It had been a long time since I'd bought a new video game console and my son had turned 5 - the perfect time for a Nintendo Wii! The first ads to come out for the Wii sold it as a game console for little kids. All the games advertised on TV seemed very juvenile, which struck me as a shame, because their wireless controller seemed insanely innovative and ahead of everyone else. It wasn't just wireless - it changed the way we interact with games. Good stuff.
Nintendo Wii - Technical Specifications
The Wii is a home video game console released by Nintendo on November 19, 2006. As a seventh-generation console, the Wii primarily competes with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. Nintendo states that its console targets a broader demographic than that of the two others. As of April 2011, the Wii leads the generation over the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in worldwide sales, and in December 2009 broke the record for best-selling console in a single month in the United States.
A distinguishing feature of the console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and detects movement in three dimensions. Another distinctive feature of the console is WiiConnect24, which enables it to receive messages and updates over the Internet while in standby mode.
The Wii is Nintendo's fifth home console and the direct successor of the Nintendo GameCube, being fully backwardly compatible with all GameCube games and most accessories. Nintendo first spoke of the console at the 2004 E3 press conference and later unveiled the system at the 2005 E3. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata revealed a prototype of the controller at the September 2005 Tokyo Game Show. At E3 2006, the console won the first of several awards. By December 8, 2006, it had completed its launch in four key markets.
The console was conceived in 2001, as the Nintendo GameCube was first seeing release. According to an interview with Nintendo's game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, the concept involved focusing on a new form of player interaction. "The consensus was that power isn't everything for a console. Too many powerful consoles can't coexist. It's like having only ferocious dinosaurs. They might fight and hasten their own extinction."
Two years later, engineers and designers were brought together to develop the concept further. By 2005, the controller interface had taken form, but a public showing at that year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was withdrawn. Miyamoto stated that, "We had some troubleshooting to do. So we decided not to reveal the controller and instead we displayed just the console." Nintendo president Satoru Iwata later unveiled and demonstrated the Wii Remote at the September Tokyo Game Show.
The Nintendo DS is said to have influenced the Wii design. Designer Ken'ichiro Ashida noted, "We had the DS on our minds as we worked on the Wii. We thought about copying the DS's touch-panel interface and even came up with a prototype." The idea was eventually rejected, with the notion that the two gaming systems would be identical. Miyamoto also expressed that, "if the DS had flopped, we might have taken the Wii back to the drawing board."
The console was known by the code name of "Revolution" until April 27, 2006, immediately prior to E3. The Nintendo Style Guide refers to the console as "simply Wii, not Nintendo Wii", making it the first home console Nintendo has marketed outside of Japan without the company name featured in its trademark. While "Wiis" is a commonly used pluralization of the console, Nintendo has stated that the official plural form is "Wii systems" or "Wii consoles." Nintendo's spelling of "Wii" with two lower-case "i" characters is meant to resemble two people standing side by side, representing players gathering together, as well as to represent the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. The company has given many reasons for this choice of name since the announcement; however, the best known is:
"Wii sounds like 'we', which emphasizes that the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion."
Despite Nintendo's justification for the name, some video game developers and members of the press reacted negatively towards the change. They preferred "Revolution" over "Wii" and Forbes expressed fear "that the name would convey a continued sense of 'kidiness' to the console." The BBC reported the day after the name was announced that "a long list of puerile jokes, based on the name," had appeared on the Internet. Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Aime acknowledged the initial reaction and further explained the change:
"Revolution as a name is not ideal; it's long, and in some cultures, it's hard to pronounce. So we wanted something that was short, to the point, easy to pronounce, and distinctive. That's how 'Wii,' as a console name, was created."
Nintendo of America's then-Vice President of Corporate Affairs Perrin Kaplan defended its choice of "Wii" over "Revolution" and responded to critics of the name by stating, "Live with it, sleep with it, eat with it, move along with it and hopefully they'll arrive at the same place."
On September 14, 2006, Nintendo announced release information for Japan, North and South America, Australasia (Oceania), Asia and Europe, including dates, prices, and projected unit distribution numbers. It was announced that the majority of the 2006 shipments would be allotted to the Americas, and that 33 titles would be available in the 2006 launch window. The Wii was launched in the United States on November 19, 2006 at $249.99. It was later launched in the United Kingdom on December 8, 2006 at Ł179. The UK suffered a widespread shortage of console units as many high-street and online stores were unable to fulfill all pre-orders when it was released. The Wii was launched in South Korea on April 26, 2008 and in Taiwan on July 12, 2008.
Since its launch, the monthly sales numbers of the console have been higher than its competitors across the globe. According to the NPD Group, the Wii sold more units in the United States than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined in the first half of 2007. This lead is even larger in the Japanese market, where it currently leads in total sales, having outsold both consoles by factors of 2:1] to 6:1 nearly every week from launch until November 2007. In Australia, the Wii exceeded the record set by the Xbox 360 to become the fastest-selling game console in Australian history.
On September 12, 2007, it was reported by the Financial Times that the Wii had surpassed the Xbox 360, which was released one year previously, and had become the market leader in home console sales for the current generation, based on sales figures from Enterbrain, NPD Group, and GfK. This was the first time a Nintendo console had led its generation in sales since the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
On July 11, 2007, Nintendo warned that the Wii would remain in short supply throughout that calendar year. In December 2007, Reggie Fils-Aimé revealed that Nintendo was producing approximately 1.8 million Wii consoles each month. Some UK stores still had a shortage of consoles as of March 2007, demand still outpaced supply in the United States as of June 2007, and the console "selling out almost as quickly as it hits retail shelves" in Canada as of April 2008. In October 2008, Nintendo announced that between October and December 2008 the Wii would have its North American supplies increased considerably from 2007's levels, while producing 2.4 million Wii units a month worldwide, compared to 1.6 million per month in 2007.
In 2007, the Wii was the second best-selling game console (behind the Nintendo DS) in the US and Japan with 6.29 million and 3,629,361 units sold respectively, according to the NPD Group and Enterbrain. During the same year, the Wii had outsold the PlayStation 3 by 3:1 in Japan, while the Xbox 360 had sold 257,841 units in that region that year, according to Enterbrain. In Europe, the Wii sold 0.7 million units in 2006 and 4.8 million in 2007 according to estimates by Electronic Arts. In 2008, the Wii was the best-selling home console in Japan with 2,908,342 units sold, according to the Enterbrain. Prior to the release of the NPD Group's video game statistics for January 2008, the Wii had been ahead of the Xbox 360 and PS3 in US sales in most months since the Wii and PS3 were released, according to data by the NPD Group. In the United States, the Wii had sold 10.9 million units by July 1, 2008, making it the leader in current-generation home console sales, according to the NPD Group, surpassing the Xbox 360 which was released a year prior to the Wii. As of November 1, 2008, the Wii had sold 13.4 million units in the US, almost two million more than Xbox 360 and over twice the number of PlayStation 3 units sold, according to the NPD Group.
In Japan, the Wii had surpassed the number of Nintendo GameCube units sold by January 2008; the Wii had sold 7,526,821 units as of December 28, 2008, according to Enterbrain. According to the NPD Group, the Wii surpassed the Xbox 360 to become the best-selling "next generation" home video game console in Canada with 813,000 units sold by April 1, 2008, and had been the best-selling home console for 13 of the previous 17 months. In the first six months of 2008, the Wii had sold 318,000 units in Canada, outselling its nearest competitor, the PlayStation 3, almost 2:1. According to the NPD Group, the Wii had sold a total of 1,060,000 units in Canada as of August 1, 2008, making it the first current generation home console to surpass the million unit mark in that country. In the first seven months of 2008, the Wii outsold the PS3 and the Xbox 360 combined with 376,000 units sold in Canada. In the United Kingdom, the Wii leads in current generation home console sales with 4.9 million units sold as of January 3, 2009, according to GfK Chart-Track. On March 25, 2009, at the Game Developers Conference, Satoru Iwata said that worldwide shipments of Wii had reached 50 million.
While Microsoft and Sony have experienced losses producing their consoles in the hopes of making a long-term profit on software sales, Nintendo reportedly has optimized production costs to obtain a significant profit margin with each Wii unit sold. On September 17, 2007, the Financial Times reported that this direct profit per Wii sold may vary from $13 in Japan to $49 in the United States and $79 in Europe. On December 2, 2008, Forbes reported that Nintendo makes a $6 operating profit per Wii unit sold.
Nintendo reported on May 7, 2009 increases in operating profits for its fiscal year (April 1, 2008 - March 31, 2009), and a rise in sales-setting record earnings compared to the previous year. Kenji Hall of BusinessWeek called the company "a bright spot in an otherwise dismal Japanese tech sector" citing the unique qualities of the Wii and DSi. However, Nintendo's financial forecasts until March 2010 had investors and analysts questioning if the company cannot keep its streak from ending. The Japanese market, which tends to serve as an leading indicator for global markets, saw Wii sales drop by 47% when comparing Nintendo's fiscal year of 2008-2009, to the previous year. While analysts predicted that game console sales in general will fall in 2009, Hall argued "Nintendo's big advantages are disappearing" amid price reductions of the Xbox 360 and rumors of Sony unveiling a motion-sensing wireless controller.
On September 23, 2009, Nintendo announced its first price drops for the console. In Japan, the price dropped from Ľ25,000 to Ľ20,000, effective October 1, 2009. In the United States, the price was reduced by $50 resulting in a new MSRP of $199.99, effective September 27, 2009. In Europe (excepting non-eurozone nations), the price of a Wii console dropped to 199 from 249. Nintendo sold more than three million Wii consoles in the U.S. in December 2009, setting a regional record for the month and ending 9 months of declining sales, as a result of the price cut and software releases such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii. As of the end of that month, the Wii is the best selling home video game console produced by Nintendo with sales of over 67 million units, surpassing that of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. As of March 31, according to Nintendo, the Wii has sold 70.93 million units worldwide.
Nintendo hopes to target a wider demographic with its console than that of others in the seventh generation. At a press conference for the then-upcoming Nintendo DS game Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies in December 2006, Satoru Iwata insisted "We're not thinking about fighting Sony, but about how many people we can get to play games. The thing we're thinking about most is not portable systems, consoles, and so forth, but that we want to get new people playing games."
This is reflected in Nintendo's series of television advertisements in North America, directed by Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan, as well as Internet ads. The ad slogans are "Wii would like to play" and "Experience a new way to play." These ads ran starting November 15, 2006 and had a total budget of over US$200 million throughout the year. The productions are Nintendo's first broad-based advertising strategy and include a two-minute video clip showing a varied assortment of people enjoying the Wii system, such as urban apartment-dwellers, country ranchers, grandparents, and parents with their children. The music in the ads is from the song "Kodo (Inside the Sun Remix)" by the Yoshida Brothers. The marketing campaign has proved to be successful: pensioners as old as 103 have been reported to be playing the Wii in the United Kingdom. A report by the British newspaper The People also stated that Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom has played using the console.
A few years after the Wii was released, speculations were raised about Nintendo's eighth-generation home console. Initial beliefs were that the new console would be an enhanced version of the Wii, named the "Wii HD" and would have high-definition video output along with a Blu-ray Disc drive built in with a release in 2011. However, Satoru Iwata later stated that he sees "no significant reason" to include HD for the current Wii console, and that such an addition would be better suited for a successor. Shigeru Miyamoto also expressed Nintendo's interest in working with HD graphics, but clarified that the company is primarily focused on the gameplay experience. As of October 2009, Miyamoto said that they currently had no concrete plans about a successor yet, but knew that the successor would possibly still feature motion controls and expects its interface to be "more compact" and cheaper. Satoru Iwata also mentioned that the Wii's successor might be 3D-compatible, but concluded that the adoption rates of 3D televisions should increase to at least 30% first.
Reggie Fils-Aime commented that he felt "confident the Wii home entertainment console has a very long life in front of it" and declared that a successor would not be launched in the near future. At the E3 2010 presentation, Iwata revealed to the BBC that they would begin announcing a new console once Nintendo ran "out of ideas with the current hardware and cannot give users any more meaningful surprises with the technology [they] have." Later, at an investors meeting, he disclosed that they were "of course studying and developing the next console to Wii", but they were simultaneously keeping its concepts secret because it was "really important for [his] business to positively surprise people." Reggie Fils-Aime commented in a CNN article and claimed that Nintendo's next home console will not likely feature stereoscopic 3D, based on what 3D technology Nintendo has experimented with.
The Wii is Nintendo's smallest home console to date; it measures 44 mm (1.73 in) wide, 157 mm (6.18 in) tall and 215.4 mm (8.48 in) deep in its vertical orientation, slightly larger than three DVD cases stacked together. The included stand measures 55.4 mm (2.18 in) wide, 44 mm (1.73 in) tall and 225.6 mm (8.88 in) deep. The system weighs 1.2 kg (2.7 lb), which makes it the lightest of the three major seventh generation consoles. The console can be placed either horizontally or vertically. The prefix for the numbering scheme of the system and its parts and accessories is "RVL-" after its code name of "Revolution". The console also features a recurring design theme: the console itself, the power supply and all the sockets have one of their corners chipped off in a triangular fashion.
The front of the console features an illuminated slot-loading optical media drive that accepts both 12 cm Wii Optical Discs and 8 cm Nintendo GameCube Game Discs. The blue light in the disc slot illuminates briefly when the console is turned on and pulsates when new data is received through WiiConnect24. After the update that includes System Menu 3.0, the disc slot light activates whenever a Wii disc is inserted or ejected. When there is no WiiConnect24 information, the light stays off. The disc slot light remains off during gameplay or when using other features. Two USB ports are located at its rear. An SD card slot hides behind the cover on the front of the console.
The Wii launch package includes the console, a stand to allow the console to be placed vertically, a circular clear stabilizer for the main stand, one Wii Remote, one Nunchuk attachment, one Sensor Bar, a removable stand for the bar, one external main power adapter, two AA batteries, one composite AV cable with RCA connectors, a SCART adapter in European countries (component video and other types of cables are available separately), operation documentation, and, in all regions except Japan and South Korea, a copy of the game Wii Sports.
The disc reader of the Wii does not play DVD-Video or DVD-Audio discs. A 2006 announcement had stated a new version of the Wii capable of DVD-Video playback would be released in 2007; however Nintendo delayed its release to focus on producing the original console to meet demand. Nintendo's initial announcement stated that it "requires more than a firmware upgrade" to implement and that the functionality could not be made available as an upgrade option for the existing Wii model. Despite this assertion, third parties have used Wii homebrew to add DVD playback to the original unmodified Wii units. The Wii also can be hacked to enable an owner to use the console for other activities than those intended by Nintendo. Several brands of modchips are available for the Wii.
Although Nintendo showed the console and the Wii Remote in white, black, silver, lime green, and red before it was released, it had only been available in white for its first two and a half years of sales. Black systems were made available in Japan in August 2009, in Europe in November 2009, and in North America on May 9, 2010. A red Wii system bundle was made available in Japan on November 11, 2010, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. The UK version of the limited edition red Wii was released on October 29, 2010, preloaded with the original Donkey Kong game. It also featured the Wii Remote Plus, which is a new version of the controller with integrated Wii Motion Plus technology. The red Wii bundle was released in North America on November 7, 2010 bundled with New Super Mario Bros. Wii and the Wii Remote Plus.
On July 11, 2007, Nintendo revealed the Wii Balance Board at E3 2007 along with Wii Fit. It is a wireless balance board accessory for the Wii that contains multiple pressure sensors used to measure the user's center of balance. Namco Bandai produced a mat controller, a simpler less sophisticated competitor to the balance board, that connects to the GameCube controller port.
The Wii Remote is the primary controller for the console. It uses a combination of built-in accelerometers and infrared detection to sense its position in 3D space when pointed at the LEDs within the Sensor Bar. This design allows users to control the game using physical gestures as well as traditional button presses. The controller connects to the console using Bluetooth and features rumble as well as an internal speaker. The Wii Remote can connect to expansion devices through a proprietary port at the base of the controller. The device bundled with the Wii retail package is the Nunchuk unit, which features an accelerometer and a traditional analog stick with two trigger buttons. In addition, an attachable wrist strap can be used to prevent the player from unintentionally dropping or throwing the Wii Remote. Nintendo has also since offered a stronger strap and the Wii Remote Jacket to provide extra grip and protection. The Wii MotionPlus was announced as a device that connects to the Wii Remote to supplement the accelerometer and Sensor Bar capabilities and enable actions to be rendered identically on the screen in real time. Nintendo also revealed the Wii Vitality Sensor, a fingertip pulse oximeter sensor that connects through the Wii Remote.
The Wii console contains 512 megabytes of internal flash memory and features an SD card slot for external storage. An SD card can be used for uploading photos as well as backing up saved game data and downloaded Virtual Console and WiiWare games. To use the SD slot for transferring game saves, an update must be installed. An installation can be initiated from the Wii options menu through an Internet connection, or by inserting a game disc containing the update. Virtual Console data cannot be restored to any system except the unit of origin. An SD card can also be used to create customized in-game music from stored MP3 files, as first shown in Excite Truck, as well as music for the slideshow feature of the Photo Channel. Version 1.1 of the Photo Channel removed MP3 playback in favor of AAC support.
At the Nintendo Fall Press Conference in October 2008, Satoru Iwata announced that Wii owners would have the option to download WiiWare and Virtual Console content directly onto an SD card. The option would offer an alternative to "address the console's insufficient memory storage". The announcement stated that it would be available in Japan in the spring of 2009. Nintendo made the update available on March 25, 2009. In addition to the previously announced functionality, it lets the player load Virtual Console and WiiWare games directly from the SD card. The update allows the use of SDHC cards, increasing the limit on SD card size from 2 GB to 32 GB.
Nintendo has released few technical details regarding the Wii system, but some key facts have leaked through the press. Though none of these reports has been officially confirmed, they generally point to the console as being an extension or advancement of the Nintendo GameCube architecture. More specifically, the reported analyses state that the Wii is roughly 1.5 to 2 times as powerful as its predecessor. Based on the leaked specifications, the Wii is the least powerful of the major home consoles in its generation.
CPU: PowerPC-based "Broadway" processor, made with a 90 nm SOI CMOS process, reportedly clocked at 729 MHz
GPU: ATI "Hollywood" GPU made with a 90 nm CMOS process, reportedly clocked at 243 MHz
"Starlet", part of the Hollywood package: an ARM926EJ-S processor reportedly clocked at 243 MHz.
88 MB main memory (24 MB "internal" 1T-SRAM integrated into graphics package, 64 MB "external" GDDR3 SDRAM)
3 MB embedded GPU texture memory and framebuffer.
Ports and peripheral capabilities:
Up to 16 Wii Remote controllers (10 in Standard Mode, 6 in One Time Mode, connected wirelessly via Bluetooth)
Nintendo GameCube controller ports (4)
Nintendo GameCube Memory Card slots (2)
SD memory card slot (supports SDHC cards as of System Menu 4.0)
USB 2.0 ports (2)
Sensor Bar power port
Accessory port on bottom of Wii Remote
Optional USB keyboard input in message board, Wii Shop Channel, and the Internet Channel (as of 3.0 and 3.1 firmware update)
Mitsumi DWM-W004 WiFi 802.11b/g wireless module
Compatible with optional USB 2.0 to Ethernet LAN adapter
'AV Multi Out' port
Built-in content ratings systems:
BBFC, CERO, ESRB, ACB, OFLC (NZ), PEGI, USK
512 MB built-in NAND flash memory
Expanded storage via SD and SDHC card memory (up to 32 GB)
Nintendo GameCube Memory Card (required for GameCube game saves)
Slot-loading disc drive compatible with 8 cm Nintendo GameCube Game Disc and 12 cm Wii Optical Disc
Mask ROM by Macronix
Custom 'AV Multi Out' port supporting composite video, component video, S-Video (NTSC only) and RGB SCART (PAL only)
480p (PAL/NTSC), 480i (PAL/NTSC) or 576i (PAL/SECAM), standard 4:3 and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
Main: Stereo - Dolby Pro Logic II-capable
Controller: Built-in speaker
18 watts when switched onv
9.6 watts in standby with WiiConnect24 standby connection
1.3 watts in standby
The first Wii system software update via WiiConnect24 caused a very small portion of launch units to become completely unusable. This forced users to either send their units to Nintendo for repairs (if they wished to retain their saved data) or exchange it for a free replacement.
With the release of dual-layer Wii Optical Discs, Nintendo of America has stated that some Wii systems may have difficulty reading the high-density software due to a contaminated laser lens. Nintendo is offering a free repair for owners who experience this issue.
The Wii Remote can lose track of the Wii system that it has been set to, requiring that it be reset and resynchronized. Nintendo's support website provides instructions for this process, and to troubleshoot related issues.
The console contains a number of internal features made available from its hardware and firmware components. The hardware allows for extendibility through expansion ports while the firmware and some other pieces of software can receive periodic updates via the WiiConnect24 service.
The Wii Menu interface is designed around the concept of television channels. Separate channels are graphically displayed in a grid and are navigated using the pointer capability of the Wii Remote. Except for the Disc Channel, it is possible to change the arrangement by holding down the A and B buttons to grab channels and move them around. There are six primary channels: the Disc Channel, Mii Channel, Photo Channel, Wii Shop Channel, Forecast Channel, and News Channel. The latter two were initially unavailable at launch, but activated through updates. The Wii + Internet Video Channel was installed with consoles manufactured in October 2008 or later. Additional channels are available for download from the Wii Shop Channel through WiiWare and also appear with each Virtual Console title. These include the Everybody Votes Channel, Internet Channel, Check Mii Out Channel, and the Nintendo Channel. As of October 18, 2010 Wii owners can download the Netflix Channel from the Wii shop Channel.
The Wii console is backward compatible with all official Nintendo GameCube software, as well as Nintendo GameCube Memory Cards and controllers. Compatibility with software is achieved with the slot-loading drive's ability to accept Nintendo GameCube Game Discs. The console supports progressive-scan output in 480p-enabled GameCube titles. Peripherals can be connected via a set of four GameCube controller ports and two Memory Card slots concealed by removable flip-open panels. The console therefore retains connectivity with the Game Boy Advance and e-Reader through the Game Boy Advance Cable, which is used in the same manner as it was used with the GameCube. This feature can only be accessed on those select GameCube titles that previously utilized it. The Wii for release in South Korea lacks GameCube backward compatibility.
A Wii console running a GameCube disc is restricted to GameCube functionality. As such, a GameCube controller is required to play GameCube titles, as neither the Wii Remote nor the Classic Controller functions in this capacity. A Nintendo GameCube Memory Card is also necessary to save game progress and content, as the Wii internal flash memory will not save GameCube games.
Backward compatibility is limited in some areas. Online and LAN-enabled features for Nintendo GameCube titles are unavailable on the Wii, as the console lacks serial ports for the Nintendo GameCube Broadband Adapter and Modem Adapter. The console uses a proprietary port for video output and is therefore incompatible with all Nintendo GameCube audio/video cables (composite video, S-Video, component video and RGB SCART). The console also lacks the GameCube footprint and high-speed port needed for Game Boy Player support.
Nintendo DS connectivity
The Wii system supports wireless connectivity with the Nintendo DS without any additional accessories. This connectivity allows the player to use the Nintendo DS microphone and touchscreen as inputs for Wii games. The first example Nintendo has given of a game using Nintendo DS-Wii connectivity is that of Pokémon Battle Revolution. Players with either the Pokémon Diamond or Pearl Nintendo DS games are able to play battles using their Nintendo DS as a controller. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time, released on both the Nintendo DS and Wii, features connectivity in which the two games can advance simultaneously. Nintendo later released the Nintendo Channel, which allows Wii owners to download game demos or additional data to their Nintendo DS in a process similar to that of a DS Download Station. The console is also able to expand Nintendo DS games.
The Wii console is able to connect to the Internet through its built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi or through a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, with both methods allowing players to access the established Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Wireless encryption by WEP, WPA (TKIP/RC4) and WPA2 (CCMP/AES) are supported. AOSS support was discreetly added in System Menu version 3.0. Just as for the Nintendo DS, Nintendo does not charge fees for playing via the service and the 12 digit Friend Code system controls how players connect to one another. Each Wii also has its own unique 16 digit Wii Code for use with Wii's non-game features. This system also implements console-based software including the Wii Message Board. One can also connect to the internet with third-party devices.
The service has several features for the console including the Virtual Console, WiiConnect24, Internet Channel, Forecast Channel, Everybody Votes Channel, News Channel and the Check Mii Out Channel. The console can also communicate and connect with other Wii systems through a self-generated wireless LAN, enabling local wireless multiplayer on different television sets. Battalion Wars 2 first demonstrated this feature for non-split screen multiplayer between two or more televisions.
On April 9, 2008, the BBC announced that its online BBC iPlayer would be available on the Wii via the Internet Channel browser; however, some users experienced difficulties with the service. On November 18, 2009, BBC iPlayer on the Wii was relaunched as the BBC iPlayer Channel, which is free to download from the Wii Shop Channel. The service is only available to people in the United Kingdom.
On December 26, 2008, Nintendo announced that it will launch a new video channel for the Wii. As of October 18, 2010 American and Canadian Wii owners can watch Netflix instantly as a channel without requiring a disc.
The console features parental controls, which can be used to prohibit younger users from playing games with content that would be considered unsuitable for their age level. When one attempts to play a Wii or Virtual Console game, it reads the content rating encoded in the game data; if this rating is greater than the system's set age level the game will not load without a correct override password. The parental controls can also restrict Internet access, which blocks the Internet Channel and system update features. Since the console is restricted to Nintendo GameCube functionality when playing Nintendo GameCube Game Discs, GameCube software is unaffected by Wii parental control settings.
European units mainly use the PEGI rating system, whereas North American units use the ESRB rating system. The Wii unit supports the native rating systems of many countries, including CERO in Japan, the USK in Germany, both the PEGI and BBFC in the United Kingdom, the ACB in Australia and the OFLC in New Zealand.
Homebrew developers have reverse-engineered the function that Nintendo uses to recover lost parental control passwords and created a simple script to obtain parental control reset codes.
Retail copies of games are supplied on proprietary, DVD-like Wii Optical Discs packaged in a keep case along with instruction information. On European releases, these retail boxes have a triangle printed at the bottom corner of the paper insert sleeve side. The hue of the triangle can be used to identify which region the particular title is intended for and which manual languages are included. The console supports regional lockout, which means that software purchased in one region can be only played on the hardware of the same region.
New games representing Nintendo's flagship franchises, including The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Pokémon, and Metroid, have been released, or are in development for Wii, in addition to many original titles and third party developed games. Nintendo has received strong third party support from prominent companies like Ubisoft, Sega, Square Enix, Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Capcom, with more games being developed exclusively for Wii than for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Nintendo also launched the New Play Control! line, a selection of enhanced GameCube games for the Wii featuring updated controls.
The Virtual Console service allows Wii owners to play games originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64, as well as Sega's Mega Drive/Genesis and SG-1000 Mark III/Sega Master System, NEC's TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine, SNK's Neo Geo console, the Commodore 64, and a selection of arcade games. Virtual Console games are distributed over broadband Internet via the Wii Shop Channel, and are saved to the Wii internal flash memory or to a removable SD card. Once downloaded, Virtual Console games can be accessed from the Wii Menu as individual channels, or directly from an SD card via the SD Card Menu. There is also a Wii homebrew community dedicated to creating and playing content that does not receive Nintendo endorsement.
The game development suite Unity can be used to create official Wii games. The developer must however be authorized by Nintendo to develop games for the console. Games must also be submitted to and accepted by Nintendo in order to be sold.
Over 509.66 million Wii games were sold worldwide as of December 2009, with 54 titles surpassing the million-unit mark. The most successful game is Wii Sports, which comes bundled with the console in most regions, and has sold 67.71 million copies worldwide as of September 30, 2010, and surpassed Super Mario Bros. as the best-selling game of all time. The best-selling unbundled game is Wii Play, with 26.71 million units.