Wii!

2006-11-20 01:19

I have had one of those experiences which is really interesting to have. Once.

I stood in line to get a toy that was in short supply. That’s the Nintendo Wii. You’ve probably seen news stories about how incredible the demand for the Playstation 3 is. Actually, there’s no way to know; while there are certainly people bidding huge amounts (many thousands of dollars) on eBay, there aren’t nearly as many actual confirmed sales… And most of the people waiting in long lines were just waiting to get systems so they could sell them. The amazing same-day sellout in Japan was 80,000 units. In the US, the total was closer to 400,000.

By contrast, the Wii shipped huge numbers. The Wal*Mart where one guy stood in line from Tuesday evening until Friday had two PS3 units; they had 20 Wiis. Both sold out. The Target I waited at had 39 Wiis; they sold out. In fact, the very orderly line was 39 people long over an hour before the store opened. Other stores had people camped out too.

The experience itself was interesting. People waiting in line for a video game system are, it turns out, mostly gamer geeks. There were a number of people there with blankets, food, and other amenities, and a few chairs. (One chair had about 1/16” of frost on it at the end of the night; people tended to stand around to keep warm.) We brought extra hot coffee for the other folks. It was fun.

The system itself is just about exactly what I expected; it’s not nearly as “powerful” as the PS3 or the Xbox 360, but then, who cares? It’s fun. While the Wii’s graphics are noticeably less detailed, they are not noticably less vibrant, and good graphical design goes a long way. Attacking the Wii’s raw horsepower is like criticizing anime for not being photorealistic; that’s not the point.

The innovative controls work, and they work fairly well. I have one game where I tend to have trouble with the controls if I’m too close to the TV; unfortunately, the place I normally play video games is a bit cramped. Moving to another location in the house made the controls flawless.

There’s a lot of similarity in the Wii/PS3 battle to the competition between the Nintendo DS and the PSP. The PSP is way more powerful, and plays movies in a proprietary format, but is doing nothing else that you couldn’t do two years ago. It’s faster, but not different. The DS has an innovative control system that makes some games possible that simply couldn’t be played on previous systems… And so does the Wii.

The price difference is shocking. A Wii with three extra controllers and a game or some such costs about as much as a PS3 with nothing. People have complained that the cost of Wii controllers ($60 for a complete Remote + nunchuck combo) is atrocious… But I noticed that Sony’s wireless PS3 controllers are $50, and the cable to charge them is $15.

The Wii uses standard SD cards to store save game data and downloaded console games. That’s a feature, although you don’t need one right away; it comes with plenty of internal memory. It also comes with wifi network support, and yes, it works fine on a WEP network which doesn’t broadcast its SSID. (If you don’t know what that means, find someone who does to secure your network a little.)

I think Nintendo has a winner here. Rather than creating artificial scarcity to generate buzz, Nintendo is trying very hard to guarantee that anyone who wants one of their boxes gets one. I loved this quote:

“Somebody told me there were nearly 3,000 people in line,” said Nintendo of America head Reginald Fils-Aime at the New York launch. “Well, let me tell you, we’ve got 4,000 units in the store.”

I think the real victims here are the developers of the PS3 launch titles. They’ve spent an immense amount of money developing games which are being sold to an incredibly small audience. The “attach rate” for the PS3 — the rate at which customers who buy a PS3 buy games — is under 1, meaning that many customers aren’t even buying one game, and there just aren’t that many customers out there. Sony’s sluggish manufacturing and distribution means that, by the time there’s more systems, the launch titles will be competing with a lot of titles whose developers had additional months to work on polishing their work.

Anyway, now I’ve done it; I’ve waited outside in a Minnesota November for a couple of hours, watching things freeze, waiting for a shiny toy. I think it says a lot about Nintendo’s accomplishment here that the system everyone has been saying was technically unimpressive turns out to be the one that was worth it.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. It's nice to hear the overwhelmingly good reviews of the Wii. I can't wait to pick one up, myself (but I'm gonna wait until after Christmas, or at least after the end of the semester).

    I saw a clip from New Zealand where they had a grandmother in her seventies (who had never touched a console in her life) hacking away at trolls in the new Zelda game, and loving it!

    With the ability to make video game fans out of so many people who would otherwise never think about games, I'm having a hard time imagining how the Wii *won't* revolutionize video gaming.

    — Goliath · 2006-11-20 12:41 · #

  2. Exactly my view. I am sort of a cross between die-hard and casual gamer; I love video games, and I spend way too much money on them, but for the most part, I like them to be fairly easy and approachable.

    I've played a number of previous Zelda games; after all, they are very highly reviewed. Every previous Zelda, I've eventually gotten just plain stuck, because I simply couldn't make the controls work well enough; I found it too difficult to try to coordinate my motions and my actions. On the Wii, it's been close to effortless.

    — seebs · 2006-11-20 17:57 · #

  3. *nod* I'm starting to get bored with Bully on the PS2 for the same reason...every fourth fight or so, I end up screwing up the camera view and get the crap beat out of me while getting an excellent close-up of a few square inches of the main character's t-shirt.

    I'm actually reading several discussions about the Wii (including the kerfluffles on the iidb) with interest. I sincerely hope that the Wiimote isn't a redundant and mostly useless peripheral, but that's not what I'm seeing from a vast majority of the reviews and discussion.

    Of course, all of this isn't making the grading go by any faster....

    — Goliath · 2006-11-20 18:45 · #

  4. wep is not secure

    — invisible trousers · 2006-11-24 12:48 · #

  5. Eh.
    If I'm going to spend $600+ on an interactive amusement system, it won't have a processor speed: It'll have a bore size :)

    — Graumagus · 2006-12-15 12:42 · #

 
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