The Wii Experience
The Wii is revolutionizing the interactive entertainment industry in ways that may be making the bean counters over at Microsoft and Sony a little nervous. The interactive experience of Wii games like Mario Kart, Wii Fit, Resident Evil and Link’s Crossbow Training has been combined with third party accessories, like the Wii Zapper, Wii Wheel, Wii Balance board, Wii Nerf Sports Pack, Wii Boxing Gloves, Wii Combat Pack and a few different types of Wii remotes. To create interactive entertainment experiences that have gamers around the world racing in the streets, dancing up a storm, and spending more time at the shopping mall. Not bad for a firm whose first foray into the industry was as a manufacturer of Japanese playing cards over a century ago. Today, Nintendo is heralded around the video gaming industry as an icon of interactive entertainment around the world.
In spite of Nintendo seemingly perpetual success and an armory full of valued franchises, the tides of evolution are splashing on Nintendo. To get a picture of the Wii revolution Nintendo envisions for the interactive entertainment industry, it helps to have an understanding of Nintendo’s past.
Nintendo’s first appearance on the interactive entertainment field of battle was with the Nintendo Famicom in 1984. Released in the entertainment hungry Japanese market, the Nintendo Famicom was warmly welcomed by Japanese gamers, selling half a million consoles in the first two months. Just one year later, Nintendo debuted a redesigned model of the Nintendo Famicom, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to the world market. The success of the NES would lift Nintendo in the following years to unprecedented heights of success that would be the envy of rivals and competitors around the interactive entertainment industry.
Life was good for Nintendo at the end of the 1980s. Gamers were buying the Game Boy and Nintendo Entertainment System before the shelves were warm, and Nintendo couldn’t see any competition in their rear mirror. Franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Super Mario Brothers had proved that Nintendo’s formula of memorable characters combined with innovative game play was the road to success in the emerging interactive entertainment industry.
In 1989, Nintendo would try to capitalize on the success of their Nintendo Entertainment System by using their brand name recognition to enter the emerging portable gaming market with the debut of the Game Boy. Teamed with Tetris, Nintendo’s Game Boy quickly ascended to the pinnacle of the ladder of success by becoming the number one selling portable gaming device in the world.
Nintendo’s success with the Game Boy and NES was about to draw new opponents onto the field of battle, opponents desiring to show gamers that Nintendo wasn’t the only console deserving of their game time.
Sega would ride onto the field of battle at the end of the 1980s, with the debut of the 16-bit Sega Mega, which was first released into the Japanese market. Called the Sega Genesis in the United States, the Sega Mega started to slice deep into Nintendo’s market share on the battlefield for the first time in Nintendo’s storied history.
Rallying re-enforcements onto the field, Nintendo attempted to stall Sega’s momentum with the release of the 16-bit Super Famicom gaming system in November of 1990. The successor to the most popular home console in the world at the time, the NES, would be named the Super NES, when release in the United States, a year later.
As the sun rose in the sky in the first part of the 1990s, it shined upon a battlefield fully engulfed in a console war between Nintendo and Sega. Sega’s aggressive stance in North American had given them an early head start and a 65 percent market share in North America, for the moment, while Nintendo’s Super Famicom dominated the Japanese market. In the end, Nintendo’s blockbuster titles, like Final Fantasy, Zelda, and Super Mario Brothers would be the telling blow that would allow Nintendo to keep its place as world leader.
Nintendo would next attempt to capture the attention of onlookers to the console war in 1993, with the announcement of their intentions to create a 64-bit console, which would be capable of rendering characters and game environments in full 3D for the first time. During this time an amazing shift in technology was occurring in the interactive entertainment industry. Industry critics often point to Nintendo’s failure during this pivotal era to correctly predict the future of an industry it had previously completely dominated and the rise to prominence of the future, the CD-ROM. Nintendo did enter into agreements with Sega to develop a CD-ROM add on for the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) and one final failed effort at producing a CD-ROM based format in partnership with Phillips, that would eventually convince Nintendo to develop another cartridge-based gaming system, called the Ultra 64.
Sony in the time being decided not to discard months of effort and research money spent producing a CD-ROM based gaming system. Releasing the 32-bit Playstation onto the world market, targeted at every gamer in the world at the time and designed to compete head to head with Sega’s 32-bit Saturn and Nintendo’s promised 64-bit, cartridge-based console. The Playstation filled Sony’s coffers and kept gamers around the world glued to screens. Nintendo needed to debut their 64-bit console, with all its popular titles, soon.
The Nintendo 64 debuted in Japan on June 23, 1996, selling half a million systems before the sun had set (the Ultra 64 got shelved due to licensing problems with Konami). Nintendo wouldn’t release the Nintendo 64 into the North American market until later in the same year, but by that time Sony had appeared on the North American field of battle and the next battle in the console war was on.
Nintendo produced games during this period of the war that would be some of the most popular and highest-rated games in gaming history despite the limitations of the Nintendo 64’s hardware, which gamers started to notice during this period.
Sony eventually achieved unrivaled victory on the world battlefield after the arrival of the Playstation in 2000. This combined with the arrival of opportunistic Microsoft onto the field, would lead Nintendo to try a new tactic.
In 2001, Nintendo would release the Nintendo GameCube to a slightly lukewarm reception. The GameCube would fall short of ascending to Nintendo’s former number one ranking in the marketplace in Europe, Japan and the United States, but was still a major force. Nintendo’s strategy of creating new versions of treasured titles would produce games like The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker and Super Mario Sunshine, which would time and again loose in battle to titles like Halo and Grand Theft Auto.
Today the battlefield is embroiled in a war between the aggressive-position of Microsoft that allowed Microsoft to bring high-definition onto the field first, with always online Xbox 360. The power and staggering user base of the millions of rabid Playstation 3 consumers, and Nintendo’s vision for the future of interactive entertainment, the Wii.
Nintendo is implementing a usual tactic with its move to push interactive entertainment in a new direction with the Wii. The Wii experience is a wireless interaction between the human mind and our inventions, a shift in thinking that allows humans and machines to interface in a new and exciting way that could evolve the interactive entertainment experience in ways writers have dreamed of and gamers are embracing.
Nintendo is bringing the fun of gaming back into the game, attempting new tactics on the hoping to re-define its future and the direction of interactive entertainment, and taking a swing at writing history and regaining their position as top dog in the industry.
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