Many of us Wii owners have been anxiously awaiting a true online experience. With Xbox Live flourishing and the PlayStation Network holding its own, the Wii’s online capabilities have fallen to a distant third place with no real signs of promise. The only internet-based features we have so far have come by way of the crafty WiiConnect24 Elebits trading system, and even then the functionality is limited.
2007 was supposed to be the year of online play for the Wii, but so far, the only real signs of life have come by way of Nintendo. The first-party release Pokemon Battle Revolution in Japan is the first game to utilize online play, and it seems that first-party games may remain the only titles with online capabilities for the foreseeable future. Ben Herman, president of SNK Playmore USA, confided in Spong about a wide array of industry issues, most notably the lack of support from Nintendo for providing third-party online tools.
Nintendo is still not letting Wii third-party publishers include online capabilities in their games and it doesn’t look like they will during 2007. So the best chance they have at building an online presence appears to be what they’re doing with Virtual Console.
While I’m all for original content appearing on the Virtual Console, the lack of online multiplayer is hurting the Wii’s playability. I often find myself drifting back to my 360 after extended sessions of SSX solitude, wishing I could hop online and chat with a friend while carving down the mountain. Though the DS faced a similarly slow and careful march towards online play, the expectations for console-based online play have been set much higher by the competition, and Nintendo has been slow to catch up. For all the good that Nintendo has done in this generation, the lack of a strong online initiative is becoming a depressing downfall.
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