Nintendo: Marketing or gaming geniuses?

Kotaku asks “Wii Fit: Innovation in Gaming or Marketing?”:http://kotaku.com/5011085/wii-fit-innovation-in-gaming-or-marketing.
What I really don’t get is, is this an either/or question? I grew up in the eight- and sixteen-bit era, with games on the “ZX81”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_ZX81, “Spectrum”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_ZX_Spectrum, “C64”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_64 and “Amiga”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_Amiga. After the Amiga died, I grew up, and reluctantly had to get a PC, so did my enthusiasm for games.
Sure, I’ve occasionally played games on the PC. I loved Myst, Red Alert, Age of Mythology and liked the occasional FPS. But my interest in regular gaming has steadily declined over the years. Since I now have an actual life outside of computers and games, I simply don’t have the time or energy to sit down with games that takes days or weeks to master. I have an hour or two every now and then. I can’t sit awake and play “Age of Conan”:http://www.ageofconan.com/ until long after the cows have come home and are about to get milked and be sent off to the fields for the morning.
Not that I would have wanted to. Quoting trustygamer: “I miss color”:http://trustygamer.com/tg/home/industry-thoughts/i-miss-color/. Note, this is about more than the actual color scheme. With many of the games I’ve seen over the last years, the mood the game creates is not one I want to be in. Gaming is, as noted above, casual entertainment. Which means I play when I want to put myself in a cheery, upbeat mode. I don’t play to become depressed.
Having said, there are occasional console games that I’ve found tempting, namely racing games like Forza Motorsport, or the upcoming Gran Turismo. But not nearly tempting enough. I haven’t walked out of a store carrying either an XBOX or PS3.
I have however walked out of a store with a DS. And a Wii. Well, actually, we have two DSes at home, and two Wiis.
Those two devices have changed my gaming habits from “Not playing games at all, except perhaps an occasional game on the web”, to “play whenever I have the time, and feel like it”.
Sure, “Brain Age”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_Age might not have the type of appeal that makes me sit for hours on end with the console. Games like Super Mario Galaxy or Wii Sports may not have the most photorealistic graphics, or a long-winded storyline. And that’s the point: These games have an instant-on, instant-off appeal. I can devote as much, or as little time as I want, and still enjoy playing. I don’t have to work on a controller-induced RSI to enjoy gaming on the Wii or DS.
Yesterday, I bought Wii Fit, set it up, and played it for something like fifteen minutes, before I went back to another activity. My girlfriend did not fall asleep on the couch watching me play. When she wanted to watch “House”:http://www.fox.com/house/ instead, I could just shut down. I was not in the middle of a raid, I didn’t have a level to finish, and I didn’t feel deprived of anything because I stopped playing when someone needed me to stop playing. That’s the appeal: When you’ve turned thirty, gotten yourself a life, obligations and more important things in your life, different rules apply. Nintendo have managed to create a gaming experience that allows these gamers to play. That is both innovation in gaming. At the same time, the graphical expression, and the mood of the games is also highly retro: The color schemes are bright and cheery. This is where the “marketing” bit, or rather, the viral bit come in. The games look quirky, fun and simple to the casual gamer. It leaves the gamer with a feeling of “fun”, and they feel they can master, play and enjoy the game.
I’m going home soon, and I’ll quite probably play Wii Fit. And I’ll enjoy it, regardless of what some snot-nosed hardcore gamer may think.

6 Comments

  1. algkalv

     /  2008-05-28

    Doom had a terrible colorset. Fluoroescent orange walls in red rooms, with dark red fluoroescent lava, et cetera. Or (s)lime green on red that would induce eye palpitations in color-sensitive humans. Cruel and horrible.
    Many of those who gamed in the 80s now wear thick glasses. For a reason.
    Give me subtle greyscale or reasonable close to it, with a touch of delicate blue, and I might consider 😉

  2. Damn… I can’t agree more with you. Simple games that are fun to play whenever we want. Games that we can (and want to) play during a quick break between one (programming) task and another. Games meant to have fun and relax the brain from the stress caused by other activities.
    You are right. I’m still 23 years old, but I can completely understand and agree with you.

  3. I agree; Nintendo Wii is an excellent entertainment box, and it’s not only for the geeky male in the family, it’s for everyone. It’s definatly being used more (for gaming) than my Xbox 360, because it’s simply just more fun.

  4. Steve

     /  2008-05-31

    Agreed completely. Nintendo’s current offerings are much more life-friendly, and I love them for it.
    I would like to see more “hardcore” games be adjusted to be more life-friendly. For example, I love RPG’s. But RPG’s these days require a lot of commitment. Might it be possible to design an RPG that was 15-minute-play friendly, yet still retain the depth of a normal RPG? Maybe it’s not really possible. But if someone can figure that out, I’d be interested.

  5. Save your money and get a PlayStation 3 the Wii does not even have HD capabilities and blu-ray is the future of digital video discs.

  6. James, you are either trolling or you suffer from a reading comprehension problem.
    (As for the future of “Digital video discs” — there is none. I might elaborate some day, but I presume history will just prove me right in the meantime