Nintendo: Wii Want To Expand Games' Appeal

Posted by: Kenji Hall on September 14, 2006

Nintendo’s video game visionary Shigeru Miyamoto likes to say that his company has a machine that even a mother could love. On Sept. 14, the Kyoto-based game maker announced that its Wii would arrive on store shelves in time for the holiday shopping season (Nov. 19 in the U.S., Dec. 2 in Japan), and that they would sell for $249.99 apiece (25,000 yen in Japan). That’s a price that plenty of moms and dads—who will no doubt get pressure from their kids to buy a game machine for Christmas—will be relieved to hear. But the Wii’s low price is only one part of Nintendo’s strategy of winning over parents who might normally object to video games.

In the past the majority of game titles have appealed to a limited audience. The typical gamer is male, aged 18 to 35, with dexterous thumbs, plenty of time to delve into an alternative reality, and pocket money to burn. While video games have evolved into complex virtual worlds, the industry’s main audience has pretty much stayed the same. Girls? Not invited. Nintendo wants to go after the girls—and the moms and dads, and even the grandparents. “Some people will say Nintendo’s games are for children,” said President Satoru Iwata. “But our goal is to boost the population of gamers by making games for all ages.”

How does he hope to do that? By carefully crafting the message, for starters. Nintendo’s promo videos and handouts for the Wii show people of all ages taking the machine for a spin. Company execs say the designers thought about ways to make the box less intimidating—it’s small, about the size of paperback book—and engineers worked to make sure that the chips inside wouldn’t run up the electricity bill and the machine wouldn’t run noisily. That’s important because the console can be plugged in 24-7 to a broadband connection. They got their best brains to toss out the old designs for consoles. Their main focus: the controller, which resembles a TV remote (it uses wireless and motion-sensing technology to translate a user’s movements into on-screen action). The idea is that while junior isn’t playing games, mom and dad won’t be scared to pick up the wand-like remote and check out the othe content—Net surfing, news, weather, instant messaging and photo-sharing.

Then there are the games. At the Tokyo event, held in a convention center, Miyamoto offered a demonstration of the machine’s ease-of-use by playing tennis and a quiz game with three women who'd never laid hands on the Wii before. Nintendo will have 16 titles ready for Wii's launch and 9 others by the year-end, and plans to add more at the rate of 10 a month. It won't say what its targets are beyond the more immediate goal of having 4 million consoles shipped to stores worldwide by the end of this year and two million more by late March 2007. But the female demographic—a group that's been key to success of Nintendo's DS and DS-Lite portable consoles--is clearly one of its biggest targets. “It will take time to get women and girls to play,” says Iwata.

Sony and Microsoft say they're after the same crowd. But their strategy for luring the masses differs from Nintendo's: They're relying more on visually impressive games and a smorgasbord of online services that lets users form communities with other gamers. To ensure that happens, they've devoted big budgets to make consoles with high-powered chips that promise faster games and more photorealistic graphics.

Nintendo has decided it doesn't need a supercomputer to run its games. Analysts say the processing speed of its IBM-made chip will be several times slower than the CPU's of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. The prospect doesn't seem to bother Miyamoto, who says the Wii is more powerful than Nintendo's GameCube, Wii's predecessor. “We want people to realize that you don't need all that power to make fun games,” he says.

Nintendo has driven home the point—starting with its own employees. Iwata has forbidden anyone from talking about “next-generation console” in the hallways or round the water cooler. Miyamoto, a senior managing director, says it's Iwata's way of getting his own people to stop obsessing about power. “The media likes to refer to this as the 'war of next-generation consoles,'” says Miyamoto, the inventor of Mario Bros. and Zelda who now leads hardware platform and game software development. “But that implies that we have the same strategy as the others.”

Not everything is clear about Nintendo's master plan. For instance, will Nintendo let users play massive multiplayer online games that have been a hit with Xbox 360 gamers? So far, the only online features Nintendo execs have shown are Net browsing, content downloading and messaging. But you don't want to second-guess Nintendo just yet. The launch date is still months away and while the box is already being mass-produced (which Iwata confirmed) there's time to beef up the online content. And at least, it seems for now, that Nintendo has learned from its rivals and is being careful to avoid the supply shortages of the Xbox 360 and the launch delays of the PS3.

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Reader Comments

JMG

September 15, 2006 12:15 AM

The Wii is going to rock all sorts of hard. It's the beginning of a truly immersive gaming experience, rather than a mere hardware upgrade.

steve

September 15, 2006 01:46 AM

I'll bet the wii is powerfull enough to run a video camera broadcasting over the internet and also play a video file from the internet at the same time. videoconferencing and video calls and video mail is my bet for wii's killer app.

Pitt

September 15, 2006 04:36 AM

I'll buy it just for the games. A new way to play it and like everything else these days, simple is always best. who care whats underneath, how many people actually count how many pixels a game can display? im a one happy guy comes november!

BCA

September 15, 2006 09:06 AM

I like the idea and own a DS Lite. I just hope they come up with at least ONE online game for launch! Not having that at launch is a potentially fatal error for Nintendo.

Matt

September 15, 2006 11:17 AM

The Wii is the most exciting system coming out period. Its really all about the games folks.
Im looking forward to Metal Gear 4 as much as the next guy, but when it comes down to it... I just want to have fun playing games.
Rayman looks amazing, and ill probobly be able to get my wife to play Wii Sports with me.
Nintendo is by no means out of the race.

I mean really, this system has the possibility of total immersion! You will really feel like you are part of the game. You will be Link and Samus and Mario. It'll be fun.
Nintendo has NEVER done us wrong in the past.

Microsoft? What like at most 10 good games? I can name maybe 3 of those.

Sony, I love Sony... and they have a TON of great games. More than 10 years of great games.

But Nintendo, I will love forever.

Joe

September 15, 2006 12:22 PM

Nintendo has never let me down with their consoles in the past and im not expecting it now. NES, Gameboy in all its forms, 64 and gamecube all are amazing systems with great games and i expect much more from the Wii. Well virtual boy was kida weird, but hey it was unique.

Valerio

September 15, 2006 02:29 PM

Hello,

I'm a dad and I can't wait for Wii to come out. I haven't played video games for over 10 years. XBOX and Playstation games are boring and hard.

Wii will put the fun back in gaming :)

Me

September 15, 2006 03:04 PM

Wii sucks. Good idea and all, but reguardless of what they say, it's all kid games.

Matthew Hurst

September 15, 2006 03:12 PM

Smaller can be successful both for the consumer and the stockholders of any company. Apple is another company like Nintendo. Both are great examples of how a smaller company needs to be lean, mean and different when fighting the giants at their gates. They might not have the deep pockets of a Microsoft or Sony but they can still make their mark by being more creative in their strategies. Is GM the best car in the world company because they sold the most cars last year? Simply, Gamegube made a lot of money for Nintendo. Yet how often did we hear about how much money Microsoft lost on each Xbox they sold? Only a less informed analysis of Nintendo’s Gamecube could define it as a failure dispute selling fewer units than Microsoft and Sony. Quantity is not quality, nor does it equate into profits at the end of the day. First place, second or third; I don’t think Nintendo really cares. Well OK, they care, but not in the same way that Microsoft and Sony do. For that matter, I don’t think that BMW is all that concerned that GM will sell more cars this year than they will.

danger

September 15, 2006 06:04 PM

Wii is my fav console this time round. I can't wait for the games and the other features are very interesting. I do hope that Nintendo supports a MMO or two sometime soon.

Ray

September 15, 2006 07:33 PM

It sounds good

Michael Yingling

September 16, 2006 01:39 AM

To the person who said: "Wii sucks. Good idea and all, but reguardless of what they say, it's all kid games."

What counts as a kid game? Madden '07, Far Cry, Splinter Cell, Red Steel, Call of Duty 3, GT Pro, Need for Speed: Carbon or Zelda: Twilight Princess? Seriously now, none of these are "kid games" unless by kid you mean the 15-30 age range (with some younger kids getting their parents to buy them T and M rated games, of course).

There's nothing "kiddy" about this system; it's even targeted at people of all ages (including grandparents!). For the Wii Music game (the one most videos show an elderly couple playing)... is it a "kid game" because of it's graphics? Certainly not because of who's playing it (seeing as they're older than my parents), right?

Don't just say a console is all kid games when about half of the launch titles are rated T and up, and the ENTIRE consoles marketing strategy involves getting the older generations to start playing video games.

On that note, good work Nintendo, and it will be great to see them taking back the console market using "fun gaming" vs. a "graphics war". I salute you.

GOD

September 16, 2006 06:25 AM

Wii is going to be the ultimate downfall of Nintendo... I have spoken!

Derek

September 16, 2006 05:36 PM

I found the xbox 360 to be a hot and loud power hungry beast. I took it back as it broke down and had my money retured. I can now wait for the wii with pleanty of money over to buy extra games.
My best computer game is Indiana Jones and the Infernal machine. They are simple but fantastic cartoon graphics but oh what fun. I belive it's the game that's most important. I just can't understand why the new games waste so much power just to make the charaters look like real human beings or by showing their reflections on the surface of the water. To me, the new high powered games machines spend most of the game in video mode. One might just as well buy the video and watch it on television. Oh! By the way I'm sixty eight years old. The Wii will help my coordinations and concentration. I can't wait to conduct the orchestra to help relive my arthritis.

Brian

September 16, 2006 07:27 PM

Like you could really ask for anything better than a Wii? Ha ha! Nintendo will do it again, they will make people drool at the appearance of their name! Way to go Nintendo!

Steve Roger

September 16, 2006 08:55 PM

"Iwata has forbidden anyone from talking about “next-generation console” in the hallways or round the water cooler."

It is this type of behavior that makes me glad that I don't have to work in some "thought controlled environment." The Wii may be a fluffy, sweet, animated cartoon generator, but it's corporate parent is an angry controlling father.

Nintendo has historically been a company who uses less then honorable tactics and has been successfully sued numerous times. It's settlements for not playing fair with other are legendary.

Wii is just a wolf in sheeps clothing. It was born on the back of consumers who were fooled into buying the under supported Gamecube. The cube has been deliberately hamstrung by Nintendo since the day it was born. Management steadfastly refused to provide first party game development for it evidenced by the lack of games for the cube. Also, it had ports for the internet but Nintendo made sure no content was produced. And Nintendo refused to unlock it's beefy catalog of Donkey Kong and Mario for the Cube's tiny little discs.

So what was Nintendo doing while the Cube lay in its crib with its low birth weight and perpetually under fed, well, Nintendo was secretely giving birth and caring for its legitimate son, the Wii. Nintendo saw that online was the wave of the future and therefore, withheld all of its goodies from the Cube and buying public. All of nice surprises went to the Wii. And all the while, we that the Cube was what Nintendo loved.

So, while Reggie gloats to the Nintendo Board members and the shareholds, the rest of us will wait and wait for Zelda: Twilight Princess to come out for our Gamecube. Zeld TP was promised to the Gamecube owners more than a year ago. Nintendo even showed the Cube version at E3. However, it appears that the Cube version has been pulled and Wii version announced.

This is called the bait and switch. Nintendo, obviously, has tricked the buying public for more than a year into buying Cubes for Zelda Twilight Princess. Everybody knows that Zeld TP is the game of the century. But now all those Cube owners will have invest $250 to play that game in addition to what they paid for the Cube.

So, it looks like Wii will be using the Cube the most expensive doorstop ever made.

Thanks for nothing Nintendo.

Kristen

September 16, 2006 11:58 PM

The thing is that the Wii is so cheap that everyone will buy one and then choose between an Xbox and a PS3. So it essentially has no competition.

Pedro MDCI

September 17, 2006 01:13 AM

It seems that finaly someone in the industry is geting the big picture: It's all about the games. And unsunprisingly, the company that finaly went back to the roots of what gaming is realy all about is Nintendo (over 100 years in the market).

What was the last time you played a game that you really got suck up into the screen, like playing Zelda: Link to the past or Super Mario World or FF4 for the first time?

I had an XBOX before (the 1st one) and really, many games were boring. It was all about how they looked and no gameplay at all. But I love the Xbox live idea and I am not sure any other console would be able to match MS Live in full. I am still considering to get the XBOX360 because of Xbox Live...

I find it quite sad that my list of top 10 games of all time are all over 10 years old. I hope Wii will put enough pressure in the videogame market for the big companies to start focusing on creating fun games.

Maxwell Stibbard Hawkes

September 17, 2006 04:35 AM

"Me", will you please explain why it sucks? Yes, it does have kiddy looking games, very simple and colourful such as Wii Sports. But as Valerio has proven, the point is to look simple to attract dads and mums to it. Also, you say it's all kiddy. Red Steel, Heroes, Metriod Prime 3, Exite Truck, Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess...I could go on for hours, but anyway, they are not kiddy! I'm looking forward to one very much and will be getting one on launch.

Mr.Nasty

September 17, 2006 02:31 PM

All that matters is the games you fanboys!

Elly

October 11, 2006 05:56 PM

Hello...I have been a PC gamer all my life...I dont think, I KNOW that pc is the best thing out there for first person shooters. Now, when i saw the wii, I gaped. HOWEVER, i am a COD online freak...so the first thing i did, was see if it had online gaming, which for wii, U CANNOT PLAY COD 3 ONLINE. then i checked others...same thing. If u r a first person online gamer, dont get this nintendo thing. ALSO, i agree with the people who said that its about the game not the graphics. U video game developers need to start concentrating on gameplay a little more..

charizardpal

October 22, 2006 06:01 PM

Nintendo sucks now. Get over it people. There are no original games and all your money is being sucked into a trap. You're wasting hundreds on poor games for kids. You could be putting that toward your college education. Instead you're playing Luigi's Mansion and waiting for the next nintendo system to debut with it's promises and demands for brand-name loyalty.

bob

November 15, 2006 03:17 PM

Um, the very angry guy who went on about "Nintendo has historically been a company who uses less then honorable tactics and has been successfully sued numerous times" is a moron. Nintendo has consistently been the most innovative company in the business, and they've actually had a lot fewer legal entanglements than Microsoft and Sony. They are also the small guy here--the "Apple Computer" of the gaming business. They also have the best first-party game development in the business. Oh, and finally, Zelda TP will be PLAYABLE ON THE GAMECUBE AS WELL (as promised), so it's not a bait and switch. They simply decided to suspend the release so they could add a few extras for the new Wii controller.

Someone

November 20, 2006 11:16 PM

I do love online games, but I also love Nintendo games as well. I've been waiting for the new Nintendo console to come out for two years. Why? Because of Zelda.

Zelda is the one main reason why I love Nintendo and Zelda: The Twilight Princess has amazing graphics...in my eyes. I'm a female and absolutley love games.

I've played Halo/Halo 2 on Xbox and I have a Playstation 2 but Nintendo has always had the games I could spend hours on. Some games may seem "child-like" but that's another reason why I love it. The games are too difficult and very cute. Nintendo, unlike Xbox and Playstation, has a mix of different types of games.

When I think of Xbox, I think of Halo and other action games. When I think of Playstation, I think of television/movie, action, and sport games. I can only handle so much of action games and to me they are not always that great. I love puzzle, fantasy, roleplaying games more than anything which Nintendo always has.

This is just my opinion...and I'm so excited about Wii. Zelda is going to be so awesome. I can't believe it's actually going to take a 45 minute horseback ride to get from one side of Hyrule to the other! Sounds like fun.

um

November 27, 2006 09:27 PM

i havent gotten the wii yet. but i wanna. it sounds like fun.

adios!

Dukhat

December 11, 2006 03:33 AM

The Wii is a cheap gimmick slapped onto a rehashed gamecube. The system itself basically has the same power as a gamecube with its only differentiating factor being its controller.

Remember the rumble pack and analog stick on the N64 controller? Revolutionary huh? Also easily imitated and improved upon in the dual shock controller. The PS3 already has motion sensing, and the pointer is just to slow for online gaming.

The PS2 already has fun games. Eye toy, DDR, guitar hero, all are more fun and proven than the gimmick that is the wiimote. Nintendo will fail and be beaten even worst this generation. So far only kids want the system.

brian

January 3, 2007 01:52 PM

eh? to the person who said, "So far only kids want the system".
I am 24 and my friends vary from from 19 to 30 years of age. My parents are 58 and 61, and we each have purchased a Wii this Christmas. To say only kids want them obviously shows the lack of your intelligence. I have been playing computer games since I was 14 and the Wii is the only console on the market that throughly interacts with the user.
To say the games are kiddy is incredible. Now I am no big nintendo lover so I am not defending them because I am a gamong nintendo junkie. I am a huge PS fan and I would prob kick your butt in any PS game, but PS and XBox push the look and power of the machine leaving nothing to imagination and the storytelling is left to the author rather than the user.
I congratulate nintendo on the Wii as I have not put it down since I puchased it 3 weeks ago. My PS is left idle for the last 6 months due the stimulation exhaustion. I am bored of photorealistc graphics. So to you who says "So far only kids want the system" my PS is for sale if you want to buy it, because I need cash to buy more Wii games.

kalm

January 4, 2007 07:21 AM

hmm... indeed, i've ( in my point of view ) keep telling people that for those who say wiimote is "gimmicky" ..it just takes a few go's.. took me awhile to learn the handling/etc to use the Wiimote.. i found its better than a friggin mouse..

im a long time gamer (lol eversince i was 3... HAHAA) but resently (all thanks so PS2) ive lost all interest in gaming... id bought wii because you could do more than just play games.. you cant watch DVD's but.. i have about 20 dvd players around the f***ing house so i dont think i need another one, eh? :D ...

For those who argue of which system is "the best" i say that choose the most befitting...

Nintendo Wii is for those casual gamers / more serious / online-gamers (yes even if theres no games for it its said to be the second best online service... after Xbox Live)

where as Xbox 360 is ONLY for those who play online.. its not worthy for anything else! (altough Gamespot.com had tested the graphical abilities of both PS3 and 360 and deemed 360 graphically more appealing... thats at the moment.. but seein as PS3 will use Blue-Ray (more space for all that info) it will regain its position as "the king" of graphical enjoyment(...over time).

PS3 is for power-gamers / G33ks / nerds ...thats all (PlayStation is hopeless in producing any online features so.. yeah, good for nothing) me i bought Wii... ofcourse, ill look at Ps3 after awhile but 360 is out of the question...

Microsoft is MOST likely to bring out a new console... Their mistake in putting a normal DVD drive instead of the friggin HD-DVD as hoped will cost them a consumer or two... im off to enjoy my Wii... i already gave away my ps2 (for FREE) along with more than a dozen of games just to get rid of it... id pick up the controller start up A game and the shut down the whole system after maybe 10mins (tops) of gaming...

Want to enjoy games? or just look at them...

tameka

April 15, 2007 01:59 PM

i'm a 28 year old female and i love playing nintendo its pretty cool just i just hope they make plenty of games.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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