WiiWare

I read this article on Wired yesterday and it got me thinking about the upcoming WiiWare application. The basic premise of the article is essentially that WiiWare isn’t that great because the pricing on some games is screwed up. I think he’s making the judgement that the main problem with this pricing is that there are no demos available like there is on the PS3 or 360. I tend to agree on the need for demos.

In fact, I’ve long believed that the Wii has been in desperate need of demos for a long time, after all, many of the VC titles I’ve never even heard of! But wouldn’t it be cool if you could try out a game for say 10-15 minutes to find out if you like it? Or if they had a rental system in place? I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is something that is needed, and if Wired had done its homework, they’d see that Nintendo is starting to go down this line very soon. They are launching in Japan a channel that allows a person to download DS demos to their DS. I think this is the first step into the realm of demos. To start they are essentially just putting the DS demos they’ve had for years in stores into the Wii for download. I think after they make sure they have this system they will begin putting out more demos and videos (such as the videos we got for Metroid Prime late last year) for people to get a sense of what a game is about for not only the DS but also the Wii, WiiWare, and VC.

But still, this isn’t the be all end all. Yes it would be nice, but it isn’t really necessary. After all we deal with this already on games of all sorts. Once upon a time we used to get demos of PC games but rarely even that anymore. I mean Sims 1 didn’t even have a demo, most games don’t. Only games that the developers know won’t do well ever get demos. You can’t rent PC games either, (well outside of gametap) and who even rents console games anymore? Video rental places have long been dead and buried since the advent of Netflix and though you could subscribe to gamefly, I think that service is pricey for what you get (I am still hoping netflix eventually has game rental, cause right now it is about 75% more expensive to have 1 game from gamefly than it is to have 1 movie from netflix). Most people though I think count on reviews from various sources and word of mouth to be able to figure out what games to buy instead of renting them first.

I think the real issue popping its head with WiiWare is that the storage just isn’t on the Wii like it is on the other systems. Yes you can redownload it all you want, and Nintendo keeps saying that it isn’t intended that you keep 100+ games on your Wii at any time. But people like to have their games available at an instant, and not have to constantly download them like Nintendo is currently wanting and Nintendo is going to have to deal with this. The easy fix is to have Nintendo patch the firmware to allow for people to play games off their SD card, though I’m not sure if this would work as much as we’d expect. If anyone has ever tried to put saves onto the SD card, then they know how long it takes to transfer information in this way. I’m not sure this ever would work well except for maybe c64, NES, and master system games which are small, and even here load times would be horrendous. I think the real help is going to need to come from an honest to god hard drive (or flash drive) that has faster access times than the SD card. Or at the very least a firmware update to let people use thumb drives & hard drives that they already own through the USB ports.

I actually suspect that 2009 will see a new Wii entirely with a much larger flash drive on board for storage, engrained DVD playback, perhaps better HD support, and likely some other new feature we won’t see coming. I do think that Nintendo plans to do with the Wii what they have done for the gameboy lines for decades. They will put constant minor updates to it to elongate the life of the system without huge leaps. (Even the gameboy advance lasted for quite a long time compared to the standard console lifecycle).

Of course if any of these options ever comes to fruition the next thing that is really starting to become needed is to add the capability to have more channels on the thing at a single time. Or perhaps some sort of menu or something. I don’t know. I fear that if they add say another 50 new channels to the pane that it will become a nightmare to figure out where things are (which might be the reason they limited it in the first place). Perhaps they could set it so that there are two sets of panes (with one more slide for each)… this could be accessed by hitting up or down on the d-pad. What this would do is allow a player to have better organization for their channels. For instance I could have up geared towards games (having the gamecube/wii channel and all the VC/Wiiware channels placed there) and then have down geared towards other channels (like everybody votes, mii popularity, news channel, etc). This would more than double the amount of channels available without greatly reducing how much you can find stuff.

4 Replies to “WiiWare”

  1. You make some good points although I gotta tell ya, gamefly is pretty much my source for “demos” if you will. You can’t really compare their monthly fees to those of Netflix. The framework is entirely different. DVDs are far less expensive and because of the sheer number of them, far less in demand than video games. The supply and demand situation is far from equal. Video games have a way more intense fan base and a significantly higher sticker price.

    Consider your average console game’s retail cost and the monthly fees for Gamefly become pretty reasonable. I can get nearly three months of game rentals on the 2 games at a time plan with Gamefly for what I’d spend buying one new console game. More or less anyway. In that span of time I can play anywhere from 3-6 games. Buy em too if I’m so inclined and at a discount so, you know, it’s really not that big of an investment all things considered. When you take a look at the math, Gamefly essentially pays for itself. Then there’s the additional benefits of membership like discounts on pre-played games, game trade-in options that go to offset the cost of your membership, etc…

    Ultimately, even if Netflix were to take on video game rentals there’s no way they’d be able to do it at their current price structure. It just isn’t economically feasible. Look at Blockbuster. They charge something like $9 for a five day rental! Now that’s expensive! Video games and movies are two totally different worlds but I think Gamefly’s got a handle on the rental business beyond what anyone else is offering.

    Anyway, interesting article and commentary. I’m in total agreement with you on a flash and/or hard drive for the Wii be it a part of the Wii itself or, as you suggest the firmware update to allow people to use their own external drives. Fingers crossed!

  2. No I don’t disagree that if netflix were to have games in their stock, they’d likely come out with a new slightly more expensive plan that includes them, or just do it like they have for the digital movies where you can’t be on the cheap plan to have em. After all, as you suggest video games cost more (well at least console ones, DS is on same price range as the DVDs).

    However, I still think that gamefly is way too expensive for what you get. I also think that while game players do go through them quickly, the average person would not.

    In fact, there are far more movie watchers in the world than video game players and you can take that to the bank. I know dozens and dozens of people in real life (not online) who actually subscribe to netflix. Never met one in real life who has actually subscribed to a game rental (even gamers). (I have known a few people online who have subscribed to game rental, but again nothing compared to the numbers of people I know online who do netflix).

    People watch a movie a night, and they’ll send it back and get another. Even with the 1 movie at a time plan, you can often end up with 6 or 7 DVD rentals a month, even though most people will likely go somewhere at 2-4 at a time so that they can keep them in constant mail flux. With games, people have the tendency to hold them longer, so yes the game does cost more ($50 compared to $20 for DVD & $30 for Bluray)… people tend to have play them and keep them at home a lot longer than 1 or 2 days that a movie watcher will have. (One of the main reasons netflix owners don’t send back right away is actually that they forget which happens in both… I think the longest a netflix subscriber will hold on average not including forget time will be around 2-3 days whereas I bet many gamers would hold for 4 to 7 so that they can play it longer).

    The other issue with gamefly is that you only can get two at a time which I think kind of sucks. I also admit that gamefly’s price, like netflix and everyone else has gone down in recent years and isn’t as bad as it used to be (I think it used to cost $20 a month for 2 games which is retarded).

    Another note on cost… is that before Blockbuster came around and wiped out smaller video rental places and then jacked the price up, you used to be able to get video game or movie for about $2.50. Cost of game generally didn’t matter even though they were still substantially higher. Only difference is you had 2 days with a game and only 1 with a new movie… they still made a lot of money off those games I promise. This is the reason why video game shelves started off as two or three shelves and turned into half a store. I don’t necessarily buy into the “The game costs more” argument. Does that mean I can subscribe to gamefly for $5 a month if I only rent DS games? No. It’s greed pure and simple, they could lower price to match netflix and still make a hefty profit. I do think the time difference of the customer hold on games vs DVD offsets price. (Would love to see stats on this but I promise neither company would release it).

  3. Just to clarify, gamefly does offer plans beyond 2 games at a time. You need to be a member for a few months before this option becomes available to you but you can go as high as 4 at a time.

    You definitely raise some good points but one thing I can personally attest to where renting from gamefly is concerned is the beauty of being able to send back games that suck. This right here saves a small fortune in both time and dollars. You can generally tell if a game is going to suck in the first half hour of game play. More often than not, less. You find that out with a Blockbuster rental you’re out $10. If you go and grab something else, well, there’s another $10. Throw in a few bucks on the gas you just used to get there and you’ve gone even further in the hole. That little scenario right there equals more than what you’d spend on a month of gamefly for 2 games at a time.

    Then there’s the “keep it” option they offer that allows you to buy whatever you happen to be renting at a cut rate. If you want something bad enough to own it you can, and for a fraction of retail and they send along all the brand spankin new packaging and manuals to go with it.

    Throw in their recent game trade-in program, free mp3 downloads and $5 discount coupons for purchase on pre-played games the longer you’re a member and, well, you’ve got a pretty thoughtful business model. For the casual gamer you’ve got the one at a time plan for something like $14/mo. You’ve spent that on a Blockbuster rental and your gas to get there assuming they even have what you want. Add in late fees if you forget to take it back and the gamefly model continues to shine.

    In the end, everyone has their own unique approach and knows what works best for them. I myself have just spent far too much money on buying games that didn’t live up to their hype soon tired of trying to find what I wanted to play at Blockbuster and paying through the nose when I finally did.

    As you illustrate, the market for movies is larger and therefore, the costs are smaller. Basic formula of supply and demand. The video gaming market is smaller and, therefore, production costs are higher. It’s just like buying a dozen organic free range eggs vs. your garden variety dozen. Okay, that was sort of a dorky comparison but you get what I’m saying.

    Anyway, in the end it’s about saving some cash and however one decides to go about that is their own business. What works for one may not work for another. In the end, if you’ve succeeded that’s all that matters.

  4. I do think though that saving cash for the average person these days does not include gamefly, at best you’d just do a trade-in or used game buy at ebgames or something like that (which alone likely negates much of your constant points on keeping games you like).. Personally I’ve never wanted to buy a movie or a game from a rental service because they generally don’t charge much less than pre-owned games at eb, and people who rent traditionally don’t treat discs well… maybe if we still lived in the days of cartridges (which really means only the DS you should even bother with)… not been a rental service (both online or off) where I haven’t had issues with scratched discs, and yes these online ones tend to be more on top of this issue than offline services… still I’ve had several bad discs even at netflix (they are quick to fix the problem and take it out of circulation but it still happens). And it isn’t like you’d buy one that is damaged, but still these things are not treated well at all by consumers.

    You do sound like a commercial though, it is humorous.

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