the first straw in the minds of many hardcore gamers. What was revealed at E3 2006, was the second and final one. A little over a month after Nintendo had ended its Revolution, it was finally time to show what Wii was all about. Unfortunately, Wii wasn’t about power, and that didn’t sit well with many hardcore gamers. At E3 2006 it was revealed that Wii was about 2-3 times more powerful than the GameCube. Hardcore gamers thought, “Only 2-3 times?! That’s nothing compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360! How can it possibly compete?” Of course, the answer is it couldn’t, so far as horsepower is concerned. Unlike last gen, where many multiplatform titles hit GameCube with similar quality to their PS2 cousins, the same wouldn’t happen for Wii. Many multiplatform titles would stay on 360 and PS3, and if they did come to Wii they were watered down ports or a title built with little effort or care. If a hardcore gamer wanted a good third party game, they had to look elsewhere, as it wouldn’t be happening on Wii.
Of course the hardcore Nintendo gamers are still with Wii, enjoying every AAA title that Nintendo throws out, but the traditional hardcore gamers are gone and aren’t coming back. With a name like “Wii” and only 2-3 times more power than its predecessor, it was clear from the beginning that this console was not going to satisfy the hardcore crowd. It wasn’t going to be in HD, it didn’t have a hard drive, it had a horrible online system, and the lack of a traditional controller all also contributed to the shunning of Wii, but I don’t think they were anywhere as influential as the two mentioned beforehand.
Picture the Nintendo Revolution, the console that never was. It could have been as powerful as the 360 or PS3, and reinvent gaming as we knew it. It would be HD and have a hard drive. Would it have been as successful as Wii? I don’t know, probably not, as the non-gamers probably wouldn’t have jumped on board. But it would have shown hardcore gamers that Nintendo was still out there and wanted them to come back. Now with the PlayStation Move, Sony has stolen that idea of Revolution, and its PlayStation 3 now paints a picture of what Nintendo’s system could have been, had things turned out differently.