Almost two weeks (so far) with a Wii

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I’ve never been a gamer, and we’ve never owned a game console. But Mo, who just turned nine last week, surprised and impressed the heck out of us by managing to save over a hundred dollars of his own money over the last year, scraped up from his $2 a week allowance, gifts, and picking up whatever change he finds lying around the house. His intent was to use the money to buy a Nintendo GameCube.

But when I showed him the advance trailer for Nintendo’s Wii console in November, he decided that’s what he wanted, and I told him I’d make up the difference in the cost between the two devices.

The problem, of course, was actually finding a Wii. Finally after several attempts over the holidays and almost daily calls to Fred Meyer, Gamestop, and Target ever since, I went and stood in line at a local Target store at 6:00 am on a recent Sunday. I was seventh in line, and by the time a store employee came out at 7:30 to announce that they had 26 Wiis in stock the line was over fifty people long. I emerged from the store, triumphant, with the Wii, an extra controller and nunchuck, and Super Monkeyball Banana Blitz.

Now, after a week and a half of playing with the Wii, it’s easy to understand why Nintendo has such a runaway hit on its hands. In a season where Microsoft and Sony were battling it out head-to-head over which advanced console will take over the living room with super-powerful high-def graphics, dvd playing capabilities, and more blood and gore, Nintendo came up with a new and devilishly simple concept – wireless, motion-detecting controllers that get people up off the couch and interacting in real space with the video games. A few games on the Wii have now become a staple of our evenings at home, and Michele and I have spent more than one night playing, long after Mo has gone to bed.

Yesterday’s New York Times had an article (link only good until they put it behind the paid subscription barrier) contrasting the reception of the Wii and the Playstation 3. The Times noted:

It appears that Nintendo has already created an unexpected three-way contest, while calling into question conventional wisdom that video games are the domain of testosterone-driven gadget freaks who can zone out for hours while conquering computer-generated foes.

“Nintendo came at things sideways — they made stuff that’s silly and fun,” said Jeff Gerstmann, senior editor of GameSpot, a Web site with video game news and reviews. “It has created a new style of gaming.”

Nintendo recently announced that during the holiday quarter, it shipped 3.2 million Wii consoles and sold 17.5 million games. Sony said it shipped 1.84 million PlayStation 3’s in the quarter, and sold 5.2 million copies of game software for the console.

I particularly liked the Sony spokesman’s response:

Dave Karraker, a spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment of America, said the Wii did not belong in the same category as the more powerful PlayStation 3. “Wii could be considered an impulse buy more than anything else,” he declared.

Yeah – all those impulse buyers in line at 6 am on a Sunday in winter weather. It’s nice to see the market for silly and fun innovation.

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