A distinguishing feature of the console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and can detect acceleration and orientation in three dimensions. Another is WiiConnect24, which enables it to receive messages and updates over the Internet while in standby mode.
The console was conceived in 2001, as the Nintendo GameCube was first seeing release. According to an interview with Nintendo's game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, the concept involved focusing on a new form of player interaction.
Two years later, engineers and designers were brought together to develop the concept further. By 2005, the controller interface had taken form.
The console was known by the code name of Revolution until 2006. According to the Nintendo Style Guide, the name is simply Wii, not Nintendo Wii. This means it is the first home console Nintendo has marketed outside of Japan without the company name featured in its trademark. While Wiis is a commonly used pluralization of the console, Nintendo has stated that the official plural form is Wii systems or Wii consoles.
Nintendo's spelling of Wii with two lower-case i characters is meant to resemble two people standing side by side, representing players gathering together, as well as to represent the console's controllers. The company has given many reasons for this choice of name since the announcement; however, the best known is:
Wii sounds like 'we', which emphasizes that the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.
On September 14, 2006, Nintendo announced release information for Japan, North and South America, Australasia (Oceania), Asia and Europe, including dates, prices, and projected unit distribution numbers.
Since its launch, the monthly sales numbers of the console have been higher than its competitors across the globe. According to the NPD Group, the Wii sold more units in North America than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined
While Microsoft and Sony have experienced losses producing their consoles in the hopes of making a long-term profit on software sales, Nintendo reportedly has optimized production costs to obtain a significant profit margin with each Wii unit sold. According to the Financial Times, this direct profit per Wii sold may vary from $13 in Japan to $49 in the United States and $79 in Europe.
The Wii is Nintendo's smallest home console to date; it measures 44 mm (1.73 in) wide, 157 mm (6.18 in) tall and 215.4 mm (8.48 in) deep in its vertical orientation, the near-equivalent of three DVD cases stacked together. The included stand measures 55.4 mm (2.18 in) wide, 44 mm (1.73 in) tall and 225.6 mm (8.88 in) deep, The system weighs 1.2 kg (2.7 lb), which makes it the lightest of the three major seventh generation consoles. The console can be placed either horizontally or vertically. The prefix for the numbering scheme of the system and its parts and accessories is RVL- after its project code name of Revolution. The console also features a recurring theme or design: the console itself, SD cards, the power supply and all the sockets have one of their corners chipped off in a triangular fashion.
The front of the console features an illuminated slot-loading optical media drive that accepts both 12 cm Wii Optical Discs and Nintendo GameCube Game Discs. The blue light in the disc slot illuminates briefly when the console is turned on and pulsates when new data is received through WiiConnect24. After firmware update 3.0, the disc slot light activates whenever a Wii disc is inserted or ejected. When there is no WiiConnect24 information, the light stays off. The disc slot light remains off during gameplay or when using other features. Two USB ports are located at its rear. An SD card slot hides behind the cover on the front of the console. The SD card can be used for uploading photos as well as backing up saved game data and downloaded Virtual Console games. To use the SD slot for transferring game saves, an update must be installed. An installation can be initiated from the Wii options menu through an Internet connection, or by inserting a game disc containing the updated firmware. As a presently uncircumvented system of digital rights management, Virtual Console data cannot be restored to any system except the unit of origin. An SD card can also be used to create customized in-game music from stored MP3 files, as first shown in Excite Truck, as well as music for the slideshow feature of the Photo Channel. Version 1.1 of the Photo Channel removed MP3 playback in favor of AAC support.
Nintendo has shown the console and the Wii Remote in white, black, silver, lime green, and red, but it is currently available only in white. Shigeru Miyamoto stated that other colors would become available after the easing of supply limitations.
The Wii launch package includes the console, a stand to allow the console to be placed vertically, a circular clear stabilizer for the main stand, one Wii Remote, one Nunchuk attachment, one Sensor Bar, a removable stand for the bar, one external main power adapter, two AA batteries, one composite AV cable with RCA connectors, a SCART adaptor in European countries (component video and other types of cables are available separately), operation documentation, and, in all regions except Japan, a copy of the game Wii Sports.
Nintendo plans to release a version of the console with DVD-Video playback capabilities. This new model will use the CinePlayer CE DVD Navigator software engine by Sonic Solutions. Although software will be used to enable DVD-Video functionality, Nintendo has stated that it requires more than a firmware upgrade to implement and that the functionality would be unavailable as an upgrade option for the existing Wii model. After announcing the DVD version for 2007, Nintendo delayed its release to focus on producing the original console to meet demand.
The Wii Remote is the primary controller for the console. It uses a combination of built-in accelerometers and infrared detection to sense its position in 3D space when pointed at the LEDs within the Sensor Bar. This design allows users to control the game using physical gestures as well as traditional button presses. The controller connects to the console using Bluetooth and features rumble as well as an internal speaker. The Wii Remote can connect to other devices through a proprietary port at the base of the controller. The device bundled with the Wii retail package is the Nunchuk unit, which features an accelerometer and a traditional analog stick with two trigger buttons. In addition, an attachable wrist strap can be used to prevent the player from unintentionally dropping or throwing the Wii Remote. In response to incidences of strap failures, Nintendo is offering a free, stronger replacement for all straps. Nintendo has also since offered the Wii Remote Jacket to provide extra grip and protection.
Nintendo has released few technical details regarding the Wii system, but some key facts have leaked through the press. Though none of these reports has been officially confirmed, they generally point to the console as being an extension or advancement of the Nintendo GameCube architecture. More specifically, the reported analyses state that the Wii is roughly 1.5 to 2 times as powerful as its predecessor.
- CPU: PowerPC-based Broadway processor, made with a 90 nm SOI CMOS process, reportedly clocked at 729 MHz
- GPU: ATI Hollywood GPU made with a 90 nm CMOS process, reportedly clocked at 243 MHz
- Memory: 88 MB main memory (24 MB internal 1T-SRAM integrated into graphics package, 64 MB external GDDR3 SDRAM)
- 3 MB embedded GPU texture memory and framebuffer.
Ports and peripheral capabilities:
- Up to four Wii Remote controllers (connected wirelessly via Bluetooth)
- Nintendo GameCube controller ports (4)
- Nintendo GameCube Memory Card slots (2)
- SD memory card slot
- USB 2.0 ports (2)
- Sensor Bar power port
- Accessory port on bottom of Wii Remote
- Optional USB keyboard input in message board, Wii Shop Channel, and the Internet Channel (as of 3.0 and 3.1 firmware update)
- Mitsumi DWM-W004 WiFi 802.11b/g wireless module
- Compatible with optional USB 2.0 to Ethernet LAN adaptor
- Multi-output port for component, composite or S-Video
- Built-in content ratings systems:
- 512 MB built-in NAND flash memory
- Expanded storage via SD card memory (up to 2 GB)
- Nintendo GameCube Memory Card (required for GameCube game saves)
- IBM's Wii Broadway CPU ATI's Wii Hollywood GPU
- Slot-loading disc drive compatible with 8 cm Nintendo GameCube Game Disc and 12 cm Wii Optical Disc
Mask ROM by Macronix
- 480p (PAL/NTSC), 480i (NTSC) or 576i (PAL/SECAM), standard 4:3 and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
- AV multi-output port for component, composite, S-video, RGB SCART and VGA
- Main: Stereo - Dolby Pro Logic II-capable
- Controller: Built-in speaker
- 18 watts when switched on
- 1.3 watts in standby
The first firmware update via WiiConnect24 caused a very small portion of launch units to become completely unusable. This forced users to either send their units to Nintendo for repairs (if they wished to retain their saved data) or exchange it for a free replacement.
Interlink Electronics filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nintendo over the pointing functionalities of the Wii Remote, claiming, loss of reasonable royalties, reduced sales and/or lost profits as a result of the infringing activities of Nintendo. Anascape Ltd, a Texas-based firm, also filed a lawsuit against Nintendo for patent infringements. Law firm Green Welling LLP filed a class action lawsuit against Nintendo for its defective wrist straps. A Texas-based company called Lonestar Inventions has also sued Nintendo, claiming that the company copied one of Lonestar's patented capacitor designs and used it in the Wii console.
The Wii can be hacked to enable an owner to use the console for activities other than those intended by Nintendo. Several brands of modchips are available for the Wii. Hackers have also used the Wii Remote to control devices unrelated to the console through Wii homebrew.
The console contains a number of internal features made available from its hardware and firmware components. The hardware allows for extendibility through expansion ports while the firmware can receive periodic updates via the WiiConnect24 service.
The Wii Menu operating system interface is designed around the concept of television channels. Separate channels are graphically displayed in a grid and are navigated using the pointer capability of the Wii Remote. It is possible to change the arrangement of the channels by holding down the A and B buttons. There are six primary channels: the Disc Channel, Mii Channel, Photo Channel, Wii Shop Channel, Forecast Channel, and News Channel. The latter two were initially unavailable at launch, but activated through firmware updates. Additional channels are available for download from the Wii Shop Channel and also appear with each Virtual Console title. These include the Everybody Votes Channel, Internet Channel, and Check Mii Out Channel.
The Wii console is backward compatible with all official Nintendo GameCube software, as well as Nintendo GameCube Memory Cards and controllers. Compatibility with software is achieved with the slot-loading drive's ability to accept Nintendo GameCube Game Discs. The console supports progressive-scan output in 480p-enabled GameCube titles. Peripherals can be connected via a set of four GameCube controller ports and two Memory Card slots concealed by removable flip-open panels. The console therefore retains connectivity with the Game Boy Advance and e-Reader through the Game Boy Advance Cable, which is used in the same manner as it was used with the GameCube. This feature can only be accessed on those select GameCube titles that previously utilized it.
A Wii console running a GameCube disc is restricted to GameCube functionality. As such, a GameCube controller is required to play GameCube titles, as neither the Wii Remote nor the Classic Controller functions in this capacity. A Nintendo GameCube Memory Card is also necessary to save, as the Wii internal flash memory will not save GameCube games.
Backward compatibility is limited in some areas. Online and LAN-enabled features for Nintendo GameCube titles are unavailable on the Wii, as the console lacks serial ports for the Broadband Adapter and Modem Adapter. The console uses a proprietary port for video output and is therefore incompatible with all Nintendo GameCube audio/video cables (composite video, S-Video, component video and RGB SCART). The console also lacks the GameCube footprint and high-speed port needed for Game Boy Player support. The Wii was initially compatible with the GameCube Action Replay, which would work with GameCube titles. The firmware update to 3.0 has caused restrictions to this device along with various unlicensed freeloaders, however.
Nintendo DS connectivity
The Wii system supports wireless connectivity with the Nintendo DS without any additional accessories. This connectivity allows the player to use the Nintendo DS microphone and touchscreen as inputs for Wii games. The first example Nintendo has given of a game using Nintendo DS-Wii connectivity is that of Pokmon Battle Revolution. Players with either the Pokmon Diamond or Pearl Nintendo DS games are able to play battles using their Nintendo DS as a controller. It has also been announced that the Nintendo DS will be able to play game demos downloaded from the console, which they would receive from Nintendo, similar to a DS Download Station. The console is also able to expand Nintendo DS games. This type of connection has been released only in Japan, in the form of the Everybody's Nintendo Channel.
The Wii console is able to connect to the Internet through its built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi or through a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, with both methods allowing players to access the established Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Wireless encryption by WEP, WPA (TKIP/RC4) and WPA2 (CCMP/AES) are supported. AOSS support was discreetly added in firmware update 3.0. Just as for the Nintendo DS, Nintendo does not charge fees for playing via the service and the 12 digit Friend Code system controls how players connect to one another. Each Wii also has its own unique 16 digit Wii Code for use with Wii's non-game features. This system also implements console-based software including the Wii Message Board. One can also connect to the internet with third-party devices.
The service has several features for the console including the Virtual Console, WiiConnect24, Internet Channel, Forecast Channel, Everybody Votes Channel, News Channel and the Check Mii Out Channel. The console can also communicate and connect with other Wii systems through a self-generated wireless LAN, enabling local wireless multiplayer on different television sets. Battalion Wars 2 first demonstrated this feature for non-split screen multiplayer between two or more televisions.
The console features parental controls, which can be used to prohibit younger users from playing games with content considered unsuitable for their age level. When playing a Wii or Virtual Console game is attempted, it reads the content rating encoded in the game data; if this rating is greater than the system's set age level the game will not load without a correct override password. The parental controls can also restrict Internet access, which blocks the Internet Channel and system update features. Since the console is restricted to GameCube functionality when playing Nintendo GameCube Game Discs, GameCube software is unaffected by Wii parental control settings.
European units mainly use the PEGI rating system, whereas North American units use the ESRB rating system. The Wii unit supports the native rating systems of many countries, including CERO in Japan, the USK in Germany, both the PEGI and BBFC in the United Kingdom and the OFLC in Australia and New Zealand.
Retail copies of games are supplied on proprietary, DVD-like Wii Optical Discs packaged in a keep case along with instruction information. On European releases, these retail boxes have a triangle printed at the bottom corner of the paper insert sleeve side. The hue of the triangle can be used to identify which region the particular title is intended for and which manual languages are included. The console supports regional lockout.
New games representing Nintendo's flagship franchises, including The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Mario (and spin-offs), Animal Crossing, Pokmon, Super Smash Bros., and Fire Emblem, have been released, or are in development for the Wii. Likewise, there are original titles for it as well as expected third party games. Ubisoft announced eight titles for release over the launch period and have stated that they have a further six currently in development while Midway Games has announced six titles. EA has declared their '100%' support for the system and has since gone on to purchase long-time partner Headgate Studios, which now develops exclusively for Nintendo's console. Namco Bandai also announced that they are developing 37 games for the Wii for their fiscal year ending March 2008. On April 27, 2007, Satoru Iwata stated that 45 out of Nintendo's 124 first-party games are being developed for the console; the other 79 titles are being developed for the Nintendo DS. As of July 25, 2007 the Wii has more exclusive games in development than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
The Virtual Console service allows Wii owners to play games originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64, as well as Sega's Mega Drive/Genesis, NEC's TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine, and the SNK Neo Geo console. Virtual Console games are distributed over broadband Internet via the Wii Shop Channel, and are saved to the Wii internal flash memory or to a removable SD card. Once downloaded, Virtual Console games can be accessed from the Wii Menu as individual channels.
The system was well received after its exhibition at E3 2006. At the event, Nintendo's console won the Game Critics Awards for Best of Show and Best Hardware. In the December 2006 issue of Popular Science the console was awarded with the Grand Award Winner in Home Entertainment. Spike TV's Video Games Award also granted the console the award in breakthrough technology. GameSpot chose the console as the Best Hardware on their Best and Worst 2006 awards show. The system was also chosen as one of PC World magazine's 20 Most Innovative Products of the Year. The console received a Golden Joystick for Innovation of the Year 2007 at the Golden Joystick Awards. In the category of Engineering Technology for Creation and Implementation of Video Games and Platforms, Nintendo was awarded an Emmy for Game Controller Innovation by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The worldwide success of the Wii has caught third party developers by surprise, leading to some apologizing for the quality of their early games. In an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel, Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot and Alain Corre admitted that they had made a mistake in rushing out their launch titles, promising to take future projects more seriously. Take-Two Interactive, who released few games for the Nintendo GameCube, has changed its stance on Nintendo, putting a higher priority in developing for the Wii with Manhunt 2 being one of their first releases on the system.
At the same time, criticism of the Wii Remote and the Wii hardware specifications has surfaced. Former GameSpot editor Jeff Gerstmann stated that the controller's speaker produces low-quality sound, while Factor 5 President Julian Eggebrecht criticized the hardware audio as being substandard for a console of its generation. U.K.-based developer Free Radical Design has stated that the Wii hardware lacks the power necessary to run the software they have scheduled for release on other seventh generation consoles. An executive for Frontline Studios also expressed that major publishers are wary of releasing exclusive titles for the console due to the perception that third-party companies are not strongly supported by consumers. The online connectivity of the Wii was subject to criticism, as Matt Casamassina of IGN compared it to the entirely unintuitive service provided for the Nintendo DS.
Game designer and The Sims creator Will Wright shared his thoughts on the Wii within the context of the current console generation: the PS3 and the Xbox 360 feel like better versions of the last, but pretty much the same game with incremental improvement. But the Wii feels like a major jump - not that the graphics are more powerful, but that it hits a completely different demographic.
Using the Wii is often seen as more being more physically demanding than other game consoles, A study published in the British Medical Journal found that Wii players use significantly more energy than playing sedentary computer games, but it is seen that the energy used when playing active Wii games is not of high enough intensity to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children.