I was going to use this blog as a last chance to reminisce, but the 10 Year Anniversary special already gave me a chance to do that. Instead, I'll take this opportunity to get a few things off my chest before I go. I mostly just want to say what I think about the current state of gaming. I'm not passing judgment on any console manufacturer; they each have a business to run and must do what they think is best for their bottom line. Good luck to them all. As far as I'm concerned, the more games being made, the greater chance I'll find something that I can enjoy. With that said, let's get started.
Wii Don't Play
I barely play the Wii lately. I'm not bitter (not too bitter anyway), but I'm just not that interested in the games that have been coming out. Predictably, my Wii favorites are Zelda, Metroid, and Mario Galaxy. Even though I prefer standard controls, these games were undeniably great and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Unfortunately, it seems like there are no other games on the Wii with their kind of scope and quality, and nothing on the way either.
Interestingly, a look at the GameCube library shows that we're really not much worse off now than we were then. The main shortcomings are due to the lack of quality second and third-party contributions (there are a few ports of great games such as Resident Evil 4 and Okami, but really nothing new aside from Sega’s offerings). You would think that Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft and others would be dying to cash in on the Wii market by making exceptional games that stand above the riff-raff. Who knows, maybe they're working on some now and we'll see them at E3 later this year. If not, then I think we need to be really careful what kind of games we buy. We don't want to encourage mediocrity just because there's nothing better available.
Nintendo, at least, will remain right on track as long as we assume they have a few secrets up their sleeve in addition to Sin and Punishment 2 and whatever Retro is working on. Punch Out!! could be great as well, but I must admit I'm worried that it's going to end up playing more like "My First Punch Out!!" (i.e. due to the motion controls being less tight than buttons, and the target audience perceived as being less skilled, the difficulty may be cut drastically). Let's hope I'm wrong about Punch Out!!, because that's one franchise that has been dying for a good sequel.
Don't Touch My DS!
I think I have even less interest in stylus control than motion control. It's alright when the stylus is on the screen where the action isn't (Metroid Prime Hunters), but I really don't like drawing paths for Link to follow or tapping on enemies to kill them (Ninja Gaiden). Thankfully developers haven't shied from making games that have little or no touch control in them, and I love having the second screen around despite what it was primarily designed for.
What I really like about the DS is that it continues to foster the development of great 2D games in the classic mold. However, I fear for the future. As the years go by and hardware can accomplish 3D more easily, people who enjoy 2D games could become increasingly marginalized as their numbers dwindle. Eventually the audience for 2D games may not be big enough. We'll have to continually introduce new gamers to classic 2D games if they're going to stick around. If I could freeze the portable market in its current state I'd do it in a heartbeat.
On the other hand, as downloadable games become more prevalent, maybe tiny niches can be effectively targeted after all. Mega Man 9 is a fantastic example. World of Goo is another. Then there are games like Portal and Braid on other platforms. Experts are predicting that all games will be downloadable eventually. I'm sure they're right, although I'm not happy about it. A twenty dollar game is one thing, but something seems wrong about paying sixty dollars and not having your game accessible via a relatively permanent and portable medium that you control (i.e. a cartridge or disk with no DRM).
I own a lot of 360 and PS3 games. I buy them, bring them home, open them, play them for a few minutes, and then forget about them. I want HD graphics, epic stories, and deep gameplay, but the truth is that most developers just can't do it like Nintendo does (excluding the HD part, for the moment). I'm exaggerating a little, a little, of course; I probably do play half of the 360 and PS3 games I buy, but usually it seems like something isn't right. Nintendo's failure to get on board the HD train has left a big void in my gaming world.
I assume Nintendo will go HD with the Wii 2, but there is still the problem of ever-increasing development costs to consider. There are a lot of ways to cut development costs. One of the best ways is to share technology. The Unreal Engine is a great example of this; now if only developers would hire artists that can think in terms other than excessive bump-mapping. Staying a generation behind the tech-curve is also a great way to control costs. All the tools you need will have already been developed for and by the other guys five years earlier, and will be available at a discount. If the next Wii is a step behind the tech curve again, then third parties will continue to line Nintendo's pockets if only because it is the least expensive platform to develop for (excepting handhelds, but Nintendo’s pockets will continue to be lined by that segment as well). Another great way to keep costs down is to make games shorter. I can't speak for everyone, but my time has become increasingly valuable to me as I've grown older, so I really don't mind when a game ends in a timely manner.
Speaking of ending in a timely manner, I’d better not overstay my welcome. It's been a swell seven years. Perhaps someday I'll come back again as others have, but I have my doubts. Of course, this isn't a complete good-bye. I'm sure I'll continue haunting Talkback threads here and there, starting with the one for this very blog. See you in the forums!