I attended a wedding on September 11, which, to the bride and groom’s credit, makes for an unforgettable anniversary date. Vows were exchanged, rings were bonded to fingers. I celebrated by tucking into a couple of pints of Rickard’s Red. A gaunt werewolf of a man joined my husband and I shortly, and started talking about video games without any provocation. Interesting that, seeing as we didn’t wear our matching Zelda shirts for the ceremony. We must give off an aura. Maybe we smell like pixels.
The gentleman werewolf asked us if we preferred the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. We started chatting about the benefits and drawbacks of both. The Wii never came into the conversation and I didn’t bring it up, even though I’ve been playing my Wii recently more than anything else. I’m already familiar with the disgusted, pitying look I get when I tell self-proclaimed hardcore gamers that I like the Wii. I also have a stash of automatic answers to cycle through: No, I am not eight years old. No, I am not brain dead. No, I don’t just bust out my Wii when grandmother comes over.
My Wii gets plenty of exercise (go ahead and giggle at the innuendo), but I know that my affection for the system is not universal. The Wii has a notoriously low attach rate (amount of software sold per system). People buy the Wii, party with it, and then dump it for a long while in favor of the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. Even the highest-quality Wii games have issues with sales. Gamers know it. And developers, unfortunately, know it. They tread carefully where the Wii is concerned.
We’ve all seen the news footage of elderly citizens gathering for Wii Sports night in retirement homes across the continent. Are they still enjoying themselves? Probably. How many new games are they going to buy for their Wii if they’re using it to experience the fun and social bonding of bowling without having to travel far or run the risk of throwing out a hip along with the ball? Not many. They don’t need new games.
What about Mom? Is she still playing with the family Wii? Likely she is. Sales stats show that Mom is still down with the Wii. But why isn’t she buying new games? The answer is that maybe she is indeed buying new games – only on the Virtual Console. Like my mom.
When I showed off the Wii to my mother, she didn’t flip out over Wii Sports or Wii Fit, like the stereotype dictates she ought to. She was, however, absolutely floored by the idea that I had easy access to Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World and Super Castlevania IV to name a few retro classics. Once upon a time, my mother had enjoyed video games. But (bless her) she was never very good at them. When the playing field shifted to 3D, the complexity of games increased dramatically and she lost interest. However, she never forgot the games we all played while growing up.
So when I read the dark prophecies being written about what Wii neglect will mean for Nintendo, I understand why the system isn’t beloved by every demographic. But I still wonder about the audience that lies between the hardcore and the grandmothers. Once upon a time, our parents enjoyed the simplicity of side-scrolling adventures as much as we did. I don’t doubt that a few of them are downloading Sonic the Hedgehog 2 right this red hot second.