Sony And Microsoft Could Have Killed The Wii Long Before It Would Save Nintendo

The midnight launch of the Wii U is a perfect time to reflect on the craze, six years ago, surrounding its predecessor, and the industry-transforming success of the Wii. And there really is no finer story you could read about that than what Rob Crossley has written for CVG.

Microsoft and Sony both had their shots at acquiring the motion control technology that would make their consoles second- and-third place to Nintendo. Had either done so, it could have been the end of console making for Nintendo, whose GameCube was in dire straits.

By 2001, the man whose patents would form the workings of the Wii Remote had sat through two humiliating presentations to dismissive Sony and Microsoft executives. So when Nintendo's executives started arguing in Japanese in front of him, he thought he would take strike three.

"And then, in the middle of this debate that was getting louder and louder, [Nintendo chairman Atsushi] Asada barked something and there was total silence," said the inventor, Tom Quinn, in his first interview on the Wii. Asada decided unilaterally to buy Quinn's technology and a stake in his business.

Crossley weaves together an outstanding narrative, laying out all the forces and personalities in play, and everything at stake as Nintendo mounted its unlikely comeback on the Wii. In addition to getting Quinn, Crossley also gets valuable insight on Nintendo's internal deliberations from George Harrison, the former head of corporate communications for Nintendo of America. The story portrays an old, proud company determined to regain its No. 1 status, yet cunning enough to try things completely different in order to get there, in the face of others vehement doubts.

Whether you're getting a Wii U or playing something else tomorrow, go read it. It captures a momentous time in video gaming history.

Revolution: The Story of Wii [CVG]

Top photo/Getty


Comments

    Nintendo came back, but I'm not sure I like what it has become.

      If it had gone a different, let's say non-motion control direction with their next after the Gamecube, would Nintendo still be here today?

        They would be a software company - no one would let Mario and Zelda die out. And... I'm ok with that.

          Like Sonic? I'm sorry but If Nintendo were not to release the Wii and keep the game market stagnant. We would have most likely had terrible Mario / Zelda games that everyone dislikes.

          Last edited 18/11/12 1:59 pm

            Speak for yourself. The last 4 Sonic games have objectively been good to fantastic.

            How do you even come to that conclusion? 'Sonic was shit after Sega went software only, therefore Nintendo's Mario games will definitely be shit if they go software only'?!? Man your mind must be a solemn and peaceful place.

            sonic was going down the toilet long before sega folded

          I'd feel bad for them, but I'd definitely buy some mario/zelda games I they came to Xbox.

            Same here. But after the Wii, I'm done with Nintendo hardware. So until they go software only there will be no more Mario or Zelda for me. Unless I decide to get a 3DS sometime down the track, anyway.

              Yeah, because the 50+ exclusives for the system in the first 5 years just are not good enough, eh? The console lasted the time what a console should last, 5 years. If it had PS3/360 Visuals instead of ps2/cube graphics, i reckon the Wii could have easily kept support until mid or near the end of the next generation consoles.

                If it had PS3 / 360 visuals then it would havevhad a PS3 / 360 price tag and it would have crashed and burned.

              The Wii is pretty cheap and has soem great games - what's the loss on that?

                Mine has a thick layer of dust on it. It hasn't even been connected to a TV for the past 12 months and hasn't been missed. That doesn't really scream "good investment" to me.

          I really wish they'd become a software company... can you imagine Pokemon on iPhone, Mario on PS3, and Zelda on 360? And imagine a cross-platform Smash Bros.!

    They more than likely wouldn't, which in all honestly would be better for hardcore gamers everywhere. Imagine all of the good wii games made for 360, imagine having monster hunter and super smash brothers utilise the 360s online capabilities.

    I think most "hardcore" gamers would agree that Nintendo dying and the games coming to 360 would be amazing for everyone. (not ps3 because its online pales compared to 360 and its controllers are terrible)

    Last edited 18/11/12 1:31 pm

      The problem lays in that would Nintendo be even able to make Super Smash Bros with a smaller budget? From what I remember, SMBB was in development for quite some time, and I'm not sure such a development cycle can last in today's gaming market without one of the big three backing you up (and even then, if Sega or Microsoft decided to help, would it still be the same game?)

      Monster Hunter, well, that's just Capcom's caarraazzay decision.

      Nintendo have stated if they were to drop out of the console race they would not be making games at all I'm pretty sure. If they were to stop producing consoles they'd probably more likely offer up games on their own internet based online service like steam.
      You were probably never going to a see a Nintendo game on a Sony or Microsoft platform even if the Gamecube was the end of Nintendo consoles- maybe a merger (or 2nd party agreement) of sorts with SEGA would have come faster, Japan only, who knows?

      The funniest thing about of all this is how the repackaged the Gamecube into the Wii, marketed it correctly and sold enough of them to win the generation at the consoles end point. I loved the NES, SNES, N64 and the Gamecube. The Wii had a few very good games but I don't really like the console- or the standard motion controller very much. I think the WiiU however may hold quite a bit of potential.

      "Imagine all of the good wii games made for 360, imagine having monster hunter and super smash brothers utilize the 360s online capabilities."

      Nintendo at the time did not have the budget to produce HD content or a multi-cored console on a loss scheme, let alone providing internet services etc simultaneously and convincingly marketing it against it's competitors. They did what they had to do, their core IPs were the trump cards. But now they can provide these things.
      That's pretty much what the WiiU is, with the advantages of a 2nd touch screen for easier management of the aforementioned online capabilities- also inventory management and the plethora of other uses of the various controllers.
      Some say the WiiU is late to the party but it's kinda restarting it, hurry up PS4 and Xbox720. I want to see if they really do go for 4k support, how much better will the graphics / processing be? If they don't have graphics as good as a high end PC at that time I will be very unimpressed.

      By the time the PS4 and Xbox720 come out, I wonder what Nintendo will be scheming?

      LOL I love the way you destroy your own credibility there. Smooth! :-)

      PS3's online is also free...

        I wasn't comparing their value in $$, 360's online is superior. Its not a debate, it may not be in terms of dollar value, it is however a superior online service, its cost and other such things are't relevant . The unified accounts cross gameplay chat/communication and all the rest easily outclass the playstations offering.

        Since i too think xbox live is now ridiculously over priced and offers very little for what its asking when compared to what ps plus gives, it is however still the superior place for online gaming.

        @ Saturday, I would assume Nintendo would just remain as a games developer, not die off completely. They would just focus on making their Zelda/mario/metroid games and give it all the financial backing it needed to be a success. Though you are right that if they sold the rights off and w/e to say microsoft like they did with rare, all the franchises would likely die off horribly like poor old banjo did.

    Very good article (CVG). I can't comment on their site without creating a username, so i'll comment here.

    The article concludes twee-ly that Nintendos response to anxiety (falling market share) is innovation. I'm not quite sure how true that is. They DIDNT invent motiion control. Sure, they were smart enough to buy into the inventors company, and to subsequently back the innovation to the hilt, but they didn't invent it.

    As the article states multiple times, Nintendo were extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to secure the invention given that Sony and Microsoft were first given the opportunity.

    From this, it doesn't show me that Nintendo is an inherently strong company. It shows me that Nintendo is a company that had massive success in the 80s, arguably quite fortuitously, and has ever since been losing market share consistently, culminating in the dead duck that was the Gamecube which very nearly destroyed their company. Nintendo does not have the internal structures to come up with game changing technology - not in terms of horse power and not in terms of innovations. It does have the internal structures to come up with under powered machines and finger heart beat monitors.

    The Wii U will get better ratings than it deserves - we see that already with some of the high ratings for Nintendo-land - a compilation of a dozen mini games - how many core gamers are going to be happy with that game? NONE. How many casual gamers will spend $400 for the pleasure of playing it? NOT ENOUGH. Too many.

    Nintendo needed the Wii's Motion Controls, and they worked that opportunity very well - especially in terms of marketing and PR. But they've had that power-up and now they're on their last life. If MS, Sony, Google or Apple, or Steam, or OnLIve or Ouya, get ONE THING RIGHT - if they have one market grabbing success, then it'll be curtains for Nintendo. They don't have the capacity to weather a fight or a massive down-turn.

    Sony and MS have their markets - the core markets. They have a hand in other markets - families, kids, gamers. They have their reputations.

    Nintendo has cutesy franchises and it's heritage. And not a lot more. Apart from the revolution of touchscreen gaming which has been with us for give or take a decade.

      I have to agree, as an avid gamer I find any excuse i can to buy any and all new consoles but with the wii u (I want it because its a new console) i can't help but find reasons to NOT buy it. As I would easily be a "hardcore gamer" I dont see a single thing for me in the wii u.

      Sure it will have the current titles like ME3 batman etc and probably the stuff released next year too, but why would i buy any game when the ports will be crappy (because of alck of power and or optimisation) when compared to my 360?

      Why would i buy the next COD on wii u when sony/ms online service is far superior. Why would i want a console with 1/10th the storage space as my others (only forcing me to get yet another hard drive to mess with soley for the wii u). Especially when i need yet another power socket and device to separately power said hard drive.
      I don't want to have another horrible motion controller with a touch screen, ruining a game (as shown by jim http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/6508-Touch-Waggle-Touch-Waggle-Swipe)

      As a Hardcore gamer i can find 0 reasons to buy this console, the picture only gets worse when you consider it will once again bet woefully under powered when compared with the next gen xbox/ps consoles that will likely arrive next christmas.

      So the only market i see them grabbing is the casuals yet again, but as shown on the video about what the other people at kotaku thought it wont entice the "grandmas and mothers" to go out and grab one when they already have the wii, even more so when you consider its price point.

      So i dont see what market they are trying to appease here. Though i would never count them out completely, i think its more than likely (unless something major happens) that this will be nintendo's last home console.

        You're right about the hard drive space. My PS3 was a 120gb, which was plenty for a while, then I upgraded to 500gb, which cost just over $100 and was fairly easy to install - but I had to do some research, find a screw driver, and I managed to damage the clip that holds the hard drive in. Installing the hard drive wasn't a disaster, but it was a hassle that I probably couldn't be bothered to do again.

        So the Deluxe Wii U version has 32 gbs?! Do they not realise what century we're in. That's just woeful. I believe even their first day firmware update was 5gbs or so (?).

        To be fair, Sony also offer a pathetic 12gb option, and 360 still somehow manage to sell their 4gb version, so Nintendo aren't alone in this, but then they probably are alone in selling a "next gen" console with such a low storage capacity.

        Haven't they learned already that we love digital distribution? They really ought to have picked up on that already.

        Sure, you can go out and buy another hard drive to use with the Wii U - what a great solution - spend another $100 on another piece of technology.

        Then we still don't know (well I don't) if the Wii U will be the media work-horse that the PS3 is - will the Wii U play xvids etc via an external hard-drive? Who knows. It SHOULD, but then, we know that just because it SHOULD doesn't mean it WILL. Nintendo aren't of course alone in selling us technology that doesn't do basic things that we believe, as consumers, should come as standard and get surprised and disapointed when we discover that they don't. but Nintendo do seem to be quite effective at pulling such stunts.

        In fairness, the best thing about the Wii U in my opinion is the backwards compatibiity of the Wii's accessories and controllers. That would be the ONLY reason I would consider a Wii U - as I've already invested several hundreds of dollars in such accessories for them to never be used. Same with Sonys Move. So I really hope Sony copy that and maintain compatibility and support for Move. I've literally spent $300+ on Move and used it once, for about 10 minutes. Shakes head.

    I like to point it out every time but nintendo didn't do motion controll first... microsoft was way ahead of them back in the 90's with the freestyle pro for PC (google it if you dont know it).
    I personally think Nintendo would have done just as well with a new gamecube as the wii, I mean look at the wii u, it comes with the chunky touch screen controller and a gamecube style one... no wii mote.
    Almost every game I played on the Wii would have been better without motion controlls (only exceptions are where it was used like a mouse).
    I saw a comment above about how "Hardcore gamers" play xbox ect, and can't help but think of the commenter as a teenager who thinks they're hardcore. The old school gamers (who are hardcore as they've been playing for decades) grew up with Nintendo and Sega (and Atari, and Amstrad, ect, ect) and we were all sad to see Sega die in the hardware space (dreamcast was an awsome system) Nintendo have tried all sorts of dumbass ideas (look up the virtualboy) and they're still around. I for one give the credit to their marketing department and the fact that they preaty much never licence their games for non-nintendo hardware. I think a primary reason for their survival is actually Pokemon, starting more than a decade ago and still going, only on nintendo, watch the anime, get the toys, wanna play the game buy nintendo.

    I doubt Sony and Microsoft could have killed the Wii, if either of them had released somethig like the wii it would'nt have sold as the PS3 and xBox are less casual systems, and motion control like the wii is casual gaming (proper games tend to be worse for the motion controls).

      ^ this x10000 i have yet to ever see a single game that was improved via touch/waggle/wiggle or aiming, except a shooting game like time crisis.

      "I saw a comment above about how "Hardcore gamers" play xbox ect, and can't help but think of the commenter as a teenager who thinks they're hardcore."

      However i find this highly arrogant and dismissive, you then go to say "blah blah us old school gamers" Im 22 and am the very definition of a hardcore gamer, always was always will be, even when i was teenager. It doesn't make his point any less valid, the wii wasn't a real console it was a cash grab to get all the grandparents to go buy one with wii sports and never use the thing.

      There is a reason the wii had the lowest attach rate (games sold per console) i believe in history, because it was a casual machine and casuals aren't gamers (they dont buy games), they think they are hip playing angry birds and that it makes them "a cool gamer" ( thats the thing nowdays isn't it, cool to be a nerd?).

      But the wii u has now gone half assed after both markets and doesnt deliver to either, and i think its more than a valid point that they seemed to have "lucked" themselves into still existing. They havent done anything for gaming like microsoft (xbox live changed the console market for ever) or sony have. Nintendo seems to have only clung on because of luck and i think its about to run out. (touch and motion controls have done nothing but ruin potentially good games)

      Anyway not sure what the point i was trying to make was but, this isn't ment to offend just trying to get my point across. Which is alot harder with a migraine.

        No offence intended about with my teenager comment, But I find it hard to think of someone as a "hardcore gamer" when they think xBox is the only thing worth playing (even if they dislike the PS3 controller). I actually like the PS3 controller, and xBox controller... and the mouse & keyboard, and the wii mote for the two or so games that used the motion control in a sensible way, kinect and Move are allright as well i guess (though I only realy use the move as a gun, and the kinect's novelty wore off after an hour or so).
        The wii is the only system I've had where I find it hard to find a game worth playing that wouldn't be better on something else. Shooters (as in FPS) are best (I find) on the PC, Arcade shooters (Time Crisis) I prefer on the PS3 with move, RTS and Turn Based Strategy are PC, and just about anything else could be PS3 or xBox at your preference (I'll typically go PS3, and just get exclusives for the xBox, but see no issue either way)... Exclusives only for the Wii and I'll be wishing they were on a better system when playing them...

          Yep pretty much how i feel, every game i ever played on the wii would have played better on another system.

    Bah, motion control. Give me a controller (or better yet, keyboard and mouse) and a solid game anyday. #grumpyoldgamer

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