Nintendo Revolution: What Wii Know

Find out all we know about the Nintendo Wii. We've gathered all the important information in one place and updated the story with new launch details.

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By Sarju Shah || Design: Collin Oguro - updated September 14, 2006

The Wii

New console releases from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will determine the future of video games for the next half decade. Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 late in 2005 to get a head start on the competition--Sony and Nintendo will launch their new consoles this year. The Xbox 360 sports excellent hardware and a robust Xbox Live online platform, plus Microsoft has pockets deeper than the Mariana Trench. The PlayStation 3 will be just as powerful, with advanced Nvidia graphics, a custom-designed IBM Cell processor, and new Blu-ray drive technology. And Nintendo will have a new controller that bares a striking resemblance to a television remote control.

The Revolution is now the Wii.

If there's one console manufacturer that marches to the beat of a different drummer, it has to be Nintendo. The originator of the modern console-gaming era has been a traditional player in every single console generation, first with the Nintendo Entertainment System, then with the Super NES, then with the Nintendo 64, and now with the Nintendo GameCube. But Nintendo promises that its next console system, the Wii, will be a major departure from the current console CPU and graphics-hardware arms race.

Instead of putting together an expensive box with impressive hardware specifications like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, Nintendo decided to set its Wii system apart by offering innovative gameplay with a new motion-sensitive controller. The Wii's gyroscope controller will take users away from the gamepad interface and make game control more intuitive. For instance, we're used to pressing buttons in a certain sequence to cast a line in a fishing game, but on the Wii, expect to pull the controller back and then whip it forward in a real casting motion to get that line out. It's this kind of gameplay that will make the Wii completely different from the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

We shouldn't be surprised by Nintendo's move. This is the same company that rolled the dice on the Game Boy and the Nintendo DS. Nintendo may have missed the mark with the Virtual Boy, but you can't produce huge winners without taking some risk.

Nintendo has been fairly secretive about its new console after announcing it at E3 last year. We know it has an IBM processor and an ATI graphics chip. It's rumored to be two to three times as powerful as the GameCube, but we may never discover the final hardware specifications because Nintendo believes that comparisons should be based on the quality of the games, not on numbers in a specification list.

Nintendo is wise to leave its spec sheet at home, as the forthcoming Wii will likely not be able to compete with the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360 in terms of pure silicon brawn. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have specification sheets a mile long, littered with numbers and lots of technical jargon, some of great import and others of little consequence.

The Wii has a simple-looking backside.
A top panel opens to reveal memory and GameCube ports.

Nintendo's hardware won't let it run with the big boys when it comes to powering high-resolution displays like HDTVs. While the Xbox 360 renders graphics at 1280x720 (or 720p), and Sony claims that the PlayStation 3 will render at 1920x1080 (or 1080p), the Wii will output at 853x480 (or 480p). The good news--you won't need a brand-new HDTV to take full advantage of the Wii.

The Wii will have a Wii Channel menu system that will offer a selection of information and communication applications designed to make the console a daily visit for everyone in the house. Nintendo demonstrated a forecast channel that will report local weather forecast information updated over the Internet and a news channel that will display the latest news information. Built-in applications include the photo channel, which will let Wii owners view and edit photos stored on an SD memory card, and the Wii message board, which will let people leave messages for each other on the Wii system. You can send messages to other Wii owners via the free WiiConnect24 service. For an undisclosed number of Wii currency points, you can purchase an Opera Web browser that will let you use the Wii to browse the Web from the Internet channel.

On the gaming side, the Mii Channel will let users customize their own personal avatars that they can use to insert themselves into Mii-enabled games such as Wii Sports. Users will be able to store their Mii avatars in the Wii controller for easy transport to another console. Nintendo will also give Wii owners access to more than 20 years of games by making Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, and Nintendo 64 games available for purchase online via the Virtual Console. Once a game is downloaded it will appear in the Wii Channel menu as a launch selection. At the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo announced backward compatibility for the Sega Genesis and Hudson's TurboGrafx-16. The Wii will also be able to play GameCube games, and Nintendo will release a Wii edition of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess with special controller support.

The Controller

Even though Nintendo bowed out of the hardware arms race, it's making up for the horsepower shortfall with ingenuity. At the 2005 Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata unveiled the radically new controller design for the upcoming Wii console. The new wireless controller looks quite simple in an age when most controllers, including those found for the Nintendo GameCube, have multiple analog sticks, a D pad, and eight buttons or more.

At the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Satoru Iwata explained why Nintendo chose to design the new controller the way it did. The controller had to meet four major requirements for Nintendo: It had to have wireless connectivity, approachability, and sophistication, and it had to be revolutionary. By approachability and sophistication, Iwata meant that the controller had to be easy for nongamers to use, yet provide enough complexity for veteran gamers.

The new controller and console are an "investment in actual market disruption," according to Iwata. The company has demonstrated its ability to create new markets and change old ones with its handheld console, the Nintendo DS. Nintendo brought forth nontraditional games like Nintendogs and Brain Training. Combined, both games have been immensely popular, selling in excess of 10 million units.

To nongamers, modern game controllers seem overly complex and pose quite a hurdle to playing a game. Nintendo's motion-sensing controller should make movement in games more natural--waving your arms around is about as intuitive as it gets. Nintendo believes that the simplicity of the interface will be the key to bringing in the mainstream crowd that didn't grow up cradling an SNES or PlayStation gamepad.

The simple mechanics will appeal to a broader audience.

The top half of the Wii controller features a directional pad and a single, oversized A button. If you hold the controller like a remote, your thumb will have immediate access to the D pad and the A button. The underside of the controller has a B button that functions like a trigger button. The controller features select, home, and start buttons lined up horizontally halfway down the controller, and the bottom half of the controller has two buttons stacked vertically. We've seen some controllers that have the buttons labeled as A and B, but other controllers have them labeled as 1 and 2. In any case, if you hold the controller sideways, you'll have two horizontal buttons for classic Nintendo gaming.

The bottom of the controller has an attachment port for peripherals, should a game require more buttons or a specialized controller. The Wii controller will have an analog-stick attachment that plugs into the controller. We can expect to see a variety of extension devices, but the number will have to remain low, or they will have to be packaged with games, because add-ons typically have low user-acceptance rates.

Finally! A remote control for left-handers.

A variety of potential game-usage scenarios were shown at TGS. One involves a fishing game, but instead of pushing a button or moving an analog stick, with the new Wii controller you could cast a line by flicking your wrist. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will have the first implementation of real-world Wii fishing, complete with casting and reeling. Basic games, such as air hockey, can get a boost from the new controller design as well. The built-in sensor can detect depth as well as lateral movement, which lets you push the puck from side to side and into and away from the screen in one natural movement.

At E3 2006, Nintendo revealed that the controller will have built-in speaker and vibration effects to make games even more immersive. If you use the controller to fire an arrow in Zelda, the controller will make a drawing sound as you pull back on the bow to launch a shot, and the controller will shake on impact if you thrust your controller forward to bash an enemy with your shield.

The Wii version of the classic controller.

The connection port on the bottom of the controller could act as the point of contact for numerous types of devices that would provide for extra functionality. Fans have flooded the Internet with homemade attachments, like gun-shaped controller sleeves and other imaginary designs, that could work with the Wii controller. The potential certainly exists for a whole host of attachments or completely new controllers designed specifically for game genres, like a six-button peripheral for fighting games. Nintendo will offer a "classic" gamepad controller for the Wii for use with older Virtual Console games that require a more traditional gamepad controller.

Wii Games


Nintendo announced that all first-party titles will be available for $50 or less. The company did not comment on how much third-party publishers will charge for their games, but we imagine that third-party pricing will match Nintendo's. We've put together a list of Wii launch titles from both first- and third-party publishers--these are games that will be available at or around launch on November 19. The second text list represents the games that will launch by March of next year.

Nintendo and its various third-party development houses have many more games in development. You can find a full list of Wii games here.


Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Squadrons of WWII is an arcade-like WWII flight game from Ubisoft.

Genre: WWII Flight Sim | Not Yet In Stores

Call of Duty 3

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Call of Duty 3 continues the series of World War II shooters, this time focusing on the battle for the liberation of Paris - known as the Normandy Breakout.

Genre: Historic First-Person Shooter | Not Yet In Stores

Elebits

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Elebits thrusts players into a game of hide and go seek as they try to track down a group of mysterious creatures.

Genre: 3D Platformer | Not Yet In Stores

Excite Truck

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Excite Truck is a new franchise from Nintendo, featuring tilting control of your truck.

Genre: Racing | Not Yet In Stores

Far Cry Vengeance

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Far Cry blasts its way onto the Wii. It will make use of the controller's motion sensing capabilities.

Genre: Modern First-Person Shooter | Not Yet In Stores

GT Pro Series

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
GT Pro Series features more than 80 licensed cars, tons of tuning options and fluid drift-style controls and physics.

Genre: GT / Street Racing | Not Yet In Stores

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Nintendo is publishing a new Zelda game in which Link sports his older look from the Nintendo 64 days. The Wii version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess makes use of the Wii remote controls.

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure | Not Yet In Stores

Madden NFL 07

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Madden makes its way to the Nintendo Wii, and the Wii controller's motion-sensitive capabilities are used for passing, kicking, juking, stiff arms, and more.

Genre: Football Sim | Not Yet In Stores

Monster 4X4: World Circuit

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Monster 4x4 World Circuit lets players control powerful trucks and go head-to-head in off-road competitions all over the world.

Genre: Rally / Offroad Racing | Not Yet In Stores

Need for Speed Carbon

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
In NFS Carbon you aim to take over the city by winning races and defeating other racing crews. The game will likely make use of Wii's motion sensing controller for steering.

Genre: GT / Street Racing | Not Yet In Stores

Open Season

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Open Season is based on the Sony Pictures Animation's CG animated film of the same name, where a rowdy brood of forest animals turn the tables on a bunch of unsuspecting hunters.

Genre: 3D Platformer | Not Yet In Stores


Rayman Raving Rabbids

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Rayman returns for a fourth installment.

Genre: 3D Platformer | Not Yet In Stores


Red Steel

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Red Steel is a first-person action game set in modern-day Japan, from the makers of Prince of Persia and Far Cry.

Genre: Action | Not Yet In Stores

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
The Splinter Cell stealth action series returns for a fourth go-around in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent.

Genre: Modern Action Adventure | Not Yet In Stores

Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam marks the introduction of Tony Hawk on the Wii.

Genre: Skating | Not Yet In Stores

Trauma Center: Second Opinion

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Trauma Center returns for more surgical fun, this time on the Nintendo Wii.

Genre: Simulation | Not Yet In Stores

Wii Sports

Release Date: Nov 19, 2006
Wii Sports includes Baseball, Tennis, Bowling, Boxing and Golf games for the Nintendo Wii.

Genre: Sports | Not Yet In Stores

Post Launch Titles

The Ant Bully
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Barnyard
Battalion Wars 2
Big Brain Academy
Bust-A-Move Revolution
Cars
Dance Factory
Disney's Chicken Little: Ace in Action
Disney's Meet the Robinsons
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2
The Godfather
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
Happy Feet Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Mario Strikers Charged
Metal Slug Anthology
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
Prince of Persia
Rampage: Total Destruction
Rapala Tournament Fishing
Sidewinder
Sonic and the Secret Rings
SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab
SSX
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
WarioWare: Smooth Moves
World Series of Poker


Availability and Pricing

Nintendo will launch the Wii on November 19 in the Americas for $249. The price will include the Wii console, one wireless controller with a nunchaku attachment, and a copy of Wii Sports which includes tennis, golf, baseball, bowling, and boxing minigames. The console will be available only in white at launch, but, knowing Nintendo, we wouldn't be surprised to see a multitude of color choices throughout the system's lifetime. Extra Wii controllers will cost $40, and the nunchaku attachment will sell for $20.

The Wii will launch in Japan on December 2 for 25,000 yen, roughly $213. The Japanese package includes the console, one wireless controller, and a nunchaku attachment just like the US package, but it has a lower price because it doesn't come bundled with a game. The classic console controller will be available separately for 1,800 yen in Japan, and $20 in the US.

In comparison, Sony will sell the PlayStation 3 at $499 for the 20GB model and at $599 for the 60GB model. It will be interesting to see how many console buyers opt for the more affordable $249 Wii system since it will be available just days after the launch of the PlayStation 3.

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