A Wii touched town in Center City, Philadelphia earlier this morning. We'll spare you the silly unboxing ritual and instead provide some immediate reactions to the console that Nintendo hopes will fly off the shelves and into homes this holiday season.
Click "continue" below for our thoughts on the fresh-out-of-the-box Wii experience.
Update 1: My roommate (not a gamer, except through exposure to me) saw the box and said, "What is that?" Upon being told that it was Nintendo's new game console, he said, "Nintendo's got a new system?" This is going to be fun. It's clear that he's skeptical and will delivery plenty of blunt feedback.]
Update 2: Roommate again (pictured here), lets loose a torrent of feedback on the console as I hurriedly unpack it. These are direct quotes, recorded here so that we can compare his first impressions to his impressions after he's had a chance to play the game. I deliberately avoid giving him any feedback whatsoever on what he says. I'm not here to argue or influence him, but to capture his first impressions.
- "What do you think of the name," I ask. "I think it's stupid," he replies. "Is it 'we' or 'why'?"
- He takes a look at the unopened box, "I don't know what this thing is. You can't tell from the box. The box is all faggy. It's white and baby blue. It looks like a chick's toy."
- A few minutes later, he's holding the controller, and holding forth: "If I were walking through Target and saw this [controller], I'd think it's a hospital bed controller. The controller looks stupid." [He doesn't know that it's capable of motion-sensing. He knows absolutely nothing about the system.]
- Surveying the packaging: "They're trying to be like Apple."
- Again on the controller: "How am I supposed to f---ing play video games with something like this? I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I've been exposed to the PlayStation and Xbox controls. This is completely different. It's unlikely I'm going to invest the time to relearn this thing. This just feels stupid. It feels like I'm holding my dick in my hand. I just feel stupid holding this thing. Why do I care if I have free motion on this thing. [Again, he's not yet aware that the controls are motion sensing.] There's a wire hanging in my lap. The Microsoft one is all wireless and stuff. This looks and feels like cheap plastic. It's very light and flimsy. [Note, the batteries have not been placed in the Wiimote yet.] Everything feels cheap on this thing. This thing really looks like a hospital bed contoller. It's even got the white wire like in the hospitals. It even looks like a hospital controller because it's got a little speaker. When you're done with your urine sample you can call in a nurse. This is a totally retarded design. It's very uncomfortable. I'm used to a controller being a one-piece thing. Having them separate makes me feel like it'd be hard to control. It's got a light cheap feel to it."
- Looking at the console, he remarks, "The letters 'Wii' makes it look like some kind of WiFi machine. This thing looks a lot like one of those wireless router things for your computer."
- I hand him the Wii stand, he takes it: "Now this is really a piece of shit right here. It's clearly a really cheap piece of plastic. It's trying to look like metal, and it's clear it's plastic. Why even try to make it look like metal? Overall very cheap feel."
- After being informed that the controller is motion-sensing: "I'm very skeptical of how it will play. No matter what motion you do it looks like one motion. I'm very doubtful it'll pick up the nuances. For example, take tennis [he's a strong tennis player], I'm very doubtful this thing will pick up the flick of a wrist, the spin, the power, the touch of a racket. I think it'll just start making up crap and filling in the blanks, like those arcade boxing games where no matter what you do it's the same punch over and over. It won't come close to the motion that you actually have to do."
- His final verdict, before he's played a game: "Is it possible to short Nintendo's stock?"
These are some harsh opinions from a natural born skeptic. We'll see if he changes his tune once he's played some games.
Update 3: We've got a problem. You see, we've got a fancy HD projector here (Panasonic PTAE 700U). The sensor bar needs to sit under the screen, but the projector sits approximately 145 inches from the projector. The sensor bar has a wire that's only 138 inches long, so we've had to string the sensor bar cable directly across the living room floor in order to get it to the Wii, which sits near the projector. This is not a tenable, long-term setup. This is not a projector-friendly console.
Update 4: Responding to update 3, a reader asks, "Why not put the console near the surface that the projector projects on so that you won\'t have to stretch the wire so far, rather than putting the console near the projector itself." The cable that routes video from the console to the projector is even shorter than the sensor bar cable. The console must be located next to the projector in order to send its video signal to the projector.
Update 5: After hooking the console up to the projector, "we get signal!" Now it's time to customize the console. We're asked to enter a console nickname, and in this task the Wii shows immediate superiority to all other consoles: we can simply point at letters to enter them! It's a huge step forward from the awkward text entry methods used in the PSP and Xbox 360 consoles, but it's still like typing with a mouse. A keyboard still works best. Mercifully, the setup process takes only a couple of minutes.
Update 6: Roommate and his girlfriend (she's pictured here) have begun to play Wii Sports (tennis). Before roommate showed up, it was just his girlfriend, and she's been having a blast with tennis. He's about the poison the well, however.
Update 7: They're split. She's loving tennis, he's hating it.
- He says, "See, this is just how I thought it would be. This motion is so unrealistic."
- She says, "I like it."
- He says, "Just because you're moving your hand doesn't mean you're accurately simulating the game. Ping Pong [Rockstar's Xbox 360 version] is better."
- She says, "I actually enjoy this more. For the longest time I couldn't figure out how to move around in Ping Pong."
- He says, "Instead of having a nation full of obese children, we'll have a nation full of obese children with dexterity."
- She says, "Whatever! It's actually quite a workout. I'm getting sweaty. I feel like i really have to go thorugh the whole motion."
- He says, "Oh really? Watch this." He flicks his wrist a tiny bit, and smashes a ball to the opposite court.
- She says, "Oh, I guess I should tone my movement down. I'm having fun, but my arm is sore."
Update 8: Roommate's girlfriend does have one criticism of Wii Sports. She says it's very cartoony. "It's ok, it's a little childish. The characters are childish looking." When pressed to expand on these comments, she says, "There's this cloud above their heads when they lose in tennis. But in Ping Pong, the players are so realistic. They like cry [when they miss] and go 'yeah!' when they score a point. You get into a lot more into it because they're real. In this one they've got like plastic smiles permanently. This is like little Lego people. They could have made the graphics just like other graphics -- i don't know why they had to make it look like Lego people." Roommate has an answer to this, "it would have been too expensive to do that."
Update 9: They move on to golf.
- She says, "It's not as fun as the tennis. I can't figure out how you aim."
- A while later, she's figured out how to aim and she's already on hole 3 of the course. "This is ok. It's about as fun as miniature golf."
- He says, "This is a lot like the Duck Hunt thing."
- She says, "Yeah, I liked Duck Hunt, it was hilarious!"
- He says, "It was a hook to bring people in, but nobody used it. It was very gimmicky."
Update 10: Roommate's girlfriend has moved on. Zelda made her motion sick, but she did manage to find Link's horse (first quest). I was actually impressed that she was able to get that far with minimal direction. Now for a change of pace. One clear issue with the sensor bar is that one must point the Wiimote at the bar itself, not at the screen. That results in misalignment between where the Wiimote points and where the console says you're pointing it.
These photos make this differential clear. In each of these photos, you'll see a blue dot that indicates the Wiimote "cursor" on the screen. Note the location of that dot versus the smaller red dot below it. That red dot was made by a laser pointer we affixed to the Wii. To point at the very bottom of the screen, you've actually got to point the Wiimote below the visible screen. We'll probably get used to this annoyance, but it's certainly sub-optimal.
This issue also indicates that you'll want to locate your couch directly in front of your screen. My couches sit at an angle to the screen, throwing off the aim of the Wiimote.
Update 11: Responding to two particularly malicious memes running through the comments, below.
- Some readers are suggesting that the quotes from my roommate and his girlfriend are made up. They're direct quotes. This is no transcript of the entire session (I've edited out the grunts and fragments), but he has certainly said 100% of what was reported in this blog. We don't fabricate quotes here.
- Some readers have questioned whether my roommate was really a complete neophyte to this console when they read this quote: "See, this is just how I thought it would be. This motion is so unrealistic." Please recall that as I was unboxing the system, I handed him the controller and explained the motion-sensing properties of it. He had this to say: "I'm very skeptical of how it will play. No matter what motion you do it looks like one motion. I'm very doubtful it'll pick up the nuances. For example, take tennis [he's a strong tennis player], I'm very doubtful this thing will pick up the flick of a wrist, the spin, the power, the touch of a racket. I think it'll just start making up crap and filling in the blanks, like those arcade boxing games where no matter what you do it's the same punch over and over. It won't come close to the motion that you actually have to do." My roommate had no prior exposure to anything having to do with the Nintendo Wii.
Update 12: Added the missing screenshots showing the aiming differential. This will be the last upate. We'll return to the console after dinner. We gotta get some cheesesteaks up in here.
Update 13: Whoa -- roommie is now playing Excite Truck. He's digging the controls for it: "Dare I say that this is more intuitive than the Xbox 360 control for racing games." I ask whether he'd rather use the Wiimote or a steering wheel. He responds, without hesitation: "steering wheel." Still, he's clearly very much into Excite Truck.
Update 14: The folks over at GayGamer.net have picked up on the improper use of "gay" and "faggy" in the quotes above. We've linked to their post because it's good to raise awareness of the fact that neither term is acceptable as a replacement for "crappy" or "lame," despite the ubiquity of such usage within the group of core gamers. While we wish such language would never be used, it's not our place to cleanse quotes. This is how (too) many in America speak. The New York Times has published the word "faggot" in 133 articles, has used the n-word in 935 articles, and has even used the less common "faggy" in five articles. It's not just the NYT: many other reputable publications also publish these hateful words when they're quoting someone in an article. Writers don't take glee in repeating these things, but most of us do take pride in being careful with our handling of quotes.