Last Updated on February 1, 2024
Issued almost two decades ago, the Nintendo Wii console remains one of the most groundbreaking gaming hardware releases ever. John Bowe remembers it well…
Released worldwide over the winter of 2006/2007, Nintendo’s Wii marked a return for a company whose past ten years had seen them gain plenty of critical applause, with a little less in the way of actual sales. The N64 had been released in Japan in 1996 to hitherto unknown levels of evangelism by the press, only for game releases to stall shortly thereafter.
Then in 2001, they dropped the CubeQuad to a public response that sounded something like, Is this made by Fisher Price? I think perhaps it did well in America. They love Nintendo over there. Perhaps it was the big, bright buttons?
The point is that it hadn’t been a stellar decade by the time the Wii arrived. They’d continued to dominate the handheld market with the Game Boy Advance, but that was something of a given. Good little machine though, that one. They could re-release it today and it would be a hit all over again.
When the Wii debuted to buy it was tough to gauge whether this was going to be a hit. It had a sniggersome name and that was just the start of it. Control pads? Forget them, Nintendo were thinking so far out of the box that they accidently invented the remote control all over again.
Still, the whole package looked of-the-moment; iPhone crisp design in blushed off-white. It didn’t look any more like a games console than it did a Hi-Fi. It looked pleasantly unique amongst other home gatherings, which was fitting considering what Nintendo was asking us to go along with. Very good design.
The rest of it? Most peculiar and always popular amongst friends.
You, Wii and Me
I was first introduced to the Nintendo Wii console by a dear friend of mine who had been a native Nintendo fan since the NES. He got one early when it was released just into 2007 and I was curious to have a go. Also, his place was where I played pool at that time, so I was going to be around anyway.
So, it was early 2007 and we were playing pool and listening to Pink Floyd because it was his house, so his rules when it came to sounds. Fair enough. I saw the Wii across the room, right next to a large television which befitted someone who worked in electronics retail.
‘Do you want to have a go on it?’ he asked at the end of a few frames. I clasped my cue.
‘I don’t know,’ I told him. ‘I sort of hate Nintendo.’
‘You do, don’t you. It is good though. I’ll put Wii sports on.’
Probably less than twenty minutes later I was in. It was shaping up to be an expensive year because I’d very recently bought my first Xbox 360 and until this moment had been entirely settled on it. It was robust and very much of the now. Getting used to that Wii remote over a few minutes made me consider if this machine, and more-so this new configuration of design, might not be the future? Spoiler, it wouldn’t, but it would be a heck of a distraction from the now. Also, I was going to need a few extra remotes, because I was already vigorous with those suckers.
It was probably by February of that year that I took the plunge for another new machine. Then, a little time after that I took it with me across the country on a visit to some of my brothers. That was when Wii Sports became a fully-fledged, weekend-long tournament. It got intense.
The joy of we.
Wii are going to have Trouble
Perhaps the greatest aspect of how the Wii console operated was in giving arcade-speed gratification with a longing sense of refinement. The remote wasn’t perfect. It was a little like the internet before broadband, there was some lag, but you could quickly compensate for that and get a feel for Wii Bowling. That was the dominant game of my weekend with my brothers.
(There are plenty of other Nintendo Wii games – Ed.)
It started out as a roll-a-thon, getting-to-know-you introduction to the vagaries of remote bowling, but quickly led to strong coffee, quality lager, and a chalkboard of victories. It was worse than when we used to play Monopoly as children, although not quite as bad as when playing Monopoly as adults. All other social plans for the weekend were abandoned for Wii bowling and we put off visitors. We were soon past trying to mimic actual bowling with the game and were developing that twist of the wrist technique that broke the game with regular strikes.
We simply didn’t want newbies around with their gutters and self-pity. There was something at stake here.
And when your rolls were over, you best get that remote handed over fast for a wipe down and subsequent application of the wrist strap. Quickly now, there’s a game on.
The Wii approach to interaction tapped into something outside of itself. It wasn’t transcendent, but it could maintain close competition and a bloody good row. Super lightweight in construction but brooding with envy for the scoreboard. By the end of our weekend with it, I wasn’t sure that it was good for anyone, but as I took it home with me my brothers were consigned to having to buy one themselves.
Introducing the Wii to people was a bit of a menace like that. Absolutely no wonder that it went on to be the smash hit that it was. If it could survive a close weekend of attention from me and mine and still come out alive on the other side, it could do anything. And so it would prove, for a little while. And for that time, it had us all fooled.
Did the Nintendo Wii have The X-Factor?
There is mainstream in the sense of something that cuts into the conscience of a period; Our Friends in the North, for instance. Then there is something that cuts into the attention of a period and becomes mainstream perse.
The X-Factor, perhaps.
The Nintendo Wii was like The X-Factor. You came, you laughed and you fought over the results. This was going to be part of the future – even Sony and Microsoft thought so. No one had asked for it, but then no one asked for The X-Factor and look how that turned out. We were just going to have to come to terms with it.
We did, and we got over it. Friends were made and disbanded and the last vestige of local multiplayer was lost. Short-term gains for Nintendo but long-term remembrance for those who chose to get competitive about it over the weekend.
Outstanding, but otherwise underperforming were my feelings towards the machine from the go. You had to have one, but try to play a real game on it and it was like resolution had returned to PlayStation 2 days. Dreadful. I never properly graduated from Wii Sports, but that was enough when a group got together.
Like everyone else though, I am happy to leave it where it was. A passing dalliance which ignited sudden joys and familial exuberance. No one didn’t want one. The general quality of games (like Mini Ninjas) that reared their heads on the Nintendo Wii though…?
John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90’s Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.