More than just an accessory: Enhanced-definition a must on Wii

Ahead of its time when first introduced on last generation consoles, enhanced-definition is old news now. Yet the majority of Wii owners still haven’t upgraded to the superior picture quality that the technology affords. Here’s why.

For $5-10, your Wii could look a whole lot better. Chump change, as most would call it.

Even so, a majority of Wii owners haven’t upgraded to sold-separately cables that enable enhanced-definition, the poorly publicized (but still worthwhile) middle ground between blurry standard definition and glorious high definition. As fate would have it, enhanced-definition console games were first introduced on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, when most people didn’t own a compatible TV.

For the uninitiated, enhanced definition (or 480p resolution) doubles the number of lines on screen for a sharper, cleaner, and more vivid picture. So why aren’t more Wii owners taking advantage of the technology?

As already mentioned, the requisite cables’called component; not to be confused with the standard definition “composite” cables bundled with Wii’must be purchased separately. Third-party cables can be purchased online for as little as $5-10 dollars with shipping, while official cables go for $15-20 at retail. Either kind will do. But both are considered accessories. And not everyone buys accessories, so there’s reason no. 1.

Reason no. 2: believe it or not, the majority of Americans still don’t own component-ready televisions, the most common being HDTVs. According to estimates, HDTV penetration was less than 50% in the United States at the end of last year, leaving a significant number of the 22 million American Wii owners at a loss and unable to benefit from enhanced-definition.

As for the rest of you, no excuses right? Not so fast, says Scott Steinberg, industry insider and author of Videogame Marketing and PR. As Steinberg puts it, most Wii owners’even the component-ready ones, aren’t concerned with maximum visual fidelity. “They aren’t the sort you’d naturally associate with a high-end visual experience or the pressing need to outlay additional cash for aesthetic gains,” he says.

Additionally, the 15-year veteran says most Wii owners don’t know about enhanced definition. “There’s also a lack of education,” he explains. “Many consumers still have trouble programming their digital video recorder, so it’s a bit much to expect they’ll understand the intricacies between component and composite video, without prior instruction or knowledge of the added benefit accrued from switching cables.”

So do the cables really make a difference?