It's frustrating to have seen the Wii effect on my own family, only to see publishers fail to supply the quality software that I know Wii owners are waiting for, and then turn around and say that the market does not exist.
As publishers back nervously away from the Wii, it makes me think that we may have let slip a one-time opportunity to redefine gaming, to make it truly mainstream in a way even the PlayStation brand could not. To make gaming an activity as acceptable as watching TV or listening to music. Instead we have retreated back into our bedrooms and garages, where we feel safe.
It merely highlights what I think a lot of gamers are already feeling - that the dynamism of the games industry has been seeping away over the past decade. We have become altogether too comfortable with our pigeonholed genres, our holiday blockbusters, and the battle to shift those half-million units the first month. Nintendo put a Wii in every household. But no one was interested in taking up the call.
This play-it-safe trend shows how poorly diversified most publishers are, how slow they are to react to changing trends in the market, and how exposed they are going to be in a changing world. Browser-based gaming is now entirely in the hands of companies who did not even exist a few years ago. Despite having years of experience in making games for the DS and the PSP, it's not the big publishers but upstarts like ngmoco (itself founded by a former EA man) who rule the nascent iPhone market.
The one exception to the Wii situation I can think of is Epic Mickey, which looks like both a terrific game and a terrific business prospect. It utilizes a high-profile license with the backing of both a major corporation and an impressive gaming talent at the helm. The only problem is that it's virtually alone. Epic Mickey is exactly the kind of product that the Wii platform needed last year, and it needed a lot more than one of them.
Mind you, when I say the Wii "needs" these products, I don't mean in sales terms - Nintendo's first-party offerings are more than enough to keep the hardware sales ticking. But if the Wii is to continue the "revolution" its codename hinted at, Nintendo can't do it alone. Perhaps if Nintendo can bring their DS and Wii audience into successive generations, the lumbering giants of this industry may start to open their eyes. Otherwise they might find themselves competing where the market no longer exists.
Christian Ward works for a major publisher. Now that he thinks of it, he hasn't bought Grand Slam Tennis either.