Wii play games.
With the Wii U just around the corner, itâ€™s quite strange to see that Nintendo hasn't really revealed much about what will be involved as far as the firmware UI and online store is concerned. Considering Nintendo have stated that theyâ€™ll make it possible for people to move their Wii Shop Channel purchases from their Wii over to the new machine, itâ€™s safe to assume that Shop Channel 2 is likely to make an appearance. So with that in mind, letâ€™s take a quick journey through the life of the Wiiâ€™s online store to see what it did right, and what it did wrong.
When the Wii first released, one of the biggest selling points was that not only was it going to be backwards compatible with its predecessor, but that games from each of their previous consoles would also be available for download. A lot of people saw this as a huge selling point but, almost six years after the Wiiâ€™s release, the Wii Shop Channel simply hasnâ€™t become the booming success Nintendo was hoping for.
While the Virtual Console section of the Shop Channel is host to the biggest (legal) list of retro titles to download and play, the Wii didnâ€™t originally ship with a way to store every game you wanted. Limitations meant that gamers either ran out of storage space or slots on the dashboard. Eventually, this forced Nintendo to allow games to be stored and played off SD cards, but the damage had already been done.
This didnâ€™t stop Nintendo from releasing more and more titles onto the channel, breaking away from Nintendo consoles and supplying gamers with a catalog of Master System, Mega Drive, NeoGeo, and Turbografx titles.
Alongside the ever-increasing list of retro games was a selection of newly developed downloadable titles dubbed WiiWare games. Initially this was getting a fair bit of support, but low sales scared off most developers and low quality games took over. In turn, these low quality games caused Wii owners to shy away from sifting through the terribly organised database, thus missing out on some of the great original IPs that got their start on WiiWare, like the Bit.Trip and LostWinds series.
If thereâ€™s one thing that Nintendo needs to focus on with the Wii U, itâ€™s the presentation and organisation of its downloadable titles. Unless you go into the Wii Shop Channel knowing exactly what youâ€™re wanting to download, youâ€™re going to have a bad time. Small images of random selections of games meet you when first open the channel, with the latest additions for the week a click away.
Letâ€™s say a game catches your eye; with a simple push of the A button (and a 10 or so second wait), youâ€™re taken to a simple page dedicated to the game. While other digital stores offer slideshow galleries of screenshots, trial games, demos, and downloadable trailers / other videos, the Wii Shop Channel offers two or so small thumbnail images that canâ€™t be expanded on and a small blurb about the game.
With everything that has been mentioned above, it seems the final nail in the coffin of the Shop Channel was the fact that the asking price for the majority of titles was deemed by consumers to be vastly over-inflated. While most Nintendo fans can justify dropping $18 on a port perfect version of Majoraâ€™s Mask, few can justify the similar asking price for a commercial flop like Cruisâ€™n USA.
There needed to be a system in place for ensuring gamers were getting their moneyâ€™s worth and that there was some decent competition between platforms. Why would you fork out $90 for the full 5-episode Strong Bad series on WiiWare when you could purchase it for almost half that price on PC?
Despite all the negativity surrounding the service, and the frustration in navigating the store, there are gems to be found. No other system offers you the same retro fixes that you can get here; from Final Fantasy VI to Super Mario 64, from Punch-Out to Majoraâ€™s Mask, the retro selection is a nostalgia filled delight. While these gems are a struggle to find thanks to the outdated UI, thereâ€™s one aspect of the Shop Channel that is ahead of the game.
One of the biggest redeeming features of the Wii Shop is the ability to gift your friends titles. Sure, thanks to the selection at hand and the prices found across the platform, it was under-utilised, but itâ€™s something that they have that no other home console does to this day, and itâ€™s something that needs to stay in the Wii U revision of the Shop Channel.
With the incredibly low number of new releases over the last year, Nintendo has shown that itâ€™s not just consumers that have given up with their digital service. Hopefully the launch of a new console will kick Nintendo into gear and prove that they can offer the same sort of services their competitors are.
A wide selection of retro titles across numerous platforms, a flourishing WiiWare selection, competitive prices, and an easy to navigate store could help Nintendo deliver a satisfying digital store with the Wii U; if the 3DS eShop is anything to go by, Nintendo may just deliver yet.