Tag Archives | Nintendo Wii

NBA Jam for Xbox 360 and PS3 Includes a Dilemma

When I tried NBA Jam at E3, it seemed like a faithful remake of Midway’s classic two-on-two arcade basketball game from the mid 1990s, but the Wii’s limited processing power makes online play unlikely when the game arrives in October.

The announcement of NBA Jam for Xbox 360 and PS3, with their elegant systems for multiplayer, seems like great news, except it comes with a couple of serious catches.

First, the only way you can get NBA Jam for Xbox 360 or PS3 is with a free download when you purchase NBA Elite 11, EA’s more traditional basketball game.  That’s not such a bad deal, because you’d get two games for the price of one, but with that offer comes another gotcha: The downloadable version of NBA Jam is not the full game. Only the Wii version has the “Remix Tour” mode and “boss battles” against basketball legends such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. These features reportedly add another 20 hours to the game.

EA has put gamers in an tough position, where they’re deciding not just what console they’d rather play on, but which features are more important. While I agree with EA Creative Director Trey Smith playing NBA Jam against someone in the same room is part of the classic experience, playing against someone across the country is part of modern gaming.

I’m guessing this bizarre feature split was the only way EA could get NBA Jam on all three consoles, after announcing it as a Wii exclusive in January. For Nintendo, it’s a guarantee that not all buyers will jump ship to the version with multiplayer, but for gamers, it’s a lose-lose.

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Nintendo and Heart Association Team Up, Fall Short

The American Heart Association just gave Nintendo an encouraging slap on the rear by endorsing the Wii and a couple of games.

It’s a great development for Nintendo. The AHA will stick a stamp of approval on two of Nintendo’s in-house titles, Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus, along with the console itself. The association will also showcase the Wii at “Find a Start! Heart Walk” events around the country. You can’t buy marketing like that (Update: Actually, you can. ABC News reports that Nintendo paid $1.5 million for a three-year endorsement).

The AHA’s gains from the partnership are more ambiguous. Exposure? The appearance of being on the cutting edge of fitness? Neither motivation would trouble me if the association were doing more than just declaring Nintendo to be its star player.

If I were an executive at Electronic Arts, I’d be livid. Last year, the publisher released EA Sports Active, a game specifically designed for exercise, unlike Nintendo’s fun-oriented Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus. Beyond EA, there are plenty of other third-party games with an eye towards fitness, such as The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum and Just Dance. Where’s the AHA stamp of approval for those titles? For that matter, should the AHA still pledge allegiance to Nintendo when Microsoft and Sony release their own motion controllers?

The AHA could be doing so much more with the active play concept. It could rate individual games based on the difficulty of their workouts. It could give advice on how to make the most of each exercise game. Heck, if the group really had some ambition, it could create an online metagame for people to share and track their progress through multiple AHA-approved titles.

As it stands, the partnership between Nintendo and the AHA is a gimmick whose value barely exceeds the bullet points on the back of game boxes. Once the Wii Fit Plus gets stowed away in a dusty corner, with no endorsed products to replace it, the stamp of approval is meaningless.


Rock of the Dead: More of This, Please!

If Activision or Harmonix never released another Guitar Hero or Rock Band, I’d be satisfied with the existing plastic instruments and gobs of downloadable songs. But there’s still potential in music games, as shown by the upcoming Rock of the Dead.

IGN ran a preview of the Wii game, a cross between the zombie shooter House of the Dead, the keyboard skill-builder Typing of the Dead and Guitar Hero. Each zombie gets its own sequence of notes to play on your guitar controller, and you must enter the sequences correctly to destroy your foes.

As a concept, Rock of the Dead rules, but I’m not as enthused after watching a video of the action. This would be so much better if each note produced a crunchy guitar riff, instead of a dull thwacking sound against a bland backing soundtrack. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of potential in using music game instruments for games that aren’t explicitly about karaoke.

Rock of the Dead isn’t the first one to try. A new game called Fret Nice mimics the platforming style of Super Mario Bros., but with the option to use a guitar controller. Sadly, critics said the experiment didn’t work, and the game is better off with a standard controller. The problem is that Fret Nice tried to map a new control scheme onto a genre that’s already too familiar. In a sense, Rock of the Dead is doing the same thing, even though on-rail shooting games aren’t as universal of a genre.

Still, imagine if a music-themed adventure game like Brutal Legend incorporated the guitar controller, or maybe there are ways to experiment with music games that don’t involve popular songs or straight-up performance (for instance, Rez). There’s fertile ground here, and I’m glad Rock of the Dead developer Epicenter is playing with it, because the music game genre, left alone, is stagnant.


Wii’s Old Supply Problems Are New Again

It’s 2007 all over again, with Nintendo’s Wii in short supply at retail shops and online stores.

Shipments are coming in, but they’re selling out fast, Joystiq reports. Nintendo hasn’t gone into specifics on why it can’t meet demand for the Wii, but the company said “replenishing Wii inventories will be a challenge” in the short-term.

According to Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia, 47 percent of GameStops had the Wii in stock last month, IndustryGamers reported, so you might have to call around to get one. Supplies are a bit scarcer at other retailers; Bhatia said 28 percent of channels had the Wii in stock last month.

Why are Wii shortages happening again? One GameStop employee told Joystiq that it’s a regular occurrence after the holidays, and that supplies should pick up in mid-February, but that doesn’t jive with Nintendo’s remarks about short-term supply challenges.

Back in the early days of the Wii, a popular conspiracy theory held that Nintendo was intentionally holding back supply to stir up buzz. I never really believed that, and it certainly doesn’t seem likely now. However, a variation on that theory, from GameStop chief operating officer Dan DeMatteo, seems plausible: In March 2007, he said Nintendo was holding back supply because the company already met its yearly sales goals.

A similar motive could be at work here. Despite a 23 percent drop in profits last quarter, Nintendo does seem on track to meet its sales forecasts for the year ending March 31, so the company may not be in a rush to boost production.

Again, only Nintendo knows for sure what’s going on here. As a consumer, it seems silly that a company would make it harder to buy its product, but that’s business for you.

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The Wii is Back, Baby!

Sales figures can be kind of drab to talk about, but wow, the Wii absolutely crushed in December 2009.

According to The NPD Group (via Wired), Nintendo moved 3.81 million Wii consoles in North America last month. That’s 1.66 million more units than December 2008, and the record for most consoles sold in a single month. No surprise, then, that the games industry had a record month overall, besting December 2008 by 4 percent.

When you compare those sales with the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, which by any other standard had a good month, it’s just embarrassing. The Wii sold almost three times as many units last month as either of the other two consoles.

Nintendo had just as bountiful a month on the software side. The top-selling games of December were New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2.82 million), followed by Wii Fit Plus (2.41 million), followed by Wii Sports Resort (1.79 million). Only then came the blockbuster Modern Warfare 2 for the Xbox 360 and PS3, selling 1.63 million and 1.12 million units, respectively. A couple months ago, EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich predicted that the new Mario game’s lifetime sales would eventually surpass those of Modern Warfare 2. He’s on track to be dead-on.

A couple other things to note:

-To date, Wii Sports Resort has sold over 4.5 million units. That means there are at least that many homes with an accuracy-boosting Wii MotionPlus attachment, and probably more when you consider other pack-in games such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. That bodes well for more titles that support the peripheral down the road, especially when the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 introduce their own motion control devices this year.

-Third-party Wii titles are nowhere to be found in the top 10, as has been the case since The Beatles: Rock Band debuted in September. That’s got to be frustrating for publishers, and could be a problem for gamers if third-party support wanes — provided they ever get tired of Mario, Zelda and the sight of their own Mii characters.


Wii Gets Netflix. What’s Next?

My heartfelt congratulations to those who have a Wii in their living room, and nothing else that connects to the Internet. With nary an Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Roku box, connected HDTV or Blu-ray player, these poor souls will finally be able to watch Netflix’s streaming movie catalog from the television, starting this spring. Sure, it’s hobbled by the Wii’s 480p playback, and makes you insert a disc beforehand akin to the Playstation 3, but it’s better than nothing.

Drawbacks aside, I refuse to believe that this is it for the Wii. There must be more in store on the multimedia front, because a selection of old and B movies isn’t going to cut it. Netflix streaming is incomplete when it’s not supported by on-demand video or some other kind of catalog.

That’s why Roku is no longer just a Netflix player, and why Nintendo’s console competitors offer so much more as well. You can buy and rent movies and TV shows through Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. Xbox Live Gold subscribers can listen to endless music playlists with Last.fm. And of course, the Xbox 360 and PS3 play DVDs and Blu-ray discs, respectively.

The Wii’s addition of Netflix makes the console seem lopsided. It’s no longer strictly a gaming device, but a box of entertainment (I know, the Wii has news and weather channels, but that’s just information). And that entertainment section has to grow.

My prediction? The Wii’s video channel, which debuted in Japan last year, is not too far off. It has Hollywood movies. It has pay-per-view content from Warner and Disney, among others. It should be ready to roll by now. Dream scenario: Those Netflix discs will arrive along with a console update bearing a video store and some more Web channels, but maybe those poor Wii owners will pick up a more capable set-top box by then.

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Oh the Indignity

The more you love Polaroid, the sadder it is to see its name slapped on products like this.


Nyko One-Ups Nintendo With Wii Wand+

Despite the Wii’s innovative motion controls, Nintendo’s Wii Remote is nothing special to hold, especially compared to the elaborate design of an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 controller. That makes fertile ground for Nyko, whose third-party Wii Remotes, or Wands, feel just as mediocre for $10 less.

At CES, Nyko is showing off the Wand+, which is the same size as a regular Wii Remote, but includes the functionality of Nintendo’s accuracy-boosting Wii MotionPlus dongle, no attachments required. Best of all, the Wand+ will sell for $40 when it goes on sale in late February — the same price Nintendo charges for a standalone Wii Remote (Nintendo’s MotionPlus attachment costs another $20).

There are some other nice design flourishes, too, like a soft coating and rubber backing that includes comfortable grooves over the rear battery pack. And it comes in partial or all black.

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Game Console Buying Guide 2009: How to Choose Wisely

I’ll talk about video games to anyone who can stand to listen, but I’m always surprised when someone asks me which of the three current home consoles is the best. Choosing a video game system isn’t about superiority — sorry fanboys — it’s about having fun with your $300 to $500 investment instead of using it as a dust magnet. With Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all cutting prices, it’s a pretty good time to talk about buying a Playstation 3, an Xbox 360 or a Wii. And now that I’ve got all three in my living room, I feel pretty comfortable helping you through it.

For the sake of getting everyone up to speed, let’s start with an overview of each system.

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Browser-Based Wii Fun

Wii GameCloud-based services are changing everything about computing–and they’re having an impact in some pretty unexpected places. Such as the Nintendo Wii, where some clever folks are utilizing the console’s Opera browser to deliver nifty little free games that even take advantage of the Wii Remote and provide online play. Jared Newman has rounded up ten of his favorites–try ’em all!

View Free Wii Browser Games slideshow.

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