Is the Wii Dying of “Gamer Fatigue?”

Is the Wii Dying of “Gamer Fatigue?”

This current generation of video game consoles is starting to feel a little tired. That’s not to say Microsoft or Sony would benefit from immediately showing their hand for the next generation: Both companies are very new to the motion control scene, and neither is going to want to do or say anything that will draw attention away from Kinect or PlayStation Move–especially not this close to Christmas.

It’s too early to say whether or not the Kinect or Move will completely revitalize the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (no doubt what Microsoft and Sony are hoping for), but at least there is at least a spark of interest, some conversation. In the meantime though, Nintendo’s Wii is looking somewhat thin and worn. True, it still manages to pull off A-grade releases–Kirby’s Epic Yarn being a true romp–but the Wii is a long way from 2006, when it was the hippest, coolest kid on the block.

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter says that Wii is suffering from“gamer fatigue,” pointing to Nintendo’s drab sales numbers for September. 254,000 Wiis were sold, about 45% down from September 2009. Pachter also speculates that Nintendo missed out on its chance to revitalize the Wii with some kind of “Wii HD” upgrade.

“In our view, the Wii’s malaise is most likely attributable to the rapid increase in household penetration of HD televisions, with new HDTV owners anxious to embark upon an HD gaming experience,” Pachter said following the release of September’s NPD sales numbers. “This partially explains why the Wii’s unit sales dropped into third place in September, notwithstanding a $100 lower price point and the bundling of two games with each console.

“In our view, the era of standard definition gaming is rapidly coming to an end, and Nintendo may have missed the opportunity to revitalize its large installed base of consumers by offering them an HD version of the Wii before Sony and Microsoft encroach with motion control schemes of their own.”

Pachter is right about the Wii lagging behind, but he might be wrong about the reasons. The Wii does receive criticism for its lack of high-definition graphics, but its lack of concerted third-party support for blockbuster-grade originals is a much bigger problem. So is its half-hearted support for WiiWare and the Virtual Console.

It’s probably too late for Nintendo to rally up third-party support for the Wii; once bitten, twice shy as the saying goes, and developers are keenly aware of the third-party graveyard growing around the Wii. Nintendo has had no problem releasing huge hits for its own consoles. Other developers haven’t been as lucky.

However, Nintendo can beef up WiiWare and give developers reasons to experiment on its own system versus doing so on Xbox Live Arcade. And the Virtual Console needs to give us something to write home about more than once every three months. The Wii is four years old. Where’s Mega Man X? Where’s Terranigma or Illusion of Gaia?

Alas, spicing up WiiWare and the Virtual Console might only salve the Wii’s wounds for another year or so. The console has simply reached its saturation point. Nintendo has nothing to be ashamed of in that regard: The Wii was a revolutionary new idea that still managed to attract entire families to the pastime of gaming. The system didn’t reach its full potential, but it did lay down a path for a brave new world. For that feat alone, Nintendo should be commended.

It should also think fast if it wants to get a leg up on the next generation of consoles. Going by Sony and Microsoft’s slow movements, neither wants to claim the coveted title of “First,” but both the Xbox 360 and especially the PlayStation 3 have some stamina left. The Wii will undoubtedly see a resurgence in popularity this Christmas, but 2010 will probably be its last big hurrah.

It looks like Nintendo will have to make the first move that will kick off the next generation. Will it focus on improved motion controls coupled with HD graphics, or will the company go in a completely new direction? Time will tell.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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