Critical Hit | Wii Mini: Nintendo's Masterstroke or an Own Goal?

By Jorge Ba-oh 27.11.2012 18:29 11

There was early talk of Nintendo releasing a new revision of its Wii console at the beginning of December and it has now been confirmed that the rumour has become hard truth, with a Wii Mini due at retail in a little under two weeks time over in Canada. Some have jumped on the idea, claiming it to be a foolish move by the House of Mario, but is it an inept marketing decision or actually a masterstroke?

Image for Critical Hit | Wii Mini: Nintendo

What is Wii Mini?

  • A hardware revision on the original Wii (not Wii U) exclusive to Canada for the 2012 Holiday season
    [li]The Wii Mini removes USB support, GameCube support, online play and SD card support from the original Wii console
    [li]All Wii Remote and wireless peripherals are supported
    [li]The Wii U will retail at $99 CAD (£60 / €75 / 8200 Yen)

Jorge Baoh, Director

The gaming community roared today after Nintendo decided to come clean about the Wii Mini console, a revised hardware shell that takes out some of the additional benefits of the original Wii -- GameCube support, USB ports, SD card storage and online/Wi-Fi connectivity.

Image for Critical Hit | Wii Mini: NintendoIt's not something that's new to Nintendo or the entertainment market and is something Nintendo itself is known for, but is it the right time? The Wii Mini is currently exclusive to Canada for the upcoming festive period, and whilst it may break new ground with a different target consumer market to the standard Wii and the new Wii U console, the decisions in its functionality have raised some eyebrows.

The audience for Wii Mini is clearly someone who hasn't yet purchased the console or might be intending to buy one as a gift and wouldn't necessarily need more storage via SD cards. However, the option to go online being muted is a bizarre one. Not everyone is an online gamer or streams Internet TV to be fair, but with the Wii Mini perhaps setting the foundations for an eventual migration to the Wii U, the lack of Wi-Fi support is an odd move. Likewise, the same can be said for USB ports. Granted wireless solutions are available for Wii peripherals, but it dents support for karaoke games and singing components in the likes of Guitar Hero, for example.

Image for Critical Hit | Wii Mini: Nintendo


On the other hand, redesigning the console comes as a positive -- the first revision, which removed GameCube pads, looked near identical to the original Wii. With it looking similar to Wii U aesthetically and in packaging, the revised Wii had the potential to further any confusion between both consoles.

With the Wii Mini having a totally new shape, top loading disc tray and two tone trims, the redesign makes it look suitably different to the Wii U, but again the lack of online play and USB support dampen its appeal somewhat. Timing is an issue as well. Perhaps there wouldn't be as much confusion in the air if Nintendo had, a year or six months on, decided to release a Wii Mini to fill the gaps, but with a brand new console out that shares the same brand name, it could cause a fairly big dent in the Wii U's release in Canada. Why would a parent buy a Wii U when their child could have the arguably cheaper Wii Mini at a cut price?

Image for Critical Hit | Wii Mini: Nintendo


Adam Riley, Operations Director

Nintendo is renowned for revamping its systems over time, with the most obvious examples being how the Game Boy Advance went from SP to eventually micro, and how the Nintendo DS went from Lite, to DSi and then to the extremely chunky DSi XL. Whilst some may bemoan the hardware revisions, companies in the mobile Industry churn out yearly upgrades without anyone batting an eyelid. In fact, sticking on the gaming side it is extremely apparent that certain yearly updates are nothing more than mere tweaked editions there to squeeze more money out of consumers.

Image for Critical Hit | Wii Mini: Nintendo


Wii launched back in 2006 and has only seen a handful of coloured models released throughout its glorious reign, with no actual model revisions until last year when Nintendo removed the GameCube controller ports and internal components that permitted the previous console's discs to be played. With Wii U out now, though, Nintendo is clearly looking at how Sony has managed to keep sales of its PlayStation 2 ticking along over the years in the background whilst the PlayStation 3 took off into orbit. Why then should Wii die away? After all, despite selling nearly 100 million units worldwide, there are obviously many households with the potential to pick up a cheap system for family get-togethers. Additionally, there are markets where Wii has either died down quicker than expected or not even launched.

Launching a Wii Mini so close to the Wii U may seem unusual, but if anything the fact that the Wii console looks so similar to that of the Wii U would be the perfect reason to have a smaller unit marketed in a different manner, aiming at a different market sector. Is it wise to release a revision after the new hardware? Well, it has happened before, with a top-loading NES that was moulded into a SNES-like shell after the Super Nintendo had already hit and was selling like hotcakes. It may have only been produced for about six months in total, but it was a cut-price system for gamers eager for something more old school. Then came the streamlined SNES, actually deeded a 'SNES Mini' in some circles, which was advertised as an entry-level gamer's system for those on a budget that were put off by the complexity of the Nintendo 64, SEGA Saturn, and Sony's PlayStation.

Image for Critical Hit | Wii Mini: Nintendo


The other interesting aspect of the console revisions gone by was how various elements were removed to help the process of making the whole device more compact and cheaper to produce. Dropping SD and USB slots and cutting the internal Internet functionality, as well as making it top-loading, like the PS2 Slim, are all ways of making the Wii as mini as possible and keeping the price down to a pocket friendly number.

Therefore, there is definitely room for the Wii Mini in a world where Nintendo wants to embrace all gamers, young and old, hardcore or newcomer to the scene. At a bargain price, with a wealth of fantastic games on offer, it certainly is a case of 'Why Not?'

There we have it, the Wii Mini in its boxed glory and suave red trims. It's a mixed bag of opinion with Nintendo's decision to market a budget Wii against the launch of its successor and remove certain functionality.

What are your opinions on the Nintendo Wii Mini? Should the Japanese game giant release the console in regions other than Canada? Is it a smart or foolish business decision?

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Marketed correctly, it could be a good move. However, so many people are still bemused as to what the Wii U actually is that another Wii-branded device is sure to confuse people further. Had the Wii Mini come out in place of last year's "Wii Family Edition," I think that may have been a better move than to coincide the Mini directly alongside the launch of the Wii U. I think it's a positive move to bring out a much cheaper revision, and should ensure continued sales of the system long into the Wii U's life, just as the PS2 Slim has done during the PS3's career, but the timing of it is questionable.

That said, if this remains Canada-exclusive for the remainder of the year, it would be a better marketing decision to sneak the Mini out next year in other regions, after the hype of the Wii U has died down a bit. I would argue that the lack of Internet support is a good thing, but I highly doubt Wii online activity is at such a low point that they should shut down all the servers. So many people still play Mario Kart Wii online.

u all write reallyREALLY fast.  reminds me of those The News broadcasts after someone REALLY famous ( usually uniformed) dies...how do they do thay? bafgles my mind.

You are not alone. I am here with you. Though we're far apart...you're always in my heart. Love u!

Lets just hope the Wii Mini won't need a system update....

I think they already thought of that one Flyn, 5 years ago. Dem Nintendo folks are smart I'm telling ya

You are not alone. I am here with you. Though we're far apart...you're always in my heart. Love u!

I like the look of the system, pity it has so much missing from it else I'd have got one later on for import games.

I'm curious to see if the U.I is any different. A lot of the built-in Wii Channels depend on an internet connection, and I doubt Nintendo would just leave 4 pages of blank slots. Maybe something like the Gamecube's interface is being used for this downsizing?

MartinB105 (guest) 28.11.2012 08:29#6

"[...] it dents support for karaoke games and singing components in the likes of Guitar Hero, for example."

Not just singing, but all the Wii Rockband instruments are connected via USB.  So you won't be able to play those on this new system either.

It could be possible that it is for people with TV's in their cars. I've never really looked too close at car TVs but I think they do have places for cords etc. It would be kind of hard to put a full size Wii in a car, so the Wii mini could be good for long car trips,maybe play Mario kart with your siblings. Also, wouldn't it be a good idea to buy it for young children? Its cheap so if it breaks it wouldn't be as much trouble as if your Wii U broke, and young children have no use for internet anyway, they would just want to play with their family.

Kittensssssss

This would be an excellent bargain if the Internet functionality was left in. 

The Wii remains the cheapest Netflix machine, and is often purchased just for that. Losing the support for USB Rock Band/Guitar Hero instruments loses out on potential players as well, however since those games aren't going to be coming out anymore and the instruments are incredibly hard to find now, it's not as big of a deal. 

Everything about the Mini is good except for the timing and the lack of Wi-fi. Nonetheless, in the next year or so when people are finally educated on the differences of Wii and Wii U and these things are more established, I'm sure the numbers will look great for NIntendo. 

On a side note--Am I the only one who had no idea there was a remodel of the Wii without GC compatibility?

Like video game music?!
>
Do a Barrel Roll!<

The gaming community roared today after Nintendo decided to come clean about the Wii Mini console, a revised hardware shell that takes out some of the additional benefits of the original Wii -- GameCube support, USB ports, SD card storage and online/Wi-Fi connectivity.

It's not something that's new to Nintendo or the entertainment market and is something Nintendo itself is known for, but is it the right time?

Nintendo is renowned for revamping its systems over time, with the most obvious examples being how the Game Boy Advance went from SP to eventually micro, and how the Nintendo DS went from Lite, to DSi and then to the extremely chunky DSi XL.

Nintendo is clearly looking at how Sony has managed to keep sales of its PlayStation 2 ticking along over the years in the background whilst the PlayStation 3 took off into orbit. Why then should Wii die away?

For me, these examples don't really relate too much to what has happened with the Mini. In the case of previous Nintendo examples, they removed one feature, and it tended to be backwards-compatibility. In the case of Sony and PS2, to my memory the current model has almost all the features of the very first 2001 fat model. Sans the IR reader for the remote control, I can't think of much else that it has lost in 11 years.

PS3? It lost PS2-compatibility very early on, as Sony realised they could not sustain those manufacturing costs/losses, especially since no-one was buying the machine as it was too expensive for the average consumer. Something had to be done, and fast. So out went the PS2 components (and a couple USB ports). The PS3 Slim came out, and retained all the features from the second fat PS3. It was just smaller. The PS3 Super Slim is now out, and again, retains all the features of the previous version.

With the Wii Mini, many of the original console's features have gone. Even if we discount the GC-compatibility (which I now know isn't in current 'fat' models either), the internet (and therefore online gaming) has gone, SD card support is gone, and no USB.

This new version is catered directly toward's the Wii's biggest audience - casual gamers. They don't even know what online gaming is, don't buy many games and so don't need SD extension for their saves, don't need USB ports, etc. All they want is something to play Wii Fit on, and this will service them.

It's indicative of where Nintendo are at as a company. They have lost most hardcore gamers to the competition, and so now are catering heavily towards middle-aged mothers and whatnot. How many people among this audience will not bother with Wii U, but instead replace their Wiis with the smaller, lighter one? They never used any of those features anyway.

I'll be interested to see how the 'U fares over the next year or two. Once that initial push for getting some real games on there (most of which are just ports of old PS3/360 titles), how many hardcore Wii U games will be coming out two years from now? The proof's in the pudding, and if the audience isn't there, the publishers won't publish those kinds of games on Wii U.

I predict in two years, the only hardcore games will mostly be Nintendo's first-party titles, and even they may have to dumb them down.

Very true Martin, literally in everything you said!

Nintendo is testing it in Canada to see if they will roll it out to the rest of the world for one last Holiday in 2013. I might get one for my collection since it is great for what it does: play all Wii retail games.

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