Frostbitten In Florida

Four years to the day after the GameCube’s launch – four years of frustration with Nintendo’s software draughts, four years of turning to my PS2 or Xbox to keep me company while I waited six months between meaningful Cube releases – I was outside the Target on Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee, Florida, waiting in line to purchase a Wii. The good news: The store, according to reports, would be getting 24 units, and I was No. 23 in the line. The bad: It was very, very cold.

My friend Jon and I found an urban campout in our Wii line, where campfires and s’mores were replaced with laptops and alcohol. I was impressed at how Nintendo’s new machine had garnered this much support. The whole ideology surrounding the console was a tad contrived: “While the code-name Revolution expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer. Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everyone else.”

However, looking at the line, no one looked like they were on the other side of Nintendo’s wall; 1UP tee-shirts adorned their bodies, and Nintendo DSes looked fused to their hands. Where were the non-gamers? Perhaps that segment of the market wasn’t interested in waiting more than a few minutes in line for a Wii, let alone overnight. But those of us who opted to brave the Floridian cold were there for more than just the Wii, we were there for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

While most of the people in line were buying Twilight Princess on faith, I had at least gone to the mountain, having played Twilight Princess at E3. And really, I was underwhelmed. The aiming was weird, the controls awkward. And I didn’t like the way Nintendo opted to handle distribution. Originally announced as a GameCube title to be released in late 2005, the game was delayed until 2006 because “the development team has requested extra time to new levels, more depth, and even higher quality,” which ultimately meant they wanted extra time to port it over to the Wii. Just like with the GameCube’s Super Mario Sunshine and the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64, Nintendo convinced us to purchase their latest entry in the console market because of one game. And hey, it worked. I didn’t like what I saw six months earlier, and here I was in line with everyone else. Like I said, faith.

Luckily, my leap was rewarded. Twilight Princess is a great game. But while Twilight Princess ended up being worth the wait, the software release pattern is beginning to hearken back to previous generations. Its four months after the Wii’s launch, and Nintendo has released four first-party titles: Wii Sports, Twilight Princess, Wii Play and WarioWare: Smooth Moves. The next scheduled release, Super Paper Mario, was originally slated for the GameCube, and the much anticipated Metroid Prime 3: Corruption might not make it out before 2008.

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However, that really doesn’t matter to most people – they have Wii Sports, Nintendo’s media darling, to keep them entertained. Traditional outlets lined up to laud praise over the Wii and the console’s pack-in. Most included tales of how wives, girlfriends, coworkers or parents – those non-gamers in our lives – were instantly able to join in the fun of virtual bowling or tennis.

What’s more, Nintendo is regularly updating the Virtual Console with old school classics from consoles past, including the Sega Genesis. NES titles are the cheapest at $5 apiece, and Nintendo 64 titles cost the most, at $10 per. The title selection has been, for the most part, fantastic. Nintendo has released over 70 titles on the service to date, including Tecmo Bowl, Super Castlevania IV and Mario Kart 64. People have complained about Nintendo’s refusal to modernize the games, though. Rather than taking a page from Microsoft’s book and implementing online multiplayer and co-op into these old games, Nintendo has opted to leave them as is, possibly betraying an incomplete online strategy.

But given two straight months of NPD reporting the Wii’s booming success over both the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo doesn’t have much to worry about. They can’t keep the things on the shelves; Nintendo has moved 6 million units in the time it’s taken Sony to sell 2.7 million. And with a year head start, the Xbox 360 has only sold 9.66 million. Nintendo has done exactly what they set out to do: get non-gamers gaming.

Now that we’re four months removed from the launch and I’m no longer outside a Target finding creative ways to stay warm, I ask myself whether or not purchasing a Wii was a good idea. Sure, Twilight Princess was great, and the Virtual Console is tickling my nostalgia, but until Nintendo ramps up their release schedule, hardcore gamers like me are eventually going to head back to the 360 or PS3 they like less but use more. After four years of waiting for GameCube games and four months of waiting for Wii games, I have to wonder if I’ll be standing in the cold for Nintendo’s next console.

Dan Dormer is a videogame freelancer who keeps a poorly updated blog
at his personal
. He’s also afraid of seeing scary movies. True story.

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