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E3 06: Revolution renamed Wii

[UPDATE 6] Nintendo announces the console formerly known as the Revolution has a new--and surprising--moniker. Analysts' reactions are mixed.


In a surprise announcement this morning, Nintendo revealed the new name of its forthcoming game system: Wii. "As in 'we'," the official statement adds. For the official announcement, visit the Revolution...err...Wii Web site.

After a brief Flash introduction, the site explains Nintendo's move. "While the code-name 'Revolution' expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer. Wii will break down that wall that separates game players from everybody else. Wii will put people more in touch with their games...and each other."

The site goes on to say that Wii should be easy to remember for people around the world, no matter their language, and that it will avoid abbreviation. The "ii" spelling is intended to represent "both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play." It may also be worth noting that "ii" means "good" in Japanese.

Nintendo sums up the name change with the following comments. "So that's Wii. But now Nintendo needs you. Because, it's really not about you or me. It's about Wii. And together, Wii will change everything."

Game-industry analysts were swift with their responses. "Looks like a good solid name for Nintendo," said an optimistic Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director of Jupiter Research. "The key is making sure they follow up with a strong launch campaign to evangelize the new brand and help drive the message forward."

Michael Goodman, senior analyst of media and entertainment strategies at The Yankee Group, believes the name change is a mistake. "I thought Revolution had much more meaning," he told GameSpot. "It was an apt description for the console. It was a revolutionary design ... the controller is pretty revolutionary. Wii just doesn’t do it for me. How do we even pronounce this? WEEE? I'm not sure this is technically a word. What is a WEE, W-I-I?"

But it's more than the name that bothers Goodman, who went on to state that Nintendo has made it tougher than it had to for itself with the new name: "You're building everything from scratch in terms of awareness and in terms of building a brand. Verses Xbox 360--you're taking the core Xbox brand and leveraging it to a new product. With PlayStation 3, it still has all those great attributes of the PlayStation."

Wedbush Morgan Securities' Michael Pachter was more mixed in his assessment. "My initial reaction, of course, is that the name is dumb," he bluntly stated. "However, upon reflection, I thought that the name Game Boy was dumb, REALLY thought that the name Xbox was dumb, and can't even recall my reaction to PlayStation. Let's face it, devices with cool names like Dreamcast and Gizmondo fail, and the lame names seem to do well."

Colin Sebastian, Lazard Capital Markets' senior research analyst for Internet and interactive entertainment, displayed Vulcan-like logic responding to the Wii revelation. "The success of the console will have much more to do with the quality of the games and the gameplay," he said. "Nintendo probably believes they've found a name that can stick with consumers. Revolution was catchy, but given similarities with the Xbox 360 name, perhaps Nintendo felt they had to make a change."

One industry analyst who spoke in the condition of anonymity said flat out the choice was wrong, for a number of reasons. "It's a sound that doesn't exist in Japanese, so Japanese people will struggle to pronounce it."

Acknowledging that Nintendo has had code names for their consoles before--Dolphin became the GameCube, for instance. But this time, the analyst said, "Nintendo let the code name gain a little too much currency: people were used to it, and it was widely accepted as the console's name."

"Now they have a stupid-sounding manufactured name that probably wouldn't have tested well with English speakers if they'd bothered doing any market research," the analyst said. "And they're going to try to use it to replace an evocative, well-accepted name that people have been using for well over a year. Bad, stupid move."

However, Nintendo is confident that, after the initial shock wears off, people will take to the Wii name. "The other systems have an extension of their current names--ours is a new leap to something different," Nintendo of America vice president Perrin Kaplan told CNN/Money. A rep for the company echoed similar sentiments, assuring GameSpot that "the name will grow on you."

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