Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here today to celebrate the life of the Nintendo Wii, as the production of the hugely successful console has finally come to an end.
The Nintendo Wii is much more than just a fun piece of hardware. In many ways, it can be considered the lifeline that pulled Nintendo out of the fire when it comes to competing in the next-gen. Let’s not forget the distant third that Nintendo placed in for many years with its purple box, the GameCube. While there were fun titles on the console (and let’s face it, who doesn’t like Nintendo), the dominance of the Xbox and PlayStation 2 overshadowed much of Nintendo’s former glory. As the transition began into what would be considered the current-gen, Microsoft and Sony looked as if they’d be the only two real players left in the next round of the console war. How could Nintendo compete with powerhouses that offered superior graphics and advanced online capabilities?
Nintendo would offer a completely different experience, that’s how. And it worked.
I can still remember the buzz (negative, I might add) around the gaming forums when the name was first announced. The “Wii” sounded pretty ridiculous, I’ll admit. Hell, I can’t say it sounds any less silly now, despite the console’s huge success. Then came the early images of what would be the defining characteristics of the console: its remote. Notice, I said remote and not controller. Let’s face it, it looked impossible to use on many games (at least at first). As time went on and Nintendo began to reveal more of its plans for the new functionality, we saw things like the Nunchuck attachment and how the motion technology would innovate the way we interacted with the games. Throwing a pass in Madden would literally mean you’d throw the pass with your arm. Playing Tiger Woods golf meant you’d line up your shot and swing the remote hard over your shoulder for a drive, or just “tap it in” for a putt (as Billy Madison would say).
Nintendo didn’t really seem concerned with online functionality at the time of the Wii’s release. Personally, I can’t image at least one of my gaming consoles not having some type of online functionally, but I can tell you that I’ve never been stuck with the thought, “Man, it sucks I have no online access,” when playing my Wii games. There’s just something about them that works without it. Granted, there are some titles with an online component, but for the most part, the Wii is usually considered an offline console for many gamers. The channel layout of the Wii dashboard is fun, and it provides access to an online marketplace for Nintendo users. However, for Nintendo, I think that was the point. The company didn’t need to. It was happy carving out its own little niche.
Let us not forget the one of the most important aspects that contributed to the Wii’s success: the games. Most early Nintendo Wiis came bundled with a copy of Wii Sports. This simple little title really introduced people to just how fun the new motion-based controller could be. To this day, many friends and family still want to bounce around in front of the TV, flailing away at the heavy bag in the boxing mode or swinging for the fences in home run derby game (featuring your custom Miis). Today, things such as the Kinect are common, and we’ll see it integrated into how you interact with the Xbox One. If the Wii was not so widely successful, would we be seeing things like this in the next-gen?
I’m not so sure.
Back to games library, we of course saw the continuation of our go-to franchises such as Mario and Zelda (with some of the best entries into the series only available on the Wii). However, it wasn’t just the first-party titles that made it such a hit. Other games that utilized a traditional controller were given new life on the Wii. By changing up the control scheme in order to fit the Wii-mote, it made you approach many games in a completely different way than you had before. I still remember thinking Mortal Kombat would be impossible to play, yet with a simple flick of my wrist, I was throwing Scorpion’s spear all day long. It was different, but still fun.
Since 2006, Nintendo has shipped over 100-million Wii units. Its innovative approach (and $250 price tag) has allowed it to enjoy huge success in the current-gen, becoming one of the best-selling consoles of all time. The accessibility of the system allowed it to open the door for non-gamers to pick up and enjoy, as well as satisfy video game alumni as well. We now await the next phase of the console war to begin, with Nintendo once again seemingly becoming an afterthought as it is overshadowed by the huge powerhouses of Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.
Let’s hope the Wii U is the tortoise in the next chapter of this fable; otherwise, the two faster hares may outrun it forever.