How Does the Wii Work?

Imagine that you are one of the major video game console manufacturers in the world. Everyone in the industry sells pretty much the same stuff — a console containing a processor along with a two-handed game controller. If you were a few months behind the releases of your two main competitors and the previous generation console was last in line, what would you do to stand out?

One way to make a splash would be to really blow up the processor count and graphics firepower. The problem is that both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have lurked high places here. They have state-of-the-art multicore chips that cost a lot of money and time to develop.

So Nintendo took a different and much riskier path. Initially, he chose the code name “Revolution” for his new game console. Later, the “Revolution” gave way to a full-scale world war. At least that’s what we thought when we saw the new name, “Wii,” which sparked mental images of World War II. But that’s not what the name is meant to represent at all. In fact, according to the folks at Nintendo, the code name “Revolution” indicates where Nintendo is headed with the new console. The company chose to refer to its new console as the “Wii.” Nintendo has also stated that the pronunciation of the Wii, which is like the English word “we”, tells you who the console is for — all of us, everyone!

Putting the name aside, the company set a big goal – to dramatically improve the interface for video games. With this strategy, Nintendo built a lot of hype around its innovative controller for the Wii.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at Nintendo’s new console and interface. We’ll also learn what makes the Wii so different from the next generation of consoles.

Wii Antarmuka Interface and Specifications

If you look at the controllers for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and GameCube, you’ll see that they are almost identical. You hold it with two hands and use your thumb to control in-game action with buttons, D-pad, and joystick. Your index finger pulls the trigger that fires the weapon and performs other functions.

There are two ways to look at the similarities between these controllers. Are they identical because the designs have been honed to perfection and there is no room for improvement? That’s what happened, for example with the steering wheel. All cars have steering wheels, and they have all had steering wheels for almost a century.

Another approach is to think about controllers in a completely different way — a way that could revolutionize gameplay.

Nintendo takes the final approach: Its designers get out of the box and innovate. If you’re just using a traditional two-handed controller, the Wii controller might seem a little weird. It looks like a remote control for the TV and doesn’t have a joystick. But the early reviews have been great, and they really make sense once you understand the design principles.

Nintendo’s new gaming interface key is located inside the controller. Instead of using a joystick to control the game, the main control is the controller itself. The controller contains a solid-state accelerometer that allows it to sense:

  • Tilt and rotate up and down
  • Tilt and rotate left and right
  • Rotation along the main axis (like a screwdriver)
  • Acceleration up and down
  • Left and right acceleration
  • Accelerate towards the screen and away

The surprising thing is that you can create an accurate and natural user interface this way. See the next page for more information about controllers.

Wii controller

Controller from all angles PHOTO OWNERSHIP OF NINTENDO OF AMERICA, INC.

Prior to its release, Nintendo had several demos that let people get a feel for the new controller. One demo lets players shoot objects on the screen — they simply point the controller at the target and shoot. In another demo, the player flies a plane. All they have to do is move the controller the way they want the plane to move, and the plane on the screen to move. The motion-sensitive controller makes it easy to make sharp turns, barrel rolls and spins.

In another demo, the controller acts like a stick. The controller manipulates the fishing line, drumstick or fly swatter on the screen.

There are several advantages to this approach:

  1. Using the controller seems completely intuitive, meaning anyone can use it right away — no learning curve or fumbling like joysticks.
  2. The controller is very fast. You can move from one side of the screen to the other with a quick flick of your wrist.
  3. The controllers are very accurate: Things respond exactly the way you expect them to.
  4. The controller is a natural fit for the new gaming paradigm. Playing a game of swordfighting or fishing with a joystick is clunky. Playing it with a controller that can be swung like a sword or fishing rod is natural.
  5. Playing active games like tennis, boxing, or baseball with the Wii can even give you a cardio workout — a bonus for those who prefer playing video games to hitting the gym [source: Berkrot].

In the next section we will discuss some of the variations on this controller and see how these consoles are activated.

Wii Controller Variations

This system is not as pure as the previous descriptions would have you believe. First of all, the accelerometer alone doesn’t provide the accuracy needed to play certain games. Sensor bars, or “control strips” must be placed above or below the user’s television to monitor the controller’s position. Second, in many games you need the ability to aim and control more than one thing at a time. For example, in a first-person-shooter game, you’ll want to shoot while running. This means that you have to be able to aim the gun and move your character at the same time. The Nintendo Wii system has two ways of dealing with this problem.

The preferred way is to attach a separate joystick pod, or PSP, to the controller. You hold the controller in one hand and the joystick in the other. In first-person shooter games, the controller controls the gun and the joystick controls the run. The second possibility is to add a standard game controller. Speaking of standards, to get maximum enjoyment out of playing classic games using the Wii virtual console, Nintendo is offering the “Wii Classic Controller” and will soon be adding the “Wii Classic Controller Pro,” a controller that feels similar to the old Super Nintendo Entertainment. System game controller. This add-on is attached to the controller using a special socket attached to the butt of the controller. If you have a spare GameCube controller, you can use that too.

Thanks to Bluetooth technology, the Wii can handle up to four remotes at once. And don’t worry it will get cramped with four people hovering near the console. That’s not necessary. Thanks to the Sensor Bar, as long as the remote is within 30 feet (9.1 meters) of the Wii console, there should be no problem with the wireless signal.

To power the Wii, Nintendo has taken an interesting approach. Nintendo has focused on building consoles that are “more power efficient, quieter, and quicker to get started” [source: IGN].

According to an article on the IGN Web site, the Wii runs “on an extension of the Gekko and Flipper architectures that support the GameCube.” The “Broadway,” the Wii CPU, made by IBM, packs 729MHz of power. The Wii has 24MB of “main” 1T-SRAM and an additional 64MB of “external” 1T-SRAM — for a total of 88MB of RAM [source: IGN].

Wii Motion Plus

At the heart of the Wii’s appeal is its motion control interface. It gives gamers the feeling of being immersed in the game while inviting casual gamers who may not have the patience to learn advanced controllers a reason to pick it up and give it a try. In fact, Nintendo sold more than 3 million consoles in the United States alone in 2009. Worldwide, customers buy more Wiis (9,594,000) than Xbox 360 (4,770,700) and PlayStation 3 (4,334,600) consoles combined. [source: NPD].

Knowing this, Nintendo released an updated version of its motion controller. Actually, it’s more of an addition. Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus accessory fits into the same socket as the Nunchuk and, according to the company, it translates game player actions into game motion in a 1:1 ratio [source: Nintendo]. The Wii MotionPlus was officially released with Nintendo’s “Wii Sports Resort” in July 2009. While older games were unable to take advantage of the enhanced controls offered by add-ons, some titles released afterward required the functionality the device offered [source: Bakalar].

“Wii Sports Resort” is the popular follow-up to Nintendo’s most popular game “Wii Sports.” Gameplay and graphics are similar, but Nintendo is making a new game designed to take advantage of the Wii MotionPlus attachment. This bundle costs $49 or you can purchase the MotionPlus attachment separately for $19.

Wii and News

The Wii has never lacked publicity since its release — some good, some bad. First there is the competition with Sony’s PlayStation 3, which was released around the same time, to see which console will dominate the 2006 holiday season (winner: Wii) [source: Reuters]. Later, Nintendo issued a recall of the original Wii controller strap after several reported incidents where gamers lost control of the remote and sent it flying across the room, sometimes causing damage to the TV or windows. As a result, Wii consoles shipping from December 2006 had a stronger strap version and the company offered users a silicone rubber sleeve meant to soften the impact of the flying remote. Nintendo also lists security recommendations for Wii users on its official website.

Not only is it content to make headlines, the Wii also brings you news live. On January 27, 2007, Nintendo launched the Wii’s News Channel. A free feature for Wii owners, News Channel brings stories from the Associated Press cable service to your TV screen via the Wii remote. According to Yahoo! press releases, you simply point the remote at the virtual globe and select the location and type of news (business, sports, science and other topics) you are interested in to see frequently updated news from around the world.

And Nintendo keeps adding more channels. On January 13, 2010, Nintendo North America and Netflix announced a partnership that would allow Netflix subscribers to watch movies on the Wii console.

Wii Accessories

The Nintendo Wii, like every other video game console, has several variations of controllers and other accessories available to the serious gamer. Some accessories are very useful, while others just add to the aesthetic value of the controller. Some examples of Wii accessories that fall into the “look good, but aren’t very useful” category are the plastic attachments for the Wii remote that make it look like a tennis racket, golf club, or baseball bat. Nothing changes about the Wii or the games you play — the attachment simply turns your Wii remote into a stand. There are also boxing gloves that can accommodate both the Wii and Nunchuk remotes. Much like the plastic attachment, these gloves don’t change anything about the game, except for the fact that you don’t actually have to hold the controller.

The Wii Zapper is a plastic device that resembles a tommy gun that holds the Wii and Nunchuk remotes. It is designed for use with first-person shooter games, and its two-handed design allows for greater stability and better shooting. The Nunchuk fits into the back grip of the gun, and you use the joystick on the Nunchuk to move your character. There’s a spring trigger on the Zapper that connects to the B button on the back of the Wii Remote. You simply point the gun at where you want to aim and fire when ready. The only drawback of this design is that it limits the player to using three buttons: the trigger and the C and V buttons on the Nunchuk.

The Wii Wheel is another useful accessory that ships with the “Mario Kart Wii.” It’s a small plastic steering wheel that houses the Wii Remote in the middle. According to Nintendo, the Wii Wheel will even become a playground so that novice gamers can compete with seasoned “Mario Kart” veterans. Ubisoft, a video-game developer and publisher, is also releasing its own steering wheel accessories to ship with the “GT Pro Series” and “Monster 4×4 World Circuit.” Ubisoft’s version is similar to Nintendo’s in the sense that they’re just a steering shell that houses the Wii remote.

In addition to useful accessories designed to enhance gaming, there are also a number of accessories that enhance the overall performance of the Wii. You can purchase a component video adapter, which will increase the graphics quality on your television from 480i (interlaced) to 480p (progressive scan). The component video standard uses three connectors called Y, Pb and Pr. The Y connector transmits video information, which is a black-and-white image, and the Pb and Pr connectors transmit color information. For the component video adapter to work properly, you need to go into the Wii’s System menu and set it to 480p. After you set your Wii to 480p, also known as progressive scan, the Wii will recognize when a game is compatible with progressive scan and automatically default to that setting.

The latest addition to the Wii dynamic playback is the Wii Vitality Sensor. Similar to a machine that checks your pulse, gamers insert their index finger into a small sleeve and use the sensor when playing Vitality Sensor compatible games. The Vitality Sensor aims to measure your pulse to reveal anxiety. The player’s nervousness can then be recorded and linked to the gameplay experience, perhaps adding an element of focus or lack thereof to the in-game character’s actions.

Another accessory that enhances the performance of the Wii is the Wii  remote charging dock  . The Wii remote burns through standard alkaline batteries very quickly, and once it starts to run out of power, the remote becomes less responsive. For example, a Wii remote with a low battery is less likely to record the hard punches you throw at your boxing opponent — so the game isn’t all that fun. These charging docks, which contain rechargeable lithium battery packs, are manufactured by several different companies. Some docks can accommodate four Wii remotes, others just one. Some docks have a place to mount your Nunchuk, others don’t. It’s hard to vouch for the quality of any of these charging docks because they aren’t manufactured by Nintendo, but they will make your Wii life a lot simpler.

For more information on the Nintendo Wii and related topics, see the links on the next page.