I’ve talked about the Wii quite a bit in previous posts, but yesterday I listened to the AllGames Interactive podcast where Scot Rubin was whining about the lack of online play on the Wii. And that got me thinking about the Wii’s strategy. Nintendo learned alot on how to market their product with the DS. They took a technically inferior product and beat the competition with innovation. And they didn’t do it just by having the innovation, they did several very clever things.
First, they moved away from the standard Long name and went to a shortened name for the system so that it didn’t get shortened like previous systems (NES, SNES, N64, GCN, GB, GBC, GBA)… they went straight to DS, and they copied this strategy with Wii. They then made an innovative system (obviously) with both, and they packed in a game (though for the DS it was a demo which was weak though it showed the potential of the system in every way, this is true for Wii Sports as well). And they had a stylishly funny advertising campaign (it is safe to say that DS’s “touching is good” campaign was way better than their current “Wii would like to play” Campaign.)
Now for the other part of the strategy. Perhaps the most namely strategy was that they didn’t launch with all their features ready, mainly wifi, though the Wii was also without the browser, weather channel, and news channel… each of which they launched in a seperate month to have a continuing stream of new features. This gives the perception to the end user that Nintendo will continue to put out new features at a regular pace for free, what can be better than that? I think that their wifi approach will be similar to this. Feb. will likely be an open month without any major new feature, March they may make the inevitable announcement, probably at GDC. And then we will finally see WiFi in play with the launch of Metroid 3 which will likely occur in May.
Now this doesn’t mean i think their wifi will work. In fact it may turn out that Nintendo has the worst of the 3 and not just because they were last. From all reports, Nintendo seems to be gearing towards having additional wii buddy numbers for each game, like they did with the DS, despite having a system number. I think this is a horrible mistake, I thought that the system number was fine, but game numbers are annoying and really just makes it so very few people will use it because they don’t want to deal with it. It sucks having a 16 digit number for every freaking game! I think it’d be nice if they at least allowed you the option of having an additional code for certain games so your kid doesn’t get into online play with them. And I also think it is a mistake for Nintendo to not have some sort of unified system even if it is a few leaderboards and achievement points like Microsoft. I know they wanna do their own thing, but those things are popular over there. (Even though personally I don’t care about em.)
I also think that Nintendo will do stuff with new versions of the Wii and/or the remote much like the DS, but this will not likely happen until at least x-mas this year or next summer. This will be used as a later surge once stock is in and the sales have slowed down. This really helped the DS trump the PSP with the release of the DS Lite. I think that they will repeat this too.
For the system, I could see a re-release with colors, no packed game for maybe $199 instead of $249. I think we can expect this to happen by June or July. But in the future I would also expect perhaps double the onboard flashRAM (up to 1GB built in), and DVD playback capability. Depending on how quickly the 802.11N standard gets out there, I could even see this as an added feature the the Wii.
For the controller, the latest rumor is that Nintendo is working on a controller with a better grip and rechargable battery on it. I think this has a fair chance at happening as slippage and batteries have been the two big complaints about the controller. I also think it’s likely we will see wireless and rechargable versions of the VC controller and nunchucku. However, more longterm after those controllers, I think it seems likely for a speaker on the controller, as well as longer battery life (likely in conjunction with something like Nintendogs).
Overall, I can’t deny that such a strategy works. The constant addition of new features keeps the system updated. It often makes people want to buy the system a second time which pads the numbers, (Not unlike how Sony makes crappy products that almost always breaks and thus people who owned a PS1 or PS2 often bought two or three of them due to it costing less to just buy a new one than it did to send it in to Sony). Heck I almost expect Nintendo to ship new versions of the Wii in 3 years with faster processors and memory and start developing for that… not unlike the Gameboy’s move to the Game Boy Color, and then to the Game Boy Advance… always taking the same base architecture and then updating it for the times.