Click to viewIt's been a gigantic year for Nintendo. It reclaimed the living room console throne for the first time in forever with the Wii, and continued to dominate the portable gaming space with its DS. But how did it do on a scale of A to F? Did it earn good marks for quality games or did it get points off for the fact that it's had a little problem with truancy? Here's how we graded.
• Things were looking up for the Wii at the start of the year after it completely sold out during the holidays—but it still managed to lose to the Xbox 360 in overall sales due to the fact that there weren't enough units available.
• Gut-check time for Nintendo as the first modchip became available in February. Would its laissez-faire attitude toward piracy on the DS and Wii continue to bite Nintendo in the ass? After all, there was little incentive to not mod your Wii since there's no punishment, like withholding Xbox Live service from pirate users for. Someone could just disconnect a system from the network and run all the free Wii games he likes.
• More bad news for Wii owners when Nintendo announces that there will be no third-party online games until the end of the year. This might seem to doom the Wii to the fate of the GameCube—great first-party support and yet utter lack of third-party support—but that doesn't seem to be the case. Third-party developers and publishers are falling over themselves to get stuff on the console that , at least in Japan, has already passed the GameCube in lifetime sales.
• Along with third-party software manufacturers, hardware manufacturers were also getting in on this motion-sensing gravy train. The Nyko Wii Party Station is only one of many Wii accessories we saw this year.
• Although Wiis were selling faster than they could make 'em, E3 brought a big upswing in interest as Nintendo unveiled the Wii Fit. Emphasizing a focus on casual gamers while still playing lip-service to hardcore fans, Ninty showed yet another clever means to get people who don't normally play games into its corner. It's still working, though the Wii Fit won't be out 'til the spring.
• The Xbox 360 finally bowed down to the Wii in overall sales in September, despite having been on the market about a year longer.
• Showing that this Christmas season will be as strong as the last for the big N, the DS set a game console sales record for Thanksgiving week at 653,000 units purchased.
• And, to top everything off, there's the fact that Wiis are still very hard to find. Not only is it the most talked about Christmas item for two years running, it's been the most talked about year-round item as well.
So here's how Nintendo did. Sales are phenomenal for both the Wii and DS, even while features were fairly few and far between. Sure, it announced DS Demo downloads and a upcoming developer channel for homebrew-ish games, but they aren't here now. And speaking of games, once you get past the first-party titles for the Wii like Super Mario Galaxy and every other game that has Mario in it, the library looks a bit thin. The DS, however, looks as strong as ever.
A Exhibits positive self image (Strong sales)
B+ Seeks help when appropriate (Let third-party developers in)
B- Focuses on task at hand (Interesting games, though not enough of them)
C Doesn't play well with others (Weak online support; friend codes are a joke on both Wii and DS)
C Tendency towards truancy (Hard to find in stores)
B+ Shows adequate attention (They're ramping up production, they promise)
B+ Makes responsible choices (Didn't can Manhunt 2)
A- Finishes required tasks (Got Mario Galaxy out the door)