Should Nintendo Make Casual Games Again?

You probably looked at the title of this article and immediately thought to yourself: “No!”. Or, you probably even went straight to the comments section to tell me how stupid I am for even coming up with such an idea. I’ll agree, it is a pretty crazy thought. But, sometimes it’s fun to imagine crazy things, so that’s what I’m about to do.

The Nintendo Switch has been riding high since it launched in March. The success has been repeatedly compared to that of the Wii, which also became incredibly popular right after it launched back in 2006. Both of these systems ended up becoming hits with the masses due to being very unique; completely different from all other systems. However, the uniqueness of the Wii and Switch have affected the gaming world in different ways.

With the Wii, its unique feature was of course the Wii Remote and Nunchuk which possessed motion-tracking technology. Nintendo thought the easiest way to demonstrate the technology to the masses was by means of very simple games that utilized the controllers in ways that anyone could understand. This gave birth to the ‘Wii’ series of games, starting with Wii Sports which was a launch title for the system. Wii Sports included five sporting activities that weren’t any different than any other game that featured them, minus the new motion-control functionality. Even so, that was enough to win over people of all kinds. It’s really the main reason why the Wii became such an overnight sensation across the world. People of all ages huddled around their TVs to play it. By making it a pack-in title, Nintendo was able to sell over 82 million units, thus giving it the title as the fourth best-selling game in history.

After seeing the runaway success of Wii Sports, it’s no wonder why Nintendo quickly turned the concept into a full franchise with other titles like Wii Play and Wii Fit. But, the company unknowingly ended up opening Pandora’s box with these newfound ‘casual titles’. As a result, there quickly became a flood of copycat, low-budget casual games from all sorts of developers. The Wii has unfortunately ended up being the notorious home of these ‘shovelware’ games. In a way, it was almost the perfect place for such games to exist. The system’s limited hardware required a lot less effort to work with than the Xbox 360 and the PS3 (especially). On top of that, it was selling like hotcakes all over the world, and the majority of the people who were buying the system were casual consumers that didn’t really know any better. Thus, many game companies saw this as an opportunity to make some quick cash by assigning some D-team (not even a B-team) to work on these ‘shovelware’ games with as little resources as possible. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these titles were produced in just over the course of a single weekend where they’re so incredibly bad.

Once developers saw Wii Sports, their immediate thought was: “Wii can do that too! Just with a $3 budget!”

So, if these casual games have such a bad reputation, then why on earth would I even suggest that they come back? Well, that’s because they’re not entirely terrible. Nintendo demonstrated the right way to create a casual game with titles like Wii Sports/Resort and Wii Fit. Now, it’s true that the company did not put as much polish and resources into these games as it does with its more prominent properties, but there was still enough effort put into these projects to make them rather decent. Really, the only truly terrible one was the infamous Wii Music. Be honest, I’m sure you’ve played Wii Sports at least once. Personally, I’ve put quite a few hours into it, especially its successor Wii Sports Report. These games were my introduction to the Wii; I first played them at a kids club at a resort when I was 12. Playing them honestly made my younger brother and I fall enough in love with the system to actually go ahead and beg our parents to get a Wii of our own, which they did.

Despite these fond memories I have, there’s still the aforementioned fact that things got out of hand with these casual titles on the Wii. They only really came to an end after the Wii entered its twilight years and the Wii U didn’t manage to match the Wii’s high levels of success. Now, we have the Switch and things are a lot different.

At this point, Nintendo has clearly moved away from the ‘Wii era’. Just about everything about the company has changed since then, including its current batch of games. Nintendo is now focusing more on its more prominent properties as well as well as creating new IPs in the same vein of quality of its existing ones. There was a brief callback to the casual days of the Wii era with 1-2 Switch, which served to fill the same role on Switch that Wii Sports did for the Wii: being a simplistic tech demo. Even though a lot of folks were turned off immediately after it was announced, the game has actually managed to sell over a million units, despite not being a pack-in (which many believe it really should have been) and costing a whopping $50. It wouldn’t be surprising if Nintendo has made its money back on the game by now, yet, no further action has been taken. Why? Well, Nintendo has learned that casual games are only a short-term success.

The casual nature of the Wii brought Nintendo a lot of profit and popularity in the short-term, but that hype quickly faded. 

The Wii spread like wildfire thanks to casual titles like Wii Sports, but it ultimately proved to be a flash in the pan in terms of true success. The Wii U’s lack of sales proved that the majority of people who bought the original Wii were not interested in a long-term commitment to Nintendo hardware. They bought the system, had fun for a little while, and then that relationship ended there. These casual games that flooded the console were cheap and easy to make, but their influence was incredibly short-lived. When someone gets high from a drug trip or drunk from alcohol all for the sake of trying to ‘feel good’, they soon regret it. These substances bring temporary, short-lived satisfaction but only end up making the user feel terrible after that ‘good feeling’ quickly wears off. In a similar way, casual games just aren’t worth it and Nintendo knows this.

I think the only reason we got 1-2 Switch and even Snipperclips is because Nintendo wanted to give early Switch owners something to play while the bigger titles were being polished up behind the scenes. They also could have been thrown in to entice any casual-minded consumers who would be drawn in by such concepts. In essence, these games probably only exist on Switch as cheap bait. Nintendo has clearly moved away from making these types of games as its focus, and the companies that flooded the Wii with shovelware titles have also come to realize it’s better to put their resources into mobile games with microtransactions.

It’s likely we will never see a repeat of the ‘Wii era’. But, there were some good moments. Wii Sports, Just Dance, and a few others—they weren’t amazing games, but they sure were a lot of fun. In fact, there’s one in particular that I happen to be a big fan of. One that was so good it almost shouldn’t have existed. I’ll talk about it in my next article

We’ll probably never return to these simple times, but they weren’t all bad…

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.