A Wii bit more fun than Second Life

Nintendo Wii's success boils down to its entire package, which smartly combines great usability with a high fun factor, and players enjoy immediate gratification, says ZDNet Asia's Isabelle Chan.
Written by Isabelle Chan, Contributor
commentary Before the days of Game Boy and Nintendo DS, there was Game & Watch which Nintendo sold in the early 1980s.
I don't know how many of you remember or played Nintendo's Game & Watch. My favorite titles include Chef , Octopus , Egg  and Mickey Mouse.
My dad gave me Popeye for my 14th birthday, and for some reason, no matter how much I played, I could never beat my brother's high scores. I suppose he has the faster fingers (but at least I can touch my toes).

Work up a sweat playing virtual tennis.

Have fun creating your Wii avatar, or Mii.

In Wii Play's Find Mii game, the trick is to make your Mii as easily recognizable as possible.
Images courtesy of Nintendo

Although I've also played my fair share of games like PacMan , Tetris , horror-themed Phantasmagoria , and even World of Warcraft, I have never been much of a gamer.
My interest in games comes and goes. I've also remained nonchalant about the PlayStation and the Xbox, which explains why I wasn't excited when, early this year, my other-half suggested buying the Nintendo Wii.
I tried to delay the purchase by suggesting he wait for the price to fall, but failed to dissuade him. So in June, we became proud owners of the Wii.
New games appeal
One of Nintendo's objectives is to get non-gamers to play the Wii, and this is where the Japanese game entertainment company has succeeded.
The user interface is intuitive, even for non-techies and non-gamers. There is nothing intimidating about the game console, and that is probably the main reason why it is a game for everyone in the family, even grandma.

One of the key features of the Wii control is its motion-sensor capabilities. The technology adds another dimension to the virtual simulation game as it lets the player interact with the screen, and is able to pick up acceleration. Couch potatoes will be happy to note that they can get real exercise playing the Wii. I actually worked up a sweat playing Wii Sports. Yes, you have to stand up and "swing" your Wii remote control, as you would a tennis racket during a real-life game.

Japanese have this great knack for creating products that cater to the user's point of view, and Nintendo lives up to this reputation of putting attention to detail. For example, Nintendo has a tool that lets you easily create your own avatar or "Mii". I've redone my Mii several times over, and think I've finally got it to resemble the real me. My other-half, on the other hand, hasn't been able to do so quite as well, which explains why I keep beating him in Wii Play's Find Mii game.

Second Life a threat?
In the company's financial briefing with analysts at the end of March 2007, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata dismissed Second Life as a potential competing platform, when asked for his thoughts on how the popular virtual world might impact the video games industry.

Satoru said: "I personally have virtually no interest in Second Life. I don't think it will be considered as an important existence in the future."

He rationalized the motivations behind human beings' interest to play video games, pointing out that activities from which a person is able to derive greater reward--with less time and effort--will ultimately win out, because a person today has less time and energy to spend on any activity.

I couldn't agree with him more. For me, playing the Wii satisfies my needs more quickly compared to logging on to Second Life. You could say there is more immediate user gratification playing Mario Party 8  than exploring the virtual world as a Harajuku gal. I am sure there are Second Life fans out there, but how many people have logged in and out, and felt no more satisfied? I know at least a couple.

As Satoru so aptly put it: "Some of us just don't have time and want to have quick fun in a short time."

Wii takes on the world
The Wii's success shows it is never too late to join the party.

According to a Financial Times report, Wii has overtaken rivals PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, shipping 9 million units globally as of end-July 2007.

This latest report, if accurate, potentially turns earlier analyst predictions on its head. In March 2006, In-Stat predicted that Sony would maintain its dominace in the video console market through 2010--the forecast was made before Wii's launch.

Nothing is for sure in this highly competitive games market, considering that consumer interests wane and change, and a game manufacturer's success depends not only on the console, but having enough qualty software titles that, too, require a strong distribution network and effective marketing.

Of course, none of the contenders--Sony, Microsoft, as well as Nintendo--will be sitting on their laurels. Each will aim to pull out the stops in this battle for the world's gamers.

But while some might think that means putting in the latest and greatest technologies, it may just be the opposite. It's still a question of understanding and fulfilling basic human needs.

For Wii fans: Bill Detwiler at ZDNet Asia's sister site TechRepublic got his hands on a Nintendo Wii a while back and took the thing apart piece by piece for readers' enjoyment. See what makes the Wii console tick.

Editorial standards