This Week in Nintendo History: Happy Birthday Wii
Today is November 19th, 2009. That means that I’ve now owned Nintendo’s Wii console for three full years. I can remember the day I was at the store buying the system and came home with a small selection of games. It’s been three years and we’re going to take a look back at what’s happened in the last three years. The first thing we’ll be doing is looking at a bit of the history of the console from pre-launch up until the day that it released.
The Wii is the fifth generation of Nintendo’s home console and was the direct successor to the GameCube. The fact that the system is not exponentially more power than the previous console has lead it to be known as two GameCube’s duct taped together. The first time the console was mentioned in public was during the E3 gaming convention back in 2004 and it was officially unveiled during E3 the next year. Before the console’s name was officially announced it was known as the Revolution, which was a fitting name to the console because Nintendo was attempting to revolutionize the way people were playing game. During the event Nintendo President Satoru Iwata stated
“We will show the world what a next-gen system can be. Revolution marries the strongest heritage of innovation to the future of gaming. With backward compatibility and the ‘virtual console’ concept, the stylish, compact body provides maximum gaming power. It will not only take home entertainment into another dimension by expanding the definition of video games, but it also will give you access to the great history of gaming.“
The ‘virtual console’ concept he was talking about ended up being Wii’s first download service where we were able to download games from all of Nintendo’s classic consoles as well as from some of their competitors such as Sega’s Genesis and the Turbo-Grafix 16. That aspect of their service started off with a lot of success and a number of titles have become available since the first announcement.
The one thing that we didn’t know about at the time of the console’s introduction was what the controller was going to be. It was not present during the announcement. The GameCube’s controller has become known by many to be one of the better controllers to ever be created. It was incredibly comfortable and was known most for the big green A button that Nintendo added to the controller. How could Nintendo follow up that controller while reinventing that concept. They wanted to make the controller easier to use, but at the same time bring veteran gamers a controller that they would be able to use. That announcement came during the Tokyo Game Show in 2005 when Mr. Iwata pulled a device that resembled a TV remote control. It had one big button below a D-pad with a trigger on the back and two buttons near the bottom of the controller. It also had an expansion port where you could plug in a device that was known as the nunchuk which would allow for two more buttons as well as an analog stick. It was also shown to have an IR pointer that when combined with a sensor bar connected to the console would allow players to point at menu options and target areas of the television screen.
Fast Forward a bit to April 27th 2006 when Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime made the following announcement:
“Introducing … Wii. As in “we.” While the code-name “Revolution” expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer. Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else. Wii will put people more in touch with their games … and each other.
Gamers everywhere were scratching their heads and the jokes started flying. It was not well liked at the time, but after a while it ended up just kinda sticking and now many people wonder what all the fuss was about. Overall, though, the system was very well liked and there was a lot of anticipation and expectation going into the systems launch. That launch took place on November 19th, 2006. At the time there were twenty-one titles available: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Call of Duty 3, Cars, Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, Excite Truck, The Grim Adventures of Billy and mandy, GT Pro Series, Happy Feet, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Madden NFL 07, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Monster 4×4 World Circuit, Need For Speed Carbon, Rampage Total Destruction, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Red Steel, Spongebob Squarepants: Creature From the Krusty Krab, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, and Wii Sports.
So what’s happened since then? Well first let’s hit the highs.
The Return of Classic Gaming: Wii has been known since it’s launch for its amazing line up of classic titles, many thanks to the Virtual Console. There are more than 300 titles available on that system. In the last year there has been a huge selection of remakes or new entries in classic franchises, many of which use a retro style to bring back the feeling of those classics. Hits like Mega Man saw a brand new entry in the franchise using the same style of the NES series. Mega Man 9 was a huge success and hit everything that people were expecting in the franchises return to yesteryear. We’ve also seen new entries in the Bubble Bobble, Final Fantasy, Bust-a-Move, Arkanoid, and ExciteBike franchises all taking their visuals back in time. New Super Mario Bros. Wii just brought Mario back to his 2D roots for the first time on a console in nearly 20 years. 2D side scrolling platformers have also made a resurgence in the last few months. The genre thought to be relegated to handheld systems has made a comeback on the home console with titles like Wario Land: Shake It!, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Muramasa: The Demon Blade and a boy and his blob.
The Rise of the “Casual”: This is one of the most controversial aspects of the Wii. The Wii has expanded gaming to areas that were usually considered a dead spot in the community. Since the launch of the Wii the system has entered nursing homes and living rooms of families that previously never had gaming consoles. This new market has lead many to say Nintendo has left them behind and targeted most of their focus on this new market, taking games away from them. This has also lead to huge hits for Nintendo like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, games that many people buy the system for. They’ve also had hits with the casual market like Wii Fit and EA Sports Active which brought workouts into the living room and strives to make them fun.
The Wii Remote: This new way to control games has set a standard that will soon be adopted by all three major players in the console market. Nintendo’s Wii Remote was met with a mix of excitement and confusion. The systems launch with Wii Sports showed that motion control could make games fun, but it also led to a lot of control schemes that were unneccesary. For a long time developers put motion controls into games that didn’t need them and tried to cram motion where a button press was all that was necessary. Since then companies have really gotten a sense for what the Wii Remote can do and the addition of Motion Plus had enhanced that capability even more. Games like Zack & Wiki and Wii Sports resort really show motion control at its best. The system that many people said wouldn’t catch on will be the industry standard soon. Microsoft and Sony will both release their motion control systems next year adn try to top what Nintendo started, but the Wii has a three year head start in that department.
Downloadable Titles: 2008 saw the beginning of Nintendo’s new game downloadable service known as WiiWare. The system allows developers to create brand new games that can be released on the service. The service launched with a few titles, but it has since grown to over 100 titles. It has, much like retail, seen its mix of really good and really bad. New classics like Mega Man 9, LostWinds and its sequel, World of Goo and many more have been released on the service and there are many great games on the horizon like Max and the Magic Marker and Castlevania Rebirth.
Now the lows.
Online: Online gaming has really hit its stride this generation. Microsoft has shown us what a good online system can do. Sony has a similar service that doesn’t cost anything. Nintendo does have online capability and many titles use it. None is considered to be great, but Mario Kart is the pinnacle of online gaming for the system. Nintendo’s friend code system is highly criticized as unwieldy and unnecessary. Many people would like to see an overhaul of the system where each system has one code that would be used across all games, but for now each game that has online capability uses a unique friend code that must be entered if you want to play with friends. Companies like Electronic Arts have worked around the system using their own unique online service that is compatible across all of their titles, but only their titles.
Storage: When the system first launched it only had 512MB of internal storage and some of that was taken up by the system’s firmware. Many people, especially fans of the Virtual Console, quickly run out of space. Many people called for a solution to this storage problem, but Nintendo was slow to answer that call. At first it was a solution involving the SD card, but the system was clunky and not easy to use. You had to make sure you always had enough space on the system to transfer games from the SD card to the sytem’s hard drive in order to play. It was a solution, but not a good one. Then they allowed you to download, store and run games directly from the SD card. The games are still transferred to the system’s hard drive, but because they also allowed you to use SD cards up to 32GB in size only essential files need to be kept on the hard drive and everything else can be stored on the SD card. It’s still not a perfect solution, but it’s a really good alternative to what came before it. There are plans to bring video content to the Wii and new games are released every week that are getting better in quality and a good storage solution would be essential for that service to really take off.
Graphical Capability: While this is not something I’ve had an issue with, it has been a huge topic of discussion. It’s the only system currently on the market that doesn’t output in high definition. Nintendo’s executives have said that HD devices had not reached a high enough market for this to be an issue, but that Nintendo would evolve with the times. HD televisions are being introduced into more and more houses every day and the penetration rate is getting higher all the time. The next Wii has been rumoured lately and Nintendo continues to deny it. There’s no doubt that Nintendo will eventually adopt high definition, but they have no plans to at the moment.
Happy Birthday Wii. There is much more that we could talk about, much of which would warrant it’s own articles. This has been a great three years. The system has seen a lot of success, being the current leader in overall sales. It’s revolutionized gaming, much like it set out to do and brought back many classics. There’s much more on the horizon for the system and it is expected to be around for a while. It’s grown gaming to audiences previously unseen. It’s been three years, let’s come back again next year to see what these next 365 days bring. Do you have any fond memories or unhappy thoughts about the system. Leave us a comment and let us know.