The boundary-pushing corporate forefather of this industry, Nintendo never fails to surprise. And that was especially evident during E3 2005. With questions lingering over the company's next project, President Satoru Iwata came on stage to reveal the "Nintendo Revolution", a working prototype, and later showed the controller at that year's Tokyo Game Show. Initial response was mixed, but mostly positive, and "Revolution" was the working name until Nintendo officially changed it to "Wii".
Needless to say, critics were laughing. The console-maker couldn't afford another disappointing machine following the failure of the Gamecube and it was assumed Nintendo missed the point. It was an imperfect package: odd controller, small box and not embracing online. Though, that last point wasn't completely unexpected. Considering the dominance of Xbox Live, focusing elsewhere appeared like business suicide. If only the media knew of Nintendo's targeted audience, they'd have sung a different tune.
Launching in September 2006, units flew off the shelves. British retailers actually ran out of pre-order consoles and needed a month to fulfill all purchases. Sales were persistent throughout the console's first two years, overtaking the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 combined in that time period. Currently, the Wii rests comfortably at 80 million units sold, leaving Nintendo to swim in pools full of money. But, while the machine trumped all expectations and outsold its competitors twofold, Nintendo unlocked the true potential of gaming as a medium.
Before the Wii, for a game to break into mainstream popularity was rare. Few franchises ever achieved that desired level of success, and not surprisingly most notable ones came from Nintendo. The shellacking Nintendo received for steering in a different direction actually pushed it to monumental success and instant recognition by its newfound fanbase, the non-gamer, and broke that boundary of widespread appeal. The company did the impossible: first, splitting open the "enclosed" nature of gaming societies; and second, amassed a worldwide sensation.
The lasting impact of the Wii puts the gaming industry right in the centerfold. An entire industry is currently watching Christmas next year, where if rumours are true, Microsoft will be stiff competition for the Wii U. Here's to hoping Super Mario Galaxy 3 is a launch title.
Silverblade Sunday is my sometimes weekly feature about a prominent issue or reflection about the video game industry. Check out the tab up top! And please subscribe via RSS, email, submit to any blog directories or sites like StumbleUpon or Facebook, Tweet, and anything else to spread the word! Thanks, truly. :)