On the eve of the launch of the Wii U, it's somehow easy to forget that the Wii is about to sail on to Old-School territory. With the industry's eyes focused on the future, whether it be the Wii U, the PS4, or whatever the next Xbox is going to be called, it feels like a lot of air is getting sucked out of the current generation's room. Thankfully, Rob Crossley at CVG has produced one hell of a look back on how the curious Wiimote came to be - and fittingly so, as Nintendo's shiny white toaster looks to surpass the 100 million units-sold mark.
In 2001, Nintendo bought in to a tiny American company called Gyration that owned a world-wide patent on the motion control technology that would end up being the foundation of the Wiimote. This was after Gyration's owner had pitched the tech to both Microsoft and Sony, thinking that Nintendo was on its way to being an also-ran in the video game world. The tech was rather tersely rebuffed by both companies, and only then did Gyration go to Nintendo. The timing was ideal, as Nintendo was struggling to compete in the home console market against its much larger competitors, having seen a drop in overall hardware sales and market share in every generation since the release of the NES. It wanted out, to innovate and expand the market rather than go toe to toe with companies in much higher weight categories.
The rest is well-known. The Wii, with its innovative controller and appealing price, brought Nintendo unprecedented success in the home console market - selling far more than even the NES - opening up the new, friendlier markets it was looking for. And while it delighted many and changed much, it failed to deliver on everything it promised, and left others deeply unhappy, gamers and developers alike. But, it would seem, nowhere was the upset felt more strongly than in the boardrooms of Sony's and Microsoft's gaming divisions where, following lacklustre sales in the face of a light-weight competitor, heads rolled, hurried me-too hardware was ordered, and (ultimately) motion control was brought in to the fold with Kinect and Move.
I'd urge anyone interested in the gaming industry to check out CVG's article, which provides a very rare insight into the internal workings of the industry's biggest movers and shakers, and a fascinating look at how it came to be that a funny-sounding console from a company many expected to go the way of Sega made such a big splash.