How the Nintendo Wii won the console war

All hail the Nintendo Wii!

The PS3 didn't win the console war, and the Xbox 360 definitely didn't either. No, it was the Nintendo Wii that defined this gaming generation.

Did it have the graphical might to stand shoulder to shoulder with the PS3 and Xbox 360? Hell no. Did it have the hardcore library of the GameCube? Nope. Did it have a stupid name? Yeah, we sniggered.

And guys, it couldn't even play DVDs.

But the Wii won this generation by doing something much, much bigger: it got the whole world playing videogames.

It brought families together in the living room to share a round of virtual bowling, it got grandparents and grandkids going head to head for some Wii Tennis. It was Nintendo's plan from the start and it worked marvelously.

Like so many great ideas before it, the Wii had a tough time getting people to take it seriously at first. "What a funny name" and "Is that a NES controller?" But then it actually happened, and Nintendo set the living room ablaze, shaking up an industry that really needed it.

The PS3 and Xbox 360 were souped-up versions of their predecessors - Nintendo dared to be different. Perhaps the Wii should have clutched onto its development codename of "The Revolution." In an industry that was becoming more averse to risk taking, it truly was.

Nintendo Wii production coming to an end

Who didn't enjoy playing the Wii at Christmas?

Motion revolution

But perhaps the best evidence of the Wii's superiority was demonstrated in Microsoft and Sony's own clumsy responses with Kinect and Move respectively. Neither got it quite right at the time – they felt rushed and nowhere near as confident as Nintendo's own attempt to make motion-based gaming a thing.

What they did show was that the industry needed to react.

As for numbers, the others fall short on that too. The Wii has sold 100 million units to date. Sure, price has played a big part in that, but then that was all part of the big plan: maximum accessibility. And accessibility leads to numbers, which leads to developer support, and the Wii ended up enjoying a good balance of first party and third party titles.

Yes, it missed its fair share of big blockbusters along the way, but the sacrifice was worth it.

Nintendo Wii Mini release date, news and rumours

In the Wii mini, the legacy lives on...

The best game ever made?

Which brings me to another of the many jewels in the Wii crown: Super Mario Galaxy. Not only was it my favourite game of this generation, it's hands down my number one game of all time. I don't say that lightly.

After hammering through a number of heavy "must play" titles on my Xbox 360 and PS3, Mario Galaxy was a league above.

It was refreshing, sheer unadulterated fun for the sake of it, something that so many games have forgotten to be. It was the whole reason I fell in love with videogames as a kid. The controls felt fluid, the music was enchanting. Those gravity-shifting mechanics were pretty brilliant too.

It was also one big middle finger to anyone who thought Nintendo had lost its magic when it came to first party titles. But Galaxy is just one example of where the Wii shone in its exclusives. Skyward Sword, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Xenoblade Chronicles, and yes, Mario Galaxy 2. They were all system sellers.

But for all their "casualness", Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort were the juggernauts that helped Nintendo unravel its true master plan: to win the hearts of the non-gamers.

It's what snuck the Wii into every living room, not so much as an alternative to the PS3 or Xbox 360, but an as well as. That's a huge success in my book.

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus Rift, recently told me he thought controllers were unintuitive "broken abstractions of how we actually interact with the world". The Wii wanted to solve that problem. It was much more than "waggle to win" as the naysayers joke – when executed well, that Wiimote could feel natural, intuitive and a whole world better.

A perfect example of this was when I first played an FPS using the Wii controller. Aiming with that remote felt so much more precise and fluid than anything I had used before; I couldn't believe how archaic the standard gamepad approach seemed when I returned to it.


So congratulations to the PS3 and Xbox 360. You acted out your parts in this generation, but you'll be remembered as little more than having slightly better engines than your predecessors. You played it too safe.

The unified console is unsustainable but the legacy of the motion control will persevere. That's testament enough to the Wii's success.

It's a shame the Wii U now sits in the shadow of its predecessor, but it never had a chance of hitting the highs of the Wii, did it? Then again, neither will the Xbox One or PS4. And even if the U does completely sink, Nintendo still has plenty of gold to sit on. It can thank its "Revolution" for that.

TechRadar staffer Hugh is a lucid dream enthusiast who sees mushrooms and go karts whenever he closes his eyes

Hugh Langley

Hugh Langley is the ex-News Editor of TechRadar. He had written for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore, Wareable, The Ambient and more.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider covering Google and Alphabet, and has the unfortunate distinction of accidentally linking the TechRadar homepage to a rival publication.