Long ago, I promised myself I would never succumb to consumer mania and brave cold Canadian winter nights in front of a store to buy the hottest toy of the holiday season. However, some three or four months before Nintendo’s “Wii” released last year, my son started showing me articles about this new, innovative gaming system, explaining what it can do, taping rare commercials, even scouring youtube.com for prereleased presentations. Unbeknownst to me, I was slowly getting hooked on the thing, not yet knowing how much sheer frustration it would yield.
The darn thing was released mid-November, and we couldn’t get our hands on it until two days after my son’s birthday in April. And, believe me, it was not for the lack of trying. We tried to camp a few nights in front of Best Buy, but always managed to arrive too late, as the allotted number of people per unit had already lined up in front of us.
We then tried making friends with store managers, but that didn’t work out either. I even started writing angry letters to Nintendo for not having a plan B in case their system was wildly successful. I called Best Buy, Future Shop, Costco, and the Source on a daily basis, to the point where they told me, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Of course, they never did. At one point, I almost went on eBay and spent twice as much for the console from the heartless owners of multiple units. To this day, I wonder what they knew that I didn’t.
What finally generated positive results was my husband hiring a couple of nerds who worked for him — who were also Nintendo Wii fans — to look for the system when they were looking for Wii accessories. They found a console with my son’s name on it in a Toys “R” Us store in Ottawa two days after his actual birthday.
Naturally, we wanted to know what the fuss was all about, and found the system exciting to say the least. Since we first hooked it up, we have played numerous tennis tournaments, baseball, and even golfed a bit. Our dinner parties somehow always ended up in the family room, with children and adults playing together, laughing, and truly enjoying themselves. If only it were not for all the kids that suddenly started having sleepovers at our house, it would have been a perfect gift.
In contrast, for the first time, Microsoft’s “Xbox 360” and Sony’s “PlayStation 3” failed to capture such a broad market as Nintendo did with its Wii console. For example, Microsoft recently announced it will have to spend US$1.1 billion to fix a glitch in its console, while Sony had to cut down the price of its PlayStation by $100.00 to be more competitive with the $290.00-per-unit Nintendo Wii.
What made Nintendo Wii such a hit, other than the price? While PlayStation 3 is technologically superior, it brought to the market nothing new. Nintendo Wii, in contrast, is unique. The console’s motion-sensitive controllers created the first near-virtual world for players, where a player can actually swing a tennis racket or a golf club.
After more than a decade at it, Nintendo finally figured out how to make a winner. It was not about the most advanced and the most expensive technology, rather the most fun technology that brought consumers in droves. Actually, seven months after Nintendo Wii’s release, consumers are still scouring stores for consoles, while Nintendo is still out of breath trying to supply what seems like an insatiable market.