Nintendo Wii in memoriam: the revolution
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 21:10
Nintendo announced this week that they are ending production of the original Wii console in Japan, bringing to a close the era of Nintendo’s most successful home console since the Super Nintendo. The system has its share of ups and downs during its life cycle. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny one thing: the Nintendo Wii has forever changed the video game industry.
Announced in 2005 under the codename “Revolution,” Nintendo had its fan base in a frenzy over the promise that the company’s next major home console would not attempt to face Microsoft and Sony’s future systems head on, but would start a revolution.
While the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 revisited the same design philosophy applied to each and every console generation up to that point – improved graphics and processing power – Nintendo, having fallen to third place in terms of market share with the GameCube console decided to go in a radically different direction.
Their new console would feature hardware comparable to that seen the prior generation. The decision to forego any major technological improvements was made in an effort to undercut the exuberant cost of their competitor’s consoles, and to focus the attention of both the press and consumers on the system’s true innovation, motion control.
The “Revolution,” which would be given its official title “Wii” only days prior to E3 2006, featured an entirely original controller design that more closely resembled a television remote control rather than a game controller. The “Wiimote” featured two major innovations each involving motion control. First of all, the controller could be pointed directly at the screen and serve as a cursor, particularly useful in the case of shooter titles where combat was as simple as pointing and shooting. Most significantly however was the ability to use real world gestures to mimic actions on screen, such as swinging the controller like a tennis racket in a tennis game and like a golf club in a golf game. Years later, the introduction of the “Wii Motion-Plus” accessory provided for true 1:1 motion control where even the slightest tilt or gesture of the controller could be replicated on screen as seen in titles such as “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.”
By focusing their efforts on unique gameplay innovations, Nintendo hoped to distinguish themselves from their competitors, traditional philosophy.
When the holiday season of 2006 came around, the Xbox 360 was plagued with bad press regarding the console’s ridiculously high hardware failure rate and the Playstation 3 was little more than a laughing stock due to its absurdly high $499 price point, Nintendo’s gamble was poised to pay off. The launch of the Nintendo Wii was highlighted by two of the greatest launch titles in history: “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” and the system’s killer app “Wii Sports.” In a dramatic turn of events, the comparatively underpowered Wii began to outsell the competition at a staggering pace, eventually granting Nintendo it’s first lead in the industry’s market share since the days of the Super Nintendo.
Sooner rather than later however, the console’s reputation would face a dramatic decline.