Nintendo’s original Wii is as peculiar a video game console as it is a successful one. Its story has some understandably wacky bits as well. Such as: have you ever wondered where Miis came from?
The trivia pros at Did You Know Gaming? turned their gaze on the last-generation Nintendo console in their latest video, and, as usual, the results are very interesting. Here’s a quick summary of the seven main fun facts I gleaned from the above video:
- The motion-control technology that was used in the Wii was first pitched unsuccessfully to both Microsoft and Sony before it was accepted by Nintendo. The hardware developer and inventor Tom Quinn had received a patent for his company Gyration’s motion-control tech in 1999. While it didn’t take off in aeronautics, Quinn began shopping the devices around to game companies in 2001. Apparently Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer was into the idea when Quinn pitched it to him, but the Xbox team was not. Sony CEO Ken Kutaragi, meanwhile, turned it down because he felt that the controllers would be too expensive to produce. Nintendo finally accepted Quinn’s pitch in September 2001 — the same month the GameCube launched
- The Wii’s controller was originally known as a “Gyropod,” and was designed to look and function much more like the original GameCube controller thanks to the presence of an analogue stick and numerous additional buttons. Eventually, the Wii’s primary controller was relentless simplified into the famously pared-down remote, with the analogue stick relegated to the Nunchuck add-on device.
- Nintendo ended up being sued by three different tech companies — Philips, Triton, and IA Labs — following the release of the Wii due to claims that the console and related motion-control peripherals infringed on their respective patents. Philips was the only one that ended up being successful.
- During the development of the Wii, current Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told the console’s developers to make Wii no thicker than two DVD cases. I know what you’re thinking: “that’s not very thick!” It really isn’t. The small size restriction was partly due to the fact that the console needed to be both discrete and relatively mobile, so that gamers could place it close enough to the television in order to actually pick up on the movements they were making while playing games on it.
- The Wii was built with a blue light on the front side of the console, which flashed every time the console owner received a new message. The specific timing of the light’s flashes were made to mimic the rhythm of a specific bird call — the one made by the Japanese bush warbler. Why? The video doesn’t explain. I guess there are some things man was just never meant to know.
- Due to all of the design constraints Nintendo executives places on the Wii, the console only ended up being twice as powerful as the GameCube, its immediate predecessor.
- Though the specific big-headed eccentrics known as “Miis” first showed up on the Wii, thematic inspiration for the characters traces all the way back to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES. Shigeru Miyamoto had an idea for a SNES game centered around drawing and assembling faces by tinkering with a number of pre-rendered facial features, which could then be transferred into other games. Others at Nintendo were confused by the idea, since they didn’t see it as much of a proper game. The Nintendo 64 tried to bring back the transportable faces once again as “Talent Studio.” But it only really had its time to shine once the “Mii maker” feature was introduced with the Wii. Man, just imagine where we’d be right now if Miyamoto hadn’t kept plugging away at what would eventually become Miis. We wouldn’t have the Miiverse now, that’s for sure. We might not even have — gasp — Tomodachi Life! Now there’s a counter-factual I don’t want to consider.
Well, this all certainly helps explain why an image of a Japanese bush warbler always seemed to pop into my head when I was playing Wii games back in the day, that’s for sure.
Learn more fun gaming-themed trivia at the Did You Know Gaming? YouTube channel.