Is the Wii providing a 'watered down' experience?

Prince of Persia developer Ben Mattes didn't want to port the game to the Wii out of fear of watering it down. Does the Wii really provide a "watered down" experience?

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
5 min read

Ubisoft's Ben Mattes sat down for an interview with IndustryGamers recently to discuss Prince of Persia--Ubisoft's latest release in the famed franchise. He discussed the game, how it was developed, and much more. But his comments about the Wii were undoubtedly the most noteworthy.

Nintendo Wii
Getting a watered-down game experience with the Wii? Nintendo

After being asked why Prince of Persia was made available only on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Mattes explained that it had everything to do with the Wii's power.

"The reality is that from a technical standpoint, the Wii cannot do what we wanted the game to do," Mattes told IndustryGamers. "The AI of Elika (the game's protagonist) was highly advanced and required a lot of processing power...If we had done a Wii version, it would have been toned down, probably linear. It wouldn't have been an open-world game, and so it would have been a very different experience. We didn't want to water it down that way."

There's no secret that the Wii has less processing power than its competitors. The console wasn't designed to be the graphical beast that Sony's PlayStation 3 is, but rather a platform that provides gamers with a fun, casual experience.

A quick glance at the current Wii library tells you everything you need to know about the console. For the most part, the games are either developed by Nintendo or designed specifically for those gamers who want a casual or multiplayer experience.

But are the games developed by third parties really "watered down?" The more we consider the Wii's library, the more merit the argument seems to have.

The "watering down" of Wii games

Let's start with the new Ghostbusters game, appropriately named Ghostbusters: The Video Game. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the title are both being published by Atari but developed by Terminal Reality. They have beautiful visuals, advanced controls, and, according to most reviews, a pretty good story.

But the Wii version is entirely different. It's still being published by Atari, but a different studio--Red Fly Studio--is developing the game. Screenshots from the title are less than stellar. In fact, there is a marked difference between the visuals of both versions.

It gets worse. According to Terminal Reality, its version of the game will be "Gears of War Lite." Red Fly Studio said its version will be focused more on puzzle elements. In other words, it's an entirely different, less "next gen" experience.

We also can't forget that there are a variety of upcoming titles that really are watered-down versions of their more powerful counterparts on Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the PS3.

For example, Dead Space Extraction, which is scheduled to hit store shelves later this year, won't have the kind of experience we enjoyed with Dead Space on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. According to Electronic Arts, the game's developer, Dead Space Extraction will be "on rails." In other words, gamers won't have free movement to take out enemies.

EA told IGN recently that similar to another on-rails Wii title, House of the Dead: Overkill, the game will provide a "guided and cinematic camera. Extraction is not your typical Rail Shooter. Our goal is to innovate and push the genre forward."

It's possible, but Dead Space was such a compelling title because it allowed for free rein and a healthy dose of excitement. Not being able to control a significant portion of the game scares me a little. It seems rather, well, watered down.

Resident Evil 5 never made its way to the Wii because the console simply couldn't provide the processing power it required. Wii owners were understandably upset. Capcom showed off its upcoming Wii release, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles (a follow-up to Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles), at this year's E3. The developer promised big things from the game. But once again, it had to take some features out to make it work. Like Dead Space Extraction, it's an on-rail shooter.

Speaking to Kotaku, the game's producer, Masachika Kawata, said that when the developers "thought about the different risks and rewards when you go with a shooter on rails," they decided it fit with the franchise.

"There were discussions about whether to give control of the camera to the gamer temporarily or not, but in the end, after all of the discussions, we realized we want to make it a rail shooter that has an incredible amount of atmosphere," he continued.

Even major titles that sell extremely well aren't providing the kind of experience on the Wii that we have come to expect. Madden NFL 10 for the Wii sports simplified controls. According to GameSpot, the game's developers are "trying to make the game more friendly to casual fans, and it shows."

That might appeal to some, but for the rest of us, it's just another example of what we fear most: some third-party Wii games are being watered down to either appeal to casual gamers or work with the console's limited power. And that's a shame.

The robust titles

The watering-down of titles for the Wii certainly isn't universal. Almost every game released by Nintendo is solid. The story lines are outstanding, the controls capture the essence of the Wiimote, and the graphics are just fine.

Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess immediately come to mind when I think of Wii games that aren't watered down. They are stellar titles that anyone should play. And they match any full-featured game on other consoles.

The same can be said for the vast majority of titles built exclusively for the Wii. Punch Out was great. Wii Sports provides an incredibly fun experience. Simply put, there are a variety of compelling games on the Wii that still make it a worthwhile console.

But unfortunately, the vast majority of those full-feature Wii games have been developed by Nintendo. The reality is that many third-party developers haven't been able to capture the true power of the Wii and thus water down their games to bring them to the popular console. If gamers want the best experience for those games, they'll need to play them on another console.

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