The Wii's Identity Crisis

By  |  Friday, March 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm

madworldFor over two years, the Wii was regarded as a family system, and in many ways, it still is, with Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Mario Kart commanding most of the revolutionary console’s popularity. But a sudden turn of events hint of changes on the horizon.

This week’s release of Madworld — a high-profile and thoroughly blood-soaked affair — drew the ire of the National Institute on Media and the Family. The game’s main character uses a chainsaw and a variety of deadly environmental objects to maim his foes, earning more points for more gruesome kills. Here’s a statement from the watchdog group:

“In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people’s living rooms. Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent video game genre. The National Institute on Media and the Family hopes that Nintendo does not lose sight of its initial audience and continues to offer quality, family-friendly games.”

I don’t think Nintendo will abandon the family audience — it’s too big of a market to lose, for one thing — but there are signs that the Wii is moving away from its image as a console strictly for kids, parents and the elderly.

Yesterday, Capcom announced that it will bring three Resident Evil games to the Wii, and June will see the release of The Conduit, a first-person shooter exclusive to the console. That’s hardly enough to call a trend, but it makes for good perspective on another story from today, about one potentially violent Wii game that was squashed back in 2007:

Winter, as it was called, was supposed to be a survival horror game, with a complex story about mysterious weather passing through a desolate town. The developers made a demo and received enthusiastic responses from publishers — until the marketers stepped in. Dan O’Leary, president of the company behind Winter, told IGN that selling a mature concept for the Wii was an uphill battle.

“The idea of an ‘adult’ game on what they perceived to be a ‘kids’ console was simply too big a leap for them, regardless of the enthusiastic support of the [Product Development] department and the Wii’s total domination in the marketplace,” O’Leary said.

I’d love to know whether Winter would have a better shot at a greenlight if it was peddled now, instead of two years ago. IGN’s interview sorely lacks any mention of Madworld and The Conduit, which is a shame, because it seems attitudes are changing.

Nintendo would be wise to start pandering to “mature” audiences now. They’re the ones who feverishly anticipate games like Madworld and buy them on launch day. The excess gore of that game hasn’t won me over from the couple hours I’ve spent with it, but I’ve got hope for better mature titles down the line. Who knows, maybe the online petition to revive Winter will get some traction in the Wii’s new age.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. ROB Says:

    Can anyone tell these idiots there is a PARENTAL LOCK SYSTEM?
    They made it for cases like these. They never lost sight, its the retards who don’t know how to get the maximum out of their system.

    Even other people overlook this feature of the Wii.
    NIMF should go to hell.

  2. Dave Lawson Says:

    I don’t believe that ANY censorship effort is worthwhile. The gaming consoles all require that the game be loaded on a (sort of) CD. If parents can’t control that CD, who’s fault is it? The gaming console is simply a technological tool. There is no implicit limitation on the material that it can play. There is NO contasmination such that playing a “mature” game degrades a “family” game. If the market supports the game, it’ll succeed. If it’s a crappy game it’ll disappear instantly. Why do “marketing” types care at all? They have trouble with anything that complicates their lives. So parents have to pay attention to the games that kiddies are playing, why is that different from paying attention to the books that they read, or paying attention to what their teachers are saying in the classroom? Grow up, people! Don’t you think that it’s about time that you did?

  3. Jared Newman Says:

    To be fair, Dave, NIMF never suggested censorship (that’d be quite the slippery slope), but here’s some food for thought:

    Nintendo and Sony (not sure about Microsoft) do not support games with an “Adults Only” rating. The fiasco over Manhunt 2 brought this to light, read here:

    So, it seems the console makers themselves are putting censorship in place. Maddening, eh?