With Nintendo vomiting up sound-bites like they are going out of fashion, James Temperton tries to cut through the bile to find out exactly what the Wii is all about and just what Nintendo are harping on about.

The Wii philosophy is something that is being emblazoned all over Nintendo’s promotional material. Just a quick look at most official Wii websites and you are accosted with a word that has been the new buzz in gaming ever since Nintendo started ‘thinking outside the box’. For a while it was just a word used by the media, but when Nintendo realised how intelligent it sounded they started plastering it on anything that moved. And they have never looked back. The fact that the Nintendo Wii has a ‘philosophy’ is about as ridiculous as Disney films having a polemic message.

However, we have all now been indoctrinated to believe it and it is something that Nin-tendo have been etching into the industry psyche for quite some time now. The Wii is all about something different, The Nintendo Difference, if you like. It is about innovation, about taking gaming in a whole new direction and adding life to what (Nintendo believe) is a stagnating market. Surely exponential games industry growth over the last ten years has failed to hit Nintendo’s radar. But still, credit where credit is due.

It all started on the 27th April 2006, just a few weeks before E3 was due to start. An email was sent out from Nintendo to press contacts and news wires all over the world. It read:

Introducing … Wii.

As in “we.”

While the code-name “Revolution” expressed our direction, Wii represents the an-swer.

Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else.

Wii will put people more in touch with their games … and each other. But you’re probably asking: What does the name mean?

Wii sounds like “we,” which emphasizes this console is for everyone.

Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what lan-guage they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.

Wii has a distinctive “ii” spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play.

And Wii, as a name and a console, brings something revolutionary to the world of video games that sets it apart from the crowd.

So that’s Wii. But now Nintendo needs you.

Because, it’s really not about you or me.

It’s about Wii.

And together, Wii will change everything.

Admittedly I did laugh, I couldn’t help myself. I wasn’t laughing at the name either, but Nin-tendo’s hideous rape of the English language. What the hell is that and why should I pay it any respect at all? Its corny, cheesy, contrived and if it were a person it would probably smell funny, wear a poncho and be called Lawrence. However, within all this dubious prose is the very core of the Wii philosophy. Ladies and gentlemen:

Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else.

This is what Nintendo are trying to do with the Wii (and with the DS), this is the whole new philosophy, as Reggie Fils-Aime said, it is about the feel of the games, not the look of the games. Consequently, from a graphical viewpoint the Wii philosophy rather glosses over that. The Wii aims to be accessible to everyone and enjoyable to anyone. No barriers, no excessive cost, but gaming stripped down to its barest elements and then built up again in a whole new way.

At Nintendo’s E3 2006 Press Conference, Reggie started the ball rolling:

“What you'll see from Nintendo is not just 'next'. Instead, it's what's absolutely new. What we're unveiling is the next leap in gaming; to a place where playing is no longer just about looks, it's about the feel. Where it's no longer confined to just the few - it's about everyone. And most of all, the next leap is not about what you see, because what you see is not always what you get. The next leap is about playing, because playing is believing."

All very nice and inspirational I’m sure you will agree. Never before had a console been described in such an elaborate and almost poetic way. For an art-form, gaming has always lacked that necessary element of art to really make it jump into the collective heart of the public. It comes across as a bit aesthetically obsessed and lacking in soul. So is the Wii philosophy aiming to put the soul back into gaming?

I’m sure if you asked Nintendo they would bite your hand off, steal the copyright and start firing it from every orifice. If Nintendo can make gaming appeal more to people on an emo-tional level then they are onto a gold mine. Lets face it, to many can videogames look like that much fun when they are so inaccessible and daunting? For Nintendo (quoting from their website), the Wii philosophy is all about:

• ‘A New Style of Gaming’
• ‘Break[ing] Down the Walls’
• ‘Expanding the Audience’
• ‘Unique Experiences’

In essence, Nintendo are going for what we all seek in our everyday lives. Clarity and openness (breaking down the walls), socially developing and integrating (expanding the audience) and the unexpected and the exciting (unique experiences and a new style of gaming). They are offering what any Media Studies student worth their salt (and that isn’t much worth) will excitedly inform you are ‘audience pleasures’. If you can please your au-dience (in a strictly non-sexual way), then you are already over half the way to winning ‘the battle’.

If the Wii philosophy is what Nintendo want to call it then let them. For me it is a way of thinking, rather than this crazy bastardisation of a learned activity. But who am I to be all pedantic when Nintendo are doing something genuinely exciting with the gaming industry, an industry I take a hugely vested interest in. Nintendo have done a lot of thinking about this new image, this new philosophy and this new business direction for their company and its products. If it all goes horribly wrong they certainly wont be a first philosopher to suffer insanity and social rejection...
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