Everyone talks about Wii HD like it’s guaranteed to be released eventually and more importantly: like it’s a guaranteed improvement. A console with Wii’s controls and Nintendo’s franchises + PS3 level graphics sounds sweet right?
But I think the very thing that makes the Wii special is not the motion controls or its low price but the fact that it is specifically not high def. I love HD graphics as much as anyone and I’ve got the home theater rig to prove it, but the bottom line is HD means more money spent on development and that means more cookie-cutter first person shooters and less No More Heroes.
It’s no secret that 360 and PS3 games require massive budgets and design teams with over 300+ people working on a single title for many of the top franchises. This process has given us milestones in gaming like Gears of War and God of War but the simplistic emphasis on fun has been sacrificed in exchange for a graphics arms race and a reliance on conventions and past successes. Major titles typically cost over $20 million for development and marketing, according to EA CEO John Riccitiello top Wii games cost about a quarter of that. There is a reason No More Heroes was Wii exclusive until it proved itself with sales: experimental games with that kind of scale just aren’t yet possible in HD. The more expensive our games are to produce the less risk is taken and the more first person shooters set in World War II/Outer Space are released.
Formulaic, lots of eye candy and low-risk is the recipe for high-cost blockbusters. While they have their place it is the emphasis on fun (and a low price-point) that has Nintendo dominating the market with its Wii and DS lineup. With lower resolution devs can focus on gameplay and are required to have great art-direction if they want to make a visually appealing game by making more with less.
And yes I’m aware the bulk of the Wii catalogue is garbage and that, too, can be attributed to reduced developer cost but shovelware is pretty easy to avoid, if annoying. If you can stay away from movie licenses and games with the words “Barbie,” “pony,” or “imagination” in the title you should be alright.
Wii may have the most confusing (and expensive) lineup of controllers and accessories but it has the simplest (and cheapest) games. Silent Hill Shattered Memories was stripped of combat and HD graphics and the result was a beautiful and memorable game. Monster Hunter Tri lacks smooth lines and large areas without borders or load times but focuses on deep gameplay and a grand sense of adventure. Red Steel 2 lacks any sense of realism whatsoever; focusing instead on raw ass kicking and great art direction. Simply put: Wii takes us back to a time when gaming was simpler. When (if) Wii HD is released production costs will rise and, I predict, that fun-factor will diminish as game studios focus on low-risk high budget franchises more akin to a Hollywood blockbuster than Ghosts ‘N Goblins.
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