Welcome to the Infendo Presents: The History of Nintendo! Join us as we chronicle Nintendo from their humble hanafuda beginnings, to the dominance of the Wii and DS and beyond!
It was no secret that Nintendo had lost its stranglehold on the home console market long before the launch of the GameCube. The last vestiges of their console dominance was during the mid-90’s when the SNES was king, and even then Sega was right on Nintendo’s heals with their Genesis. Nintendo, under fresh leadership was looking to change their fortune, and turn a few heads along the way.
According to an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, as early as the release of the GameCube in 2001 Nintendo was already working on what was next. The concept was to shift the focus from producing the most powerful console to focusing on a new form of player interaction.
Nintendo would first unveil their next generation console at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Code-named the Revolution, Nintendo would show the console at their press conference, but as a last minute decision would decide against unveiling the control interface. Miyamoto would later state that Nintendo “had some troubleshooting to do so we decided not to reveal the controller and instead we displayed just the console.”
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata would demonstrate the Wii Remote at the September Tokyo Game Show of that year. At the time I was attending college, and all the buzz among gaming enthusiasts revolved around the Revolution and its innovative controls. What would be possible? How would you play Mario with it? Can it turn up the volume on my TV?
The console would be known by its codename until April 27, 2006, when immediately before E3 Nintendo would announce the console as the Nintendo Wii. Nintendo’s spelling of Wii, according to Nintendo, is supposed to symbolize two people standing side by side playing together. Another reason Nintendo has given for the name choice 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.”
Whatever the reason behind the name, Nintendo must have realized that they needed to get it out ahead of E3, and in retrospect, the decision was a wise one.
Lines to play the Wii were astronomical at the 2006 E3 with many players waiting in lines for upwards of 3 hours, foreshadowing what would become of the console launch later that year. Nintendo undoubtedly stole the show, and it wouldn’t be long before the world would see Nintendo back on top.
The Nintendo Wii would launch on November 19, 2006 in North America. Much like the launch of the Nintendo DS, Nintendo decided to wait until after the North American launch to release the console in their home territory of Japan.
Nintendo had a hit on its hands immediately, with Wii consoles selling out before they even left the delivery trucks. As a retail employee at GameStop, I can tell you that I received no less that 50 calls a day wondering if we had the Wii in stock during the 2006 Christmas season. Of course we didn’t, as shortages of the console would continue miraculously throughout the entirety of 2007, and continue into the early 2008.
Just think about that. Xbox One and PS4 both launched in 2013, so that would be like not being able to walk into a store and buy one of those consoles today, two years after those consoles launched.
The Wii would go on to break numerous sales records. In the first half of 2007, the Wii sold more units in the United States than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined.
The Wii would go on to provide a fantastic gaming experience for many gamers, while others criticized the consoles lack of significant third party presence. Regardless, Nintendo’s ability to bring new players into the gaming space was undeniable. It wasn’t uncommon for college aged gamers to bring the Wii home for the holidays only to find that by next Christmas Mom and Dad had a Wii of their own.
Most of the best games for console of course came from none other than Nintendo. Notable titles include New Super Mario Bros. Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Wii Sports.
As of March 31, 2015, the Wii has sold 101.52 million consoles worldwide, and is still Nintendo’s best selling home console to date.
Join us next time as we chronicle Nintendo’s next step into the handheld world!