How the Wii helped save Game Development (IMO)

Nintendo's Wii console is possibly one of the most polarizing and divisive consoles of the modern era. Eschewing super-powered HD graphics and robust online features, for enhanced GameCube hardware complete with a motion sensitive Remote, and a focus on appealing to newcomers unfamiliar with games. The console was seen as a joke for the longest time from the "Hardcore" gaming community, many of whom defected to Sony and Microsoft's HD powerhouses. It's runaway success only added fuel to the fire, spawning loony conspiracy theories from gaming journalists and gamers about how "Casuals are destroying gaming" and that "Nintendo betrayed the true gamers". Almost none of this turned out to be true though, and arguably never was. The Wii was a great console that helped get Nintendo out of their GameCube era rut. But more importantly, it along with the DS helped pioneer the current hardware mentality for other consoles, and changed the face of Game development forever (at least, IMO).

First let's set the scene. It's 2005, and the Seventh Generation of systems had already arrived with the Xbox 360. Ushering in the HD era and providing the biggest leap in graphics processing yet, allowing for more action, and more realistic characters and presentation. But all those complex worlds and production values came at a cost. AAA games were already getting more expensive to make, but those budgets and development times really started exploding in the HD era. The more complex graphics and action promised by the HD systems now required longer development cycles, bigger teams, and more money. This meant that the overall output and support of companies like Capcom diminished significantly vs the previous generation. On top of that, there were still plenty of people who were perfectly fine with their 6th generation machines like the PS2, which was still getting tons of great games during this time. Microsoft pushed their popular Xbox Live Arcade Service of download titles to compensate, but it was never really taken seriously by the mainstream audience, or most indie developers, who were still predominantly on PC at the time, and thus was more of a novelty than a revolution. Sony's PlayStation 3, which would arrive a year later, only made things worse. It's overly complex Cell architecture and lack of RAM only gave developers more headaches, resulting in even longer development cycles for AAA games as the developers now needed to account for the PS3 hardware.

At GDC 2005, Nintendo's late president Satoru Iwata, gave an iconic speech, talking about where Nintendo felt the industry was heading. A major concern was that the increased development costs of AAA games and the narrow focus of most developers at the time, would lead to a future where the industry became an expensive, cut-throat, and homogenized mess. Filled with samey titles that appealed to an increasingly narrow audience, and that eventually, constantly increasing power of machines would eventually lead to diminishing returns, resulting in less and less noticeable improvements. Meanwhile, a there was a large part of the gaming market, non-gamers and lapsed gamers who were growing too intimidated by the complexity modern blockbuster titles. Now whether you agree with this is up to you, but it was a concern Nintendo wanted to address at the time. Their first step was pushing their Nintendo DS platform, the dual screened handheld had only been on the market for a few months by this point, and Nintendo really needed to prove its worth. By using cheap, simple hardware together with a touch screen interface, Nintendo demoed titles such as Nintendogs and Electroplankton, that they hoped could bring in people that the industry had been ignoring for years. Needless to say it paid off in the end, leading to the DS selling 152 million units Worldwide, and caught the eye of developers who were looking to capitalize on that newly found audience thanks to its cheap, low-cost development.

With the growing success, Nintendo took this strategy to the home console space, hoping to make a big comeback after the failed Nintendo GameCube. Their answer? Re-purpose the GameCube hardware with a slightly more powerful non-HD system. Helping to keep the system affordable, and also keep development as easy and low-cost as possible for developers, allowing for less risk when creating new games. Facilitating this would be a new kind of controller, nobody could've seen coming. The Wii Remote, a wand-like device that brutally deconstructed the modern game controller with a simple interface and motion sensing technology. In the end, the Wii was a gamble that on paper, had every right to fail. It wasn't as powerful as the other two systems, which meant it couldn't get the same types of games. The tech of the Wii Remote was limited, which meant motions too complex were imprecise, and the idea of appealing to people who didn't play games had no chance in working. Yet against all odds... It worked. The Wii single handedly outsold both Sony and Microsoft's HD systems, and made developers and consumers take notice thanks to its unique controller and low development costs. Perhaps best of all, it's popularity among retro gamers thanks to it's simple controller and Virtual Console service allowed for the rise of retro style games and reboots from developers we still see today.

Most importantly, the Wii's success was a wake-up call to the industry. It showed that you no longer can get by on just cutting edge graphics and fancy processors to engage consumers and game makers. Simple hardware, and Fun were important over everything else. Even though Nintendo floundered during the console's later years, setting up for the disastrous Wii U (which is a topic for another time), the impact the Wii had on the industry is still felt today. Sony and Microsoft both built their 8th gen systems, the PS4 and Xbox One, on cheap, simple PC hardware, making game development as easy and low cost for all developers as possible. Some of the most popular games this gen were built on the Wii's philosophy of simple and fun for everyone such as Minecraft, Fortnite, Rocket League, and retro indie titles like Shovel Knight, which are still being played by gamers casual and hardcore alike. Nintendo once again continues to re-define game development with Nintendo Switch, a console that fills the large gap between the ever popular mobile gaming, and home console style gaming.

TL;DR - As much of a punchline the Wii has become among "Hardcores" I feel it helped saved game developers in the end. Helped show that all developers really want, was something simple and easy to work with that could allow for a wide variety of games and audiences to enjoy, a mentality that carried over to the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

I really only agree with Satoru Iwata's prediction of game development becoming a homogenized mess because it has (Ubisoft: The Game for example), which pretty much disproves that the Wii (or any system) saved game development.

What did the Wii do that any of this generation's consoles copied? The Wii used "normal" console type architecture (since it's basically a GameCube) that didn't really help smaller studios port easily to the Wii. The Wii also had only megabytes of RAM for devs to use just like all the other consoles. Again, not very developer friendly. The Wii ended up having really low software attach rate for anything that wasn't made by Nintendo. Even games that you mentioned like Minecraft, Fortnite, and Rocket League weren't in any way due to the Wii. Rocket League started last-gen on PS3 as Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Minecraft was last-gen as well and like the 1 platform it never released on was the Wii. The lower priority of graphics (which the Wii didn't cause) isn't why Fortnite is a thing. Games without high-end graphics have been successful before the Wii released. The whole battle royale thing started as a mod of ARMA and that modder made PUBG, which Fortnite copied. How the hell did the Wii allow for any of these games to become popular?

The PS4/Xbone used PC CPU architecture along with finally a good amount of RAM. That is why you see stuff like Cities Skylines and Divinity Original Sin on consoles. It had nothing to do with the Wii's influence on current-gen consoles. If anything the better hardware (common architecture + the amount of RAM) on PS4/Xbone allows smaller devs to more easily release games on different platforms. Plus, as graphics have advanced, games with lower-end graphics can look rather pleasing now. Doesn't Divinity Original Sin look so much better than say FF7 on PS1? Better hardware has caused smaller studios to be closer graphically because we've reached diminishing returns with regards to graphics.

The only thing I give the Wii in helping gaming was it probably brought more people to the medium. Video game development is still far from being saved when game developers working with paper, plastic, and wood (board games) are making far more creative games than anything video game devs have brewed up recently.

The wii didn't have many exclusive third party games after a year or two of being out, which was the reason hardcore gamers had an issue with it. I loved the thing and a few of its series like No More Heroes and Xenoblade but there were not nearly enough games like those on the system to make it comparable to its competition or hell even the DS/3DS.

Phoenixmgs:
What did the Wii do that any of this generation's consoles copied? The Wii used "normal" console type architecture (since it's basically a GameCube) that didn't really help smaller studios port easily to the Wii. The Wii also had only megabytes of RAM for devs to use just like all the other consoles. Again, not very developer friendly. The Wii ended up having really low software attach rate for anything that wasn't made by Nintendo. Even games that you mentioned like Minecraft, Fortnite, and Rocket League weren't in any way due to the Wii. Rocket League started last-gen on PS3 as Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Minecraft was last-gen as well and like the 1 platform it never released on was the Wii. The lower priority of graphics (which the Wii didn't cause) isn't why Fortnite is a thing. Games without high-end graphics have been successful before the Wii released. The whole battle royale thing started as a mod of ARMA and that modder made PUBG, which Fortnite copied. How the hell did the Wii allow for any of these games to become popular?

I say that it helped save game development because it showed that using cheap, well known hardware is better than using fancy, custom processors for development. The lack of RAM in the Wii wasn't as much of an issue for it as it was with the PS3 and 360 as it wasn't targeting AAA development due to its lower power. While many developers didn't port AAA games over for obvious reasons, they were able to create exclusive titles tailor made for the hardware because doing so was very easy and cheap. Meanwhile Sony and Microsoft (Moreso Sony) were pushing overpowered, custom-made CPUs at a time when AAA development was already insanely expensive.

My argument for Fortnite, Rocket League etc. owing their popularity to the Wii is because the Wii showed with titles like Wii Sports that a lot of people just want simple, fun games to play with friends. It proved there is a large market for people who really don't care about having the best graphics, and just want stuff that's pure fun. Now it's fair to say that they weren't directly the result of the Wii, but the philosophy behind the Wii being a massive hit did help influence the popularity of these games IMO.

The PS4/Xbone used PC CPU architecture along with finally a good amount of RAM. That is why you see stuff like Cities Skylines and Divinity Original Sin on consoles. It had nothing to do with the Wii's influence on current-gen consoles. If anything the better hardware (common architecture + the amount of RAM) on PS4/Xbone allows smaller devs to more easily release games on different platforms. Plus, as graphics have advanced, games with lower-end graphics can look rather pleasing now. Doesn't Divinity Original Sin look so much better than say FF7 on PS1? Better hardware has caused smaller studios to be closer graphically because we've reached diminishing returns with regards to graphics.

I feel that the design of the PS4 and Xbox One were in fact inspired by the success of the Wii. Nintendo's decision to use a cheap, well-understood processor for their casual oriented motion box, led Sony and Microsoft to apply those lessons to their Powerful 8th gen consoles. Switching to using off-the-shelf PC hardware and giving more RAM benefited both AAA developers, and smaller teams like Indie developers, as it made game development much more ubiquitous and easy to use. Now you can argue that Sony and Microsoft did it better than Nintendo this gen, who ended up making the same mistakes as those two with the Wii U by reusing that same PowerPC CPU for the third time, as well as a complex GPU that made it incompatible with modern development tools, and thus difficult to program for. But Nintendo's moves in the 7th generation did help in some degree. Nintendo would later return to that philosophy and even adopt what Sony and Microsoft did with the Switch, switching to a cheap, PC-based Tablet processor with a lot of engine compatibility, making it as easy and low-cost to program for as possible.

The only thing I give the Wii in helping gaming was it probably brought more people to the medium. Video game development is still far from being saved when game developers working with paper, plastic, and wood (board games) are making far more creative games than anything video game devs have brewed up recently.

Well the popularity of indie games today help make really creative games that even influence some of today's AAA titles. But it's not just about innovation either. The Wii also helped bring simplicity back to gaming. Games like Wii Sports, and the fact that it helped re-introduce retro style and arcade games to the mainstream helped pave way for retro reboots and 8-bit indie games we see today. And this goes back to those 3 titles I talked about earlier. Rocket League, Minecraft, and Fortnite all succeeded because of their simplicity. They're games built with mechanics and gameplay that many people can pick up and play, even those who don't play a lot of games. Many games today directly or not, are built on the philosophies and ideas that Nintendo introduced with the Wii and DS.

TheMisterManGuy:
I say that it helped save game development because it showed that using cheap, well known hardware is better than using fancy, custom processors for development. The lack of RAM in the Wii wasn't as much of an issue for it as it was with the PS3 and 360 as it wasn't targeting AAA development due to its lower power. While many developers didn't port AAA games over for obvious reasons, they were able to create exclusive titles tailor made for the hardware because doing so was very easy and cheap. Meanwhile Sony and Microsoft (Moreso Sony) were pushing overpowered, custom-made CPUs at a time when AAA development was already insanely expensive.

My argument for Fortnite, Rocket League etc. owing their popularity to the Wii is because the Wii showed with titles like Wii Sports that a lot of people just want simple, fun games to play with friends. It proved there is a large market for people who really don't care about having the best graphics, and just want stuff that's pure fun. Now it's fair to say that they weren't directly the result of the Wii, but the philosophy behind the Wii being a massive hit did help influence the popularity of these games IMO.

I feel that the design of the PS4 and Xbox One were in fact inspired by the success of the Wii. Nintendo's decision to use a cheap, well-understood processor for their casual oriented motion box, led Sony and Microsoft to apply those lessons to their Powerful 8th gen consoles. Switching to using off-the-shelf PC hardware and giving more RAM benefited both AAA developers, and smaller teams like Indie developers, as it made game development much more ubiquitous and easy to use. Now you can argue that Sony and Microsoft did it better than Nintendo this gen, who ended up making the same mistakes as those two with the Wii U by reusing that same PowerPC CPU for the third time, as well as a complex GPU that made it incompatible with modern development tools, and thus difficult to program for. But Nintendo's moves in the 7th generation did help in some degree. Nintendo would later return to that philosophy and even adopt what Sony and Microsoft did with the Switch, switching to a cheap, PC-based Tablet processor with a lot of engine compatibility, making it as easy and low-cost to program for as possible.

Well the popularity of indie games today help make really creative games that even influence some of today's AAA titles. But it's not just about innovation either. The Wii also helped bring simplicity back to gaming. Games like Wii Sports, and the fact that it helped re-introduce retro style and arcade games to the mainstream helped pave way for retro reboots and 8-bit indie games we see today. And this goes back to those 3 titles I talked about earlier. Rocket League, Minecraft, and Fortnite all succeeded because of their simplicity. They're games built with mechanics and gameplay that many people can pick up and play, even those who don't play a lot of games. Many games today directly or not, are built on the philosophies and ideas that Nintendo introduced with the Wii and DS.

The goal of pretty much any game is to be easy to pick up and play but hard to master regardless of medium. Simple games have always been around. Multiplayer shooters fall into that category and they're super popular because of it. Sports are also massively popular and are simple to play as well.

The reason x86 processors weren't used for console gaming was that they were very power hungry until just recently. The PowerPC CPUs made more sense for consoles for several reasons and that's why they were used. This generation marked the first time that x86 processors were better in pretty much all regards for a console. If anything taught Sony to move away from expensive hardware, it was the PS3's own cost issues far more than the Wii. It's just overall mobile technology advances that have changed consoles more than anything else.

The Wii was a gimmicky gamble that paid off for Nintendo, but it really didn't spearhead any new direction for the industry considering motion controls were its biggest draw, which no one cares about now and its competition made a failed attempt to imitate at the time. Simpler hardware was inevitable from Sony more than anyone because they indirectly botched the PS3's design trying to impede piracy and arrogantly make development more obtuse and proprietary.

Microsoft pretty much switched places with them this gen by making a complicated box full of unfriendly features that no one really wanted. Sony capitalized on this by simply focusing on delivering a capable game console with an easy to use interface and fun features. The whole time, PC gaming has remained steady and continues to thrive with a variety of gaming tastes.

Dreiko:
The wii didn't have many exclusive third party games after a year or two of being out, which was the reason hardcore gamers had an issue with it. I loved the thing and a few of its series like No More Heroes and Xenoblade but there were not nearly enough games like those on the system to make it comparable to its competition or hell even the DS/3DS.

I somewhat disagree on the third-party support. The part with the DS/3DS is true, but the Wii had plenty of third party games...until 2011 happened (the shovel ware from mostly old PS2 games weren't helping either). By that point, most developers were fed up with the hardware and jumped ship or waited for the Wii U. Wonderful 101 was going to be on the original Wii, but got moved so Platinum could focus on putting the game on better hardware. I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but the Wii had more variety in third party support compared to the GameCube. Not to say the GameCube didn't, but the Cube had some problems when it came to non-first party titles. It got to point where some publishers, mainly Western ones, would plan making a version of a game for the GC, only to cancel, either because they the console wasn't powerful enough, or they did not want to bother with the programming and resources (sounds familiar). This was noticeable by 2005.

The Wii had plenty of games, you just had to wade through so much shit.

No More Heroes 1 & 2
MadWorld
Sin and Punishment 2
Conduit 1 & 2
Boom Blox
Red Steel 2
Sonic Colors
House of the Dead Overkill
RE: Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles
RE 4
RE 0 & Remake (though they're slightly worse graphically)
Ghost Squad
Dead Space Extraction (This system was a rail shooter paradise)
Rayman Origins
Zack and Wiki
De Blob 1 & 2
Geometry Wars
compilation packs

and many more I can't remember at the top of my head.

The Wii's main flaw is that brought everyone to do motion controls in the worse way possible. The gimmick had worn thin by 2010, so when Microsoft and Sony started doing it, people were pissed off. Though Sony at least didn't try to shove it down gamers throat (except early on with the six axis, but they stopped this by late 2008) with the Playstaion Move. The Kinect...we already know how that went. With that said, the Wii showed that simplicity is not a bad thing, opened a new audience of gamers, and that most importantly, have fun with friends and family.

Wii did nothing for game development. It sold like hotcakes but outside of Big N releases who saw success that they wouldn't see in other console space?
Stuff like XBLA probably did more for console indie gaming than Wii by lowering the barrier to entry and providing a curated storefront that allowed good indie games to be promoted. If your on Wii and a low budget dev how do you compete for the 50-100 slots WM target best buy have for wii games. On PS on XBLA if your the big release that week you get front page on the digital storefront. If your not the big release you can still promote and its easy to find your game.

sneakypenguin:
Wii did nothing for game development. It sold like hotcakes but outside of Big N releases who saw success that they wouldn't see in other console space?
Stuff like XBLA probably did more for console indie gaming than Wii by lowering the barrier to entry and providing a curated storefront that allowed good indie games to be promoted. If your on Wii and a low budget dev how do you compete for the 50-100 slots WM target best buy have for wii games. On PS on XBLA if your the big release that week you get front page on the digital storefront. If your not the big release you can still promote and its easy to find your game.

Digital Distribution back then was in its infancy, neither of the big 3 really had the best environment for indie developers. Sure, XBLA may have been the lesser of the three evils, but even Microsoft had arbitrary and nonsensical policies at the time(Can't self-publish games for example). Most of the popular indie games were PC exclusive that generation, So retail was still the primary way to get games out for the consoles, as indie games on them were still viewed as a novelty. I wouldn't say the Wii solely was responsible for it, but my point is that it helped contribute to lowering the barrier of entry for developers by making a low-cost development environment.

Can you really say 'it helped game developement' like it's a fact, followed up by 'IMO'?

But anyway, every console probably helps game developement to an extent, even if it's just to show how not to do something. But the Wii primarily helped Nintendo. They "circumvented" the upgrade issues the other consoles, especially in Japan, were having with high definition, by simply not going HD. This didn't help game developement since it was just Nintendo skipping a generation of technological advancement. Which they then had to implement anyway with the Wii-U, and faced similar developement problems as Sony and Microsoft, if not worse. They were set back an entire generation, because they apparently didn't bother to catch up on current technology while they were taking it "easy" with the Wii. While Sony and Microsoft were already well-versed with HD graphics near the end of the 7th generation, Nintendo was only just peaking its head around the corner. They had to make Wind Waker HD to actually become familiar with HD.

It says a lot that very little of what the Wii was is around today. It was Nintendo's moment of respite after getting its ass kicked by Sony two generations in a row, and seeing Microsoft looming on the horizon. And in that brief rest period they happened to win the lottery.

It refilled the Nintendo coffers, which has kept the alternative console afloat to keep some market variety.

As the impacts go. Well the motion controls are mostly consigned to where they belonged by now. They're only kind of present in the still incredibly niche very tech-demo heavy VR space. We already knew the most powerful platform was not necessarily the kingpin (or we'd all be on 2000 dollar gaming pc rigs by now).

Indie development for consoles has largely taken off as the big mainstream game engines have become drastically more affordable. Sitting on the waiting list for the console API is a lot easier ask when you haven't burned 90% of your projects budget on an engine license alone.

CoCage:

Dreiko:
The wii didn't have many exclusive third party games after a year or two of being out, which was the reason hardcore gamers had an issue with it. I loved the thing and a few of its series like No More Heroes and Xenoblade but there were not nearly enough games like those on the system to make it comparable to its competition or hell even the DS/3DS.

I somewhat disagree on the third-party support. The part with the DS/3DS is true, but the Wii had plenty of third party games...until 2011 happened (the shovel ware from mostly old PS2 games weren't helping either). By that point, most developers were fed up with the hardware and jumped ship or waited for the Wii U. Wonderful 101 was going to be on the original Wii, but got moved so Platinum could focus on putting the game on better hardware. I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but the Wii had more variety in third party support compared to the GameCube. Not to say the GameCube didn't, but the Cube had some problems when it came to non-first party titles. It got to point where some publishers, mainly Western ones, would plan making a version of a game for the GC, only to cancel, either because they the console wasn't powerful enough, or they did not want to bother with the programming and resources (sounds familiar). This was noticeable by 2005.

The Wii had plenty of games, you just had to wade through so much shit.

No More Heroes 1 & 2
MadWorld
Sin and Punishment 2
Conduit 1 & 2
Boom Blox
Red Steel 2
Sonic Colors
House of the Dead Overkill
RE: Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles
RE 4
RE 0 & Remake (though they're slightly worse graphically)
Ghost Squad
Dead Space Extraction (This system was a rail shooter paradise)
Rayman Origins
Zack and Wiki
De Blob 1 & 2
Geometry Wars
compilation packs

and many more I can't remember at the top of my head.

The Wii's main flaw is that brought everyone to do motion controls in the worse way possible. The gimmick had worn thin by 2010, so when Microsoft and Sony started doing it, people were pissed off. Though Sony at least didn't try to shove it down gamers throat (except early on with the six axis, but they stopped this by late 2008) with the Playstaion Move. The Kinect...we already know how that went. With that said, the Wii showed that simplicity is not a bad thing, opened a new audience of gamers, and that most importantly, have fun with friends and family.

Gamecube wasn't much better either I agree but the hardware difference wasn't nearly as drastic. Don't forget that RE4 originally was a gamecube game after all.

I think people overlook the gamecube cause it was in the same gen as the ps2 so it's obvious it'd not do that well either so people don't look into its offerings as critically while the wii was unable to fill the vacuum of those early years that was created by the wonky start of the ps3 and xbox being the system for online shooters and little else and so on.

Another issue with the Wii was how it was region locked so a whole lot of JP exclusive games like Dragon Quest 10 were unacessible unless you modded it. The DS wasn't region locked and it flourished thanks to that as well (loved Jump Ultimate Stars to death). I still remember how terrible the english dub was to the extremely interesting looking Jrpg called Arc Rise Fantasia and how I'd have imported that and played it in JP if I could have. Such a sad thing.

Thankfully the switch has remedied that problem.

 

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