It's going to be the hottest system this holiday season, so reserve your unit now. Nintendo's next-generation Wii gaming platform will hit U.S. shelves on November 19. And with this project, Nintendo wants to broaden its audience beyond hard-core gamers. Priced at $249 and including a host of multimedia features, Nintendo hopes Wii will become the new family entertainment center (Fig. 1).
"Wii reinvents games for the devoted player," says Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America. "But more importantly, Wii breaks the wall separating players from non-players by delivering the best game experiences for the most affordable price. We believe the next leap is games for the masses—young and old, gamer or non, alone, with a friend, or with the whole family."
The system is based on user-friendly channels. Gaming is an option, of course. But other channels connect users to news and weather reports, personal photo collections, an online archive of vintage games, a messaging system, and the Internet—all through the WiiConnect24 service. To surf the Web, users download the Opera browser with Wii Points. Compatible with Macromedia Flash, the service also runs Ajax software.
While many of today's games are very complicated, Nintendo made an effort to simplify many of its titles. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're easy. The console will include Wii Sports, a single disc featuring tennis, golf, baseball, bowling, and boxing. Instead of a joystick or keypad, however, players use the wireless, motion-sensitive Wii Remote to control the gaming console.
"Our previous controllers, for the NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube, have evolved by adding features. That is to say, a unit of functionality is added and integrated into the design," says Kenichiro Ashida of Nintendo's Integrated Research and Development Division. "With the Wii Remote, however, we didn't just add, but subtracted as well, and even multiplied and divided."
Players can swing the Wii-mote like a tennis racquet or golf club, turn it like a steering wheel, or aim it like a gun in first-person shooters. Its Bluetooth technology gives it a 30-ft range, or a 15-ft range when it's used as a pointing device. It includes a speaker and a rumble feature. An expansion port supports devices like the Nunchuk controller, which uses the same motion-sensing technology while adding an analog stick for additional functionality (Fig. 2).
The machine itself reflects this emphasis on simplicity. Measuring 8.5 by 6 by 2 in., the Wii is about the size of three DVD cases stacked on top of each other, so it can slip into family entertainment units that already are crowded with other A/V equipment. It also uses a PowerPC CPU (code-named Broadway) made with a 90-nm SOI CMOS process jointly developed with and manufactured by IBM.
The designers wanted a machine that could run 24 hours a day, so they relied on Nintendo's handheld development experience to minimize power consumption. And instead of letting the system's fan run all night to cool the circuits, making noise that surely would annoy plenty of parents, the designers strove to minimize the heat the ICs released.
Meanwhile, Wii communicates wirelessly with the Internet via IEEE 802.11 or a USB 2.0 local-area network adapter. It can wirelessly connect with the Nintendo DS system and handle up to four Remote controllers as well. Its single self-loading media bay not only plays single- or double-layered 12-cm optical discs for the Wii console, it's also backward-compatible with all 530 Nintendo GameCube titles. Wii features a bay for an SD memory card for an additional boost too. Thirty new games and 30 retro titles will be available when the Wii makes its debut.