Hardcore Nintendo: why the Wii isn't just for casual gamers anymore

Nintendo is running away with the lead in this console generation, but if you ask hardcore gamers, they'll paint a very different picture.

Nintendo is running away with the lead in this console generation, but if you ask hardcore gamers, they'll paint a very different picture. How can Nintendo appease both the casual and hardcore? We try to find the answers, and the new games that will prove it.

If there's any system gamers should love right now, it's the Wii. It's the top-selling console in the world, right? That means it should attract all the top third-party talent, an endless parade of fantastic, critically acclaimed games made possible by low development costs and a high install base.

We'll wait for you to stop laughing.

In a year that the company utterly dominated the sales charts, selling twice as many consoles as its closest competitor and publishing the four top-selling games of the year, it would appear that the company is, in fact, bulletproof. But that's far from the case.

Despite starting out strong in 2008 with third-party darlings No More Heroes and Boom Blox, as well as self-published smash hits Wii Fit, Mario Kart Wii, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the company sputtered with less-than-warmly received fare like Wii Music and Mario Super Sluggers rounding out the year while third-party companies settled into creating little more than cheap shovelware. A year that started with such promise for Nintendo's dedicated fanbase ended with many hardcore players questioning if the company even cared about them anymore.

Hard and Soft

What Nintendo needs to do is keep the hardcore camp happy while satiating the needs of a broader audience that continues to flock to their product. The company is still learning, but its 2009 lineup has made it apparent that Nintendo is working harder than ever before to appease both groups.

It seems like Nintendo is hearing the cries of its most fervent fans, resulting in announcements for two games that are updates to long-dormant franchises. Punch-Out has lingered in limbo since its smash-hit NES and SNES days, while the Sin and Punishment never even came to US shores during its N64 premiere.

If you think the old-school fans are the only ones who will find enjoyment in these games, though, you obviously haven't taken note of Punch-Out's new motion-control scheme or seen the footage of Sin and Punishment 2 that highlights the intense action and stylized graphics that every hardcore gamer craves. Even a new franchise like MadWorld seems poised to pleasure both groups, with stylistic bloodletting reminiscent of hardcore hit No More Heroes and beat-'em-up gameplay that's simple and ultra-accessible.

On the flipside, hardcore gamers might find themselves surprised with the scope of casual-friendly fare coming next year. Wii Sports Resort might look a launch title with short sleeves and sunglasses, but it comes packed with the most important Wii accessory since the Balance Board: the Wii MotionPlus, which greatly enhances the motion tracking of the Wii Remote and will likely usher in a new era of more immersive gaming.

If you think Nintendo hasn't taken criticism of the original Wii Sports to heart when developing its highly anticipated sequel, you haven't been paying attention to Nintendo. With Wii Sports Resort, they've promised more, more, more: More games, more precise controls, and more hardcore-slanted events such as the Wave Race-inspired Power Cruise jetski event.

And who says that today's casual won't become tomorrow's hardcore? While older fans may scoff at the updated GameCube games in the New Play Control series, these games are serving a great purpose. Not only are titles like Pikmin and Metroid Prime a great low-price alternative to the cheap shovelware poisoning store shelves, but they're giving new fans a second chance to experience (or re-experience) some genuine gems from the overlooked GameCube era.

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