The Wii is Nintendo's most successful home console ever, with 86 million machines sold around the world since it launched in 2006, but with the recent announcement of Nintendo's new console it's time to peek forward to the future.
Wii was a remarkable success because it did something drastically different for a games console: it focused on cheap, affordable hardware with an easy-to-grasp control system that invited all to play. Motion control was fresh and exciting in 2006, but now with Kinect for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Move on the market the novelty has worn off somewhat. Nintendo needs to innovate with its next console, but can it recapture the public's imagination?
Going Through the Motions
The humble Wii Remote is credited with kicking off the motion control revolution: getting gamers out of their seats and onto their feet to play Wii Sports was a watershed moment for Nintendo, harnessing natural instincts with a simple game that paved the way for much of the console's catalogue in years to come.
It wasn't just the Wii Remote that inspired gamers to get active though: the success of Wii Fit fuelled the console's widespread image as a basically good and healthy home presence: a masterstroke of Nintendo PR.
At What Cost?
Establishing the Wii as a family-friendly machine and all-around good time undoubtedly put a lot of machines in living rooms, but many core Nintendo gamers feel the machine moved too far away from the games they grew up with. Despite pleas and protests from fans, original entries in many favourite franchises — F-Zero, Star Fox, Pikmin and more — are nowhere to be seen on Wii.
Many also criticised Nintendo's failure to capitalise on the booming online services that have helped PS3 and Xbox 360 to expand their user base and offer compelling content and online multiplayer extremely cheaply. You need only look to the despair over the ongoing PlayStation Network outages to see how potent a weapon a good online service can be. Were the Wii's online servers to suffer a similar fate, would the wider gaming world even notice?
If Nintendo attempts to revitalise the Wii brand with a similar successor, the casual sector may well feel it's a case of "been there, done that", unless it can truly convince them there is a need to upgrade.
The rise of gaming on smart phones and portable devices may pose a more obvious threat to Nintendo's handheld business, but there's no doubt the gaming landscape will change drastically over the next console's lifespan. Players who picked up a Wii as a gateway into gaming may find their needs more easily met by a multifunction device than a dedicated gaming machine.
Whatever track Nintendo decides to take for its next home console, all eyes will be on the Japanese giant to see where the new machine will attempt to forge new ground. With president Satoru Iwata's assurance that it "will offer new ways to play in the home", can Nintendo make lightning strike twice with a super-successful home console?