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.