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Can Online Gaming Be A Selling Point For The Wii U?

by on October 23, 2013
 

The Wii U Gamepad hasn’t had the immediate appeal of the Wii-mote, and Nintendo’s sales have been struggling accordingly.  Many people are wondering what the Wii U will be able to do to recapture the imagination of casual gamers who were enthralled by Wii Sports.  Nintendo has revealed that the next Wii Sports is errrrr… Wii Sports.  Nintendo has announced a new Wii Sports game, entitled Wii Sports Club, that it has quietly slipped in to its holiday lineup.  What does this title mean for the Wii U’s future?

Wii Sports Club

Wii Sports Club was an announcement that came out of left field.  We had an inkling that a Wii Sports title was in the works from Nintendo’s early Wii U teasers, but few expected a remake to Wii Sports.  The key difference to Wii Sports Club will be its online functionality.  Will this addition be enough to convince Wii owners to upgrade?

Why was Wii Sports such a success?  With Wii Sports, Nintendo started with a general philosophy.  Their philosophy was that every man, woman, and child was a potential gamer waiting for the right software.  While their competitors focused almost exclusively on the 16-34 year old male demographics, Nintendo scored unprecedented success by appealing to gamers outside of those demographics.

With Wii Sports Club, Nintendo is taking a similar approach.  Nintendo is now betting that everyone is a potential online gamer.  As we’ve seen with mobile games like Words With Friends, the desire to engage in games with faraway friends is definitely there.  With Wii Sports Club, Nintendo is hoping to awaken that desire in their fanbase.

XBox Live and PSN vs The Nintendo Network

This is probably the point where someone will point out that there are already 2 consoles with online interfaces that are far and away more robust than the Wii and in many ways superior to the Wii U.  If gamers are so keen to game online, why wouldn’t they own a 360 or PS3 or invest in an XBox One or PS4?

Frankly, XBox Live and PSN (but especially XBox Live) are horrible places.  If you plan on playing with strangers, prepare to deal with curses hurled at you, constant demands of sandwiches or sexual harassment if you’re a woman, racial slurs, and possibly death threats.  Because of XBox Live, I know that my ability to perform basic bnb combos in Marvel vs Capcom makes me a faggot.

Why are these services so ripe with assholes?  Partially because it’s the internet.  It’s not strictly an XBox Live or PSN thing, but it’s simply what happens on a large internet service.  A quick glance at the comments section on Youtube will hammer home just how immature the internet can be.  Another part of the equation is gamers themselves.  Gamers tend to have a strange insecurity about their hobby and hate it when those outside of their community tries to participate.  Unfortunately, the only answer to these issues is a sacrifice.

If you give people a great deal of freedom, you wind up with people acting like asses.  The solution to this is enforcing very strict policies.  If you have a Wii U, take a quick look through Miiverse.  It’s hard to find anything that comes close to being offensive.  Online gaming on the console has been similarly pleasant.  Part of this is because the Wii U simply has less users which makes order easier to maintain.  Another element is that Nintendo limits your freedom to a great degree.  By sacrificing a degree of freedom you gain a more pleasant atmosphere.

Back to Wii Sports Club.  Interaction will be limited to what what Iwata described as “simple communication”.  Naturally limited communication would be a poor idea for a game like Battlefield, but Wii Sports does not require complex strategy, and limiting the communication makes it easy to control.  It’s impossible for Microsoft to monitor the millions of voice comments going through XBox Live, but requiring written communication makes it easy to pinpoint an offensive post.  Combined with Nintendo’s somewhat draconian policies, the Nintendo Network has the potential to be a whitewashed gaming community, at least for certain games.  This may not be what hardcore gamers are looking for, but it could be a factor that helps make the Nintendo Network more accessible than XBox Live is to newcomers.

My Gamer Score Is Bigger Than Yours

Another element of XBL and PSN is their inherent competitiveness.  When you see someone on XBox Live, the first thing you’ll find out about them is how good they are at video games as expressed by a numerical value. Online games revolve around win percentages and leaderboards.  XBox Live and PSN are geared towards hardcore gaming, and XBox One and PS4 looks to provide more of the same.  Built in DVRs and being able to watch gameplay are great features for the hardcore community that likely won’t translate too well to more casual gamers.

With Wii Sports U, Nintendo has made some smart choices to maintain some degree of competitiveness without the chest thumping faux machismo that goes on in other networks.  The idea of joining a “club” is a really clever Nintendofied take on leaderboards.  In Wii Sports Club you can join regional clubs for your state or province.  In essence you’re part of a giant statewide clan. Even if you’re not one of the top five Wii Sports players in the world, you can still play a few matches, earn some points, and feel the thrill of rising up in the ranks.  If you’re a hardcore Wii Sports player, you can make a private club and compete more directly.

Why Don’t Casual Gamers Play Online?

Online console gaming has been a big thing for about a decade now, and it has existed for far longer than that.  Yet, despite the surge in popularity of online console gaming, casual gamers has been left out.  This is because the main company providing quality casual gaming experiences had an online service that could generously be described as awful.  With a competent and thoughtful online system and software that can capture their interest, Nintendo can provide their fanbase something that they cannot get on any other home console.

 

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  • Avatar of Ramon Aranda
    October 23, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    I actually really like the idea of being able to play Wii Bowling online. I do wish Nintendo made a bigger push with online gaming as I think it’s sorely lacking. Single-player content is usually pretty awesome on Nintendo consoles but online seems to always take a back seat.

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  • Avatar of ubernaut
    October 23, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    I think for their target audience especially, nintendo may be on to something there.

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  • October 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Hmmmmmmmmm… yeah… wasn’t quite able to get this article up to a quality where I felt comfortable posting it but.. well yeah.

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