Last week I got a used copy of Excite Truck in the mail as a trade, but life's been busy, so I didn't get around to popping it into the Wii for a few days. When I did, while I enjoyed the game itself, it was with the bittersweet realization that this is the first time I've turned Nintendo's little white box on in many, many months.
It's true that I'm gaming a little less at the moment than I normally would--breaking practice is taking up a lot of that time--but that doesn't explain it. It's not the graphical difference between the Wii and the XBox 360, since I could honestly care less. And it's not the network infrastructure, although Nintendo's take on multiplayer is still shamefully backwards. The explanation is simpler: there's nothing decent to play.
When the Wii has good titles, they're very good. Metroid Prime 3, No More Heroes, and Super Paper Mario all come to mind. I've played through all of those. And I own a Wii Fit board, so it's not like I haven't done the crazy lifestyle game thing too. But two years into owning the console, it seems to have hit a drought. I can name plenty of XBox or PC games, either recently released or on the horizon, that I'm anticipating. But I've only got two on Wii (NMH2 and Muramasa) for which I can really say the same. And I've played all the GameCube games that I wanted to play. At this point, what's left? Apart from Excite Truck, the only reason I turn the Wii on is if I left my smartphone in the other room and don't want to get up to watch YouTube or check an IMDB entry.
At its introduction, the Wii was meant to be a new paradigm for console gaming: family-friendly, cheap, innovative, and a bit silly. It lived up to some of those promises, and then just seems to have completely lost momentum. Was it too weird for third-party developers? Too difficult to write ports? Or just abandoned by the manufacturer? I don't regret the purchase, I'm just kind of saddened by the neglect. We've already got one Dreamcast, I can't keep collecting "wacky" consoles forever.
I can maintain the puns forever, Internet. Don't try to stop me.
After several months of stopping in at retail outlets every now and then and being told "well, we had them just yesterday," I broke down and bought a Wii on eBay. It should arrive today or tomorrow. The eBay premium on this comes to about $50 after you consider sales tax, so it could be a lot worse, I guess.
I looked at the XBox 360, and it's still tempting. But it's a bit high-priced for an impulse buy, and there's nothing I'm really dying to play. The media center functionality would probably be more appealing if we didn't have TiVo and Netflix. And I'm pretty sure Belle and I will get more enjoyment together out of the Wii than we would another system (where it would basically just be for me).
I'm still just amazed by how scarce the units actually are. I'm no industry analyst, but it's been almost a year now and I still haven't even seen a box on the shelves anywhere. The hardware isn't that complicated, from what I understand. The Freakonomics blog thinks it might be artificial, but no-one really knows.
But what's undeniably true is that there's more than a couple thousand of them up on eBay at any given time, selling for (including shipping) at least 130% of the retail price. How that figures into the shortages is hard to say--two thousand isn't a very big number, spread across the whole country--but it's a little galling to see the grey market flourish like this.