Going Gold

Going Gold: Talking to Ourselves

Christian Ward | 12 Aug 2009 17:00
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Was it me, or did most of us seem to collectively ignore the sequel to the biggest-selling single-platform videogame of all time?

Wii Sports Resort launched worldwide over the last month, finding instant success in what is generally considered the most terminal of dead periods by publishers. It has, in conjunction with the launch of a black Wii model and Monster Hunter 3 in Japan, put an end to another spat of "the Wii is a fad" articles and gave a much-needed sales boost to a stagnating videogames market.

It's staggering to think that such a simple game is projected to sell 10 million copies worldwide in this fiscal year alone - by way of a meaningless comparison, more than the late Michael Jackson's Bad sold in the US in 20 years. Or by way of a more meaningful one, about as many copies as Halo 3 has sold to date.

And yet, the places I frequent on the Internet for my gaming discussion seem to have barely noticed its arrival. Usually I am sick of hearing about the latest blockbuster two weeks before it hits the shelves. In Wii Sports Resort's case, it was on the shelves before I was even aware of it. Have we missed the ball on this one?

I call Wii Sports Resort "simple" but I do not mean it as an insult. It's the good kind of simple - uncluttered, unfettered, free of pretensions - and it stands in stark contrast to so many of today's overblown games. Had I, or just about anyone else who was not on the development team, sought to create Wii Sports it would be filled with cups, tournaments, options - the things we are accustomed to with a few additions on top. Exactly the type you would expect.

But Wii Sports is successful precisely because it does not cater to what we expect. In many ways it is the exact opposite of the Nintendo's only other successful sporty series, Mario Kart, which has become a very predictable combination of cups and secret courses. Its structure is unusual, designed around a freeform multiplayer experience. Beating all the games does not open up new sports.

It is this seeming simplicity that results in its being derided by "hardcore" gamers and much of the gaming press. Now, I understand Wii Sports is not for everyone, and that's fine. Gamers who want to ignore it should feel free to do so. But it seems that the world of gaming journalism could at least do a better job at pretending that Wii Sports is for someone - in fact, a very, very large group of someones. The someones who are doing that thing we are supposed to love and champion - playing games.

In its admirable quest to interact with its most loyal users - the people who live and breathe gaming - games journalism is in danger of becoming more of an insolated fringe, finding itself ever more out of touch with the type of games that people are actually buying. For better of worse, these include a lot of Wii, DS and iPhone games that do not fit in the established category that we consider as gaming.

I first started to think about how out of touch the games journalism world has become with the industry in general when the demise of EGM was dominating the news cycle earlier this year. Suffice it to say that if EGM actually had as many sales as it had virtual column inches over those weeks, it would never have found itself in such dire straits in the first place.

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