The Nintendo Wii has been a topic of discussion by hardcore and casual gamers alike. Around its 2006 release date, many people were concerned that Nintendo had chosen a different path than Microsoft and Sony. While those systems created massive gaming machines capable of running games with environments and characters that possessed more pixels than ever before, Nintendo chose create something different. This polarized the buyers quickly because the uncertainty of never being able to play a third party game released on PS3 and Xbox 360 because of the Wii’s inability to output at such high resolution compounded by a controller system that threw conventional controller logic out the window seemed like cause for worry. However, nearly four years after launch, the Nintendo Wii has sold 30 million units. Wii reached this milestone 15 months faster than the next bestselling console, the Xbox 360. It seems that any doubts people might have had before have been put to rest. Let’s see how they did it:
In Nintendo’s press release, the company stated that the Wii was able to open its market to a brand new audience and made gamers out of people that never picked up a controller.
Kids started playing with their parents and grandparents, people got up off the couch and got active, and seniors and baby boomers formed virtual bowling leagues.
You may have seen those hokey Wii commercials of grandparents skiing down a virtual slope with their grandkids next to them, but you have to admit that because of the Wii, parents and grandparents are now gamers. This is due in large part to a controller that is more intuitive than any before it. Built with an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and paired with a more traditional joystick, the controller plus nunchuck combo just makes sense to new gamers. Instead of having to move the analog stick to control your car, all users have to do is turn their remote, and the car turns with them. It made teaching someone how to play, easier than ever before, at the same time making it more fun to play with someone else. Racing against your friend or having a cook off became an entirely different experience with the Wiimote because you felt like you were actually controlling the character. In doing so, Nintendo was able to do the something that every video game system aspires to do—it made you feel like you were in the game. It’s these notions of making you be a part of the game along with making the game as easy as possible to play for new and old gamers became essential building blocks for Nintendo to compete against Sony and Microsoft.
Moreover, with the release of Wii Fit, the Wii’s intuitive motion controls became even better. Up until that point, developers and consumers were beginning to discover how much movement the Wii demanded. People were beginning to look at the system as an all in one machine for entertainment and exercise, and once the Wii Balance Board was released, the system solidified its self as the all in one machine. In fact, system sales boomed once the Wii Fit was released and reinvigorated sales at a relatively low point in the console’s history. On top of that, Wii Fit has now gone on to become the third best selling console game in history with 22.61 million copies sold. It’s a testament not only to the wishes of Wii users to exercise and be entertained but also to Wii for choosing to develop a system that innovated new ways of playing rather than build on the old ones.
However, with both Microsoft Kinect and Playstation Move are on the horizon, the next 4 years could be very different for Nintendo. It would seem that both Microsoft and Sony have finally realized that motion controls are a legitimate aspect of gaming, and both company’s attempts at breaching that market have been minimal at best. However, both Kinect and Move seem to have quite a bit of potential, and since both are paired with machines that can run circles around the Wii, the question that I can’t help but ask is what will Nintendo do next? The Wii is marketed as a gaming machine that got people “off the couch”, but what happens when Kinect and Move can do that too? It’s a question that I don’t have the answers to, but upcoming games including a new Metroid game and a rerelease of the classic FPS Goldeneye, Nintendo is certainly covered for the foreseeable future. However, if Kinect connects and Move moves audiences to buy one of the newly price reduces PS3’s, Nintendo will have to develop something new and original once again in order to continue their market domination.