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File:Nintendo-wii-console.jpg


"Wii Would Like to Play."

By the end of the Game Cube's life (not to mention the beginning of the DS's), Nintendo was known for three things: one, being innovative; two, for being the "kiddy" console company; and third, for being dead last in the Console Wars (but only for home consoles, as the Game Boy Advance was still selling strong). Third-parties wanted nothing to do with them, and some gamers thought Nintendo would concentrate on handhelds or even go third-party like Sega, Hudson Soft, Atari, and SNK. In the escalating cost of superior graphics in the Console Wars between Sony and Microsoft, it was thought that Nintendo couldn't compete. And they didn't. Instead, they created the Wii.

Nintendo focused on an innovative, motion-based control scheme involving the Wii Remote, or the Fan Nickname "Wiimote", a controller shaped like a fusion between a NES controller and a television remote control that could sense the movement of the person holding it. This lowered the difficulty curve immensely. Usually a beginning gamer would have to not only to learn how to control his character, but also learn how to control his controller. "'Hold RB for More Dakka'? What's More Dakka? What's RB? Do I have to hug him? And how do I make him doesn't afraid of anything?" ...Okay, maybe we're exaggerating it a little bit. But maybe we're not. Compare this to the ease of using of a remote control and you can see why the Wii Remote was such a clever step.

The Wii also focused on a low price point, (approximately $199 in Japan with no game, and roughly $249.99 elsewhere with Wii Sports), countering the escalating price tags on its competitors. They did this by cutting out many features that the other consoles took for granted, like DVD playback, that weren't that important to the gaming experience. Nintendo then marketed the console as "for the whole family", and to further this, made it look as sleek as an iPod.

And it worked. The Wii's crushing marketing victory, Day 1 profitability and ludicrously high sales numbers make it the most successful current-generation console [1]. It worked so well that 4 years later all hypocrisy broke loose and both Sony and Microsoft came up with copies of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, namely the Kinect and Move, right after having their promoters call it a useless gimmick to lure bad gamers.

Plus it did it all without needing specs that raised the cost of the system (which they could not have afforded). The innards of the Wii are based off the Game Cube[2]. While its total polygon count is much higher, the Wii's hardware is still based off 2001 technology, so while it's cheap, it doesn't have the advanced features more powerful consoles have.[3].

Nintendo's online offerings are a far cry from the other system, including the infamous friend codes (although those are being emphasized less and less). Nintendo has focused on local multiplayer, which the other two consoles seem intent on abandoning. The Wii does have an online store like its competitors, and a separate Virtual Console store that essentially serves as legal Emulation. Unfortunately, a true mass storage solution (like, say, an external hard drive) didn't appear until the end of March 2009, and only a limited number of demo versions of the games are available.

Third-party developers initially either ignored the system entirely or tossed in some quick-and-dirty ports of Play Station 2 games (generally with shoed-in controls) like Ninjabread Man, with more serious efforts coming only after the system's continued popularity established it as a friendly environment. The Wii has also received a reputation as a platform with lots of shovelware, due to its low development costs, although this is a trend that has always dogged the market leader of each generation. Making matters worse is that most Wii games aimed at a "hardcore" audience are rare, thus not enough to grab an audience that a steady stream would, plus a lot of the niche games are declared to not be niche, and thus when they don't sell well, it's blamed on the Wii audience, even though such game don't sell that well on any system. The result is that Capcom, Sega and Ubisoft are the only 3rd-party companies still focusing heavily on Wii development.

However, despite cries of "inferior" graphics and processing power, the Wii continues to sell better or as good as the other systems, depending on whether there was a recent Killer App release. Much of the early analysis of the console's inevitable failure comes across as It Will Never Catch On mentality in light of its overall success, and the occasional April Fool's joke about the Wii being highly successful is now Hilarious in Hindsight.

Nintendo has been engaged in a constant cat-and-mouse game with hackers with the Wii firmware since launch. Frequent system updates includes patches to close loopholes known to be exploited by hackers. It is also possible to play DVDs through unauthorized means, though Nintendo would have us believe it requires a hardware upgrade because movie playback wears out the system's DVD drive so quickly. They're probably not lying - Technically, the Wii has very little memory and storage space for buffering, so in order to avert Loads and Loads of Loading, it compensates by spinning the disk really, really fast for prolonged periods of time. This has an unfortunate tendency to shorten the lifespan of the optical drive significantly.

Games for the Wii mostly fall into one of four categories:

  • Nintendo's first party titles. In addition to games for "classic" franchises like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong Country and Kirby, Nintendo sells a line of games directed towards casual gamers - people who have never played video games before, or only do so in social settings. Examples include Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Wii Music, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Party. All of these games are designed around the Wii's motion controls and are responsible for Nintendo's new-found success. A handful fall into both categories, such as Mario Kart Wii.
  • Casual games by other companies. Nintendo's casual games have delivered them gobs and gobs of money, and naturally other companies want in. This is mostly Ubisoft territory, but almost every game publisher has released at least one. Many of them include "We" in the title since they legally cannot use "Wii", like We Cheer, We Ski and We Dare.
  • Ports, Ports and more Ports: The Wii, hardware-wise is very similar to the Game Cube (In fact, It is a modded Game Cube) and to an extent the PSP and Play Station 2, so at the beginning of its lifespan the console was host to dozens of games ported from them. These ranged from popular games like Bully to sleeper hits like Okami and Mercury Meltdown to games so low-quality Sony's US department refused to license them, like Ninjabread Man.[4] Developers attempted to port PlayStation 3 and X Box 360 games, and a few actually worked, like Call of Duty. Others couldn't pull it off. After a while, though, they resorted to a tactic usually seen on portable consoles - make an entirely new game for the Wii, from scratch, and call it a port. Sonic Unleashed, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Dead Rising and others were given this treatment.
  • Niche and budget games: It costs around 1/4th as much to make a Wii game that it does to make a game on other consoles. This means that games that would normally be considered too risky or unprofitable to get made can be developed, and the makers of games like Monster Hunter Tri, Sonic Colors and Silent Hill Shattered Memories have acknowledged that. In fact, there are game genres that are nearly extinct on other consoles (such as 3D platformers) that survive on the Wii for this reason.

Games:

Notes

  1. As of the end of March 2012, it has sold around 27 million more units than the Xbox 360 and 32 million more than the PlayStation 3
  2. Gearbox Software's president, Randy Pitchford, even referred to the Wii as a "supercharged GameCube" in an Electronic Gaming Monthly interview
  3. The Wii has no hard drive for the sake of cost and reliability. Hard drives in consoles are used to stream large amounts of data as well as store it, and games like Doom 3 and Half Life 2 could probably run on the Wii if it had one. It's also missing programmable pixel shaders, restricting it to simplistic vertex-based shaders that cannot be modified. This became obsolete with the arrival of Direct X 8 (used in the Xbox) and Open GL 2, so in terms of shaders the Wii and its competitors are speaking completely different languages.
  4. This has actually reversed from 2009 onwards - the Play Station 2 is mostly kept alive by downgraded Wii ports
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