History shows that the Wii Speak is far from the first Nintendo add-on to die an early death.
Well, the Wii Speak is officially dead. Nintendo has gone to High Voltage and told them not to include Wii Speak support in their upcoming game The Conduit 2. I want to say I’m surprised, but Nintendo not supporting their peripherals is unfortunately common. Let’s take a look at some past offenses:
The original offender is also the worst. You can hardly even call this guy an accessory; a more proper term for R.O.B. would be “Trojan horse”. Its only reason for existing was to make the NES look a bit less like a game console, since the world had pretty much given up on consoles a couple of years before; once the NES took off, R.O.B. was no longer needed for anything. In the end, the Robotic Operating Buddy was used in only two games, Gyromite and Stack-Up. As a tool for getting NES systems in homes, it was a rowsing success; as an actual toy, it probably gets more use as a paperweight.
NES Four Score
This early NES device let up to four players play together, despite the two controller ports on the NES. In this day and age four-player games are an obvious thing, but back in the day this could really give Nintendo the edge. Nintendo, of course, took advantage of this ability by publishing a whopping two games that supported the Four Score: NES Play Action Football and Nintendo World Cup. All in all, only 22 NES games supported the device at all; perhaps Nintendo thought that gamers didn’t have that many friends.
N64 Controller Pak
This additional memory card let you save data from your Nintendo 64 games, which was essential for several generations of video gaming before hard drives became popular. The only problem? The Nintendo 64, you’ll remember, was cartridge based, meaning that any essential game data was already saved onto the game itself. The Controller Pak ended up being relegated to a few auxillary uses, like saving Mario Kart 64 replays or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater information, and most people could easily get by never owning one. Still, though, this had greater usage than…
N64 Transfer Pak
This device was very useful for the Pokémon Stadium games; you could take your lovingly raised Pokémon from the Game Boy titles and have them battle it out in a 3D full-color stage. And that was just about all you could use it for. There was a grand total of six games released in the U.S. that could use this thing, and not all of them were too useful in that regard anyway (Mario Golf, anyone?) Really it was one of those peripherals that was released for use in one game that they tried to expand, but failed miserably on that front. While we’re on the subject…
Voice Recognition Unit
Hey You, Pikachu! That pretty much sums this one up. This early microphone peripheral actually was sold on its own in Japan, since there was exactly one other game that used it: Densha no Go! 64, a train operating game. I don’t know how well it worked, but as far as supporting the device goes, it’s tied with the pitiful R.O.B. Perhaps Nintendo lost their internal testing budget during the N64 period?
Hoo boy, the e-Reader. While this card-reading device achieved mild success in Japan, in the United States this device only ever worked with two GBA games and one GameCube game. You would buy the device, and by itself it was useless because you also had to buy a pack of cards, so you could use it. Swiping cards could get you NES titles, Game & Watch titles, or a complete Mario Party game where every card was another mini-game. The game was DLC before DLC ever took off, and the e-Reader certainly didn’t help it along.
If you ask Nintendo, they’ll tell you that voice chat is the scariest thing the Internet has ever created since rule 34. In 2008, they finally relented and gave us a pretty unremarkable solution with a microphone that would get voices from the entire room, and then released exactly three first-party games that used it, and eleven other games played along. Now we have a proper headset and microphone, and the Wii Speak is going the way of the dodo.
Nintendo’s got a long history of releasing experimental peripherals, and there’s no shortage of them that didn’t go anywhere. Don’t expect the Wii Speak to be the end, either; so long as they exist, they’re going to try getting us to buy more and more things that might or might not be useful in the long term. You might want to hold onto your wallet a bit before you spring for the Wii Bouncy Ball.