Leave the Wii Mini alone!
Remember the Gameboy Micro? If you’ve read anything about it recently, odds are it was a glowing editorial about how elegantly small and stylish the device is, or a fond remembrance of its lovely screen, fantastic library of games, and nifty hot-swappable faceplates. And that’s all great – I’m a big fan of the Micro, so any positive attention it garners is fine with me. I’ve even got one sitting right here on my desk.
Let’s not be too quick to forget, however, the Micro’s initial reception. It wasn’t all nostalgia-boners and unicorns. There were plenty of people who found the device to be pointless, or felt that Nintendo had fallen “out of touch.” Much of this criticism stemmed from the newly announced DS portable, a hulking grey blob sporting two screens and a stylus. According to some, Nintendo was mad for releasing such a gimmick-laden device, abandoning its iconic Gameboy brand that ought to be stepping into the ring for a battle royal with Sony’s haughty new PSP. But no, instead Nintendo dreamt up the DS (now the best selling handheld of all time), and designated Gameboy to a $99 re-skin that didn't even maintain backwards compatibility. What idiots!
And of course, now everybody loves the thing. You don’t have to look far to find editorials or columns absolutely blanketing the GBM in praise. Oh, the allure, the artistry, the design! And that form factor! Woe is me, if only such inspiration, such aptitude dwelled in the bosom of modern console designers like the Nintendo of old! My god, just give it a rest already would you? I love the GBM too, but the collective about-face of opinion regarding this thing since its release just boggles my mind.
Oh, and what’s this? Why, I believe it’s called a Wii Mini! Really quite sharp isn't it?
At $99, the Wii Mini reeks of a Gameboy Micro style redesign. A niche product intended to reach the small percentage of potential customers who somehow haven’t bought one yet, or collectors and enthusiasts who can’t resist its fashionably rugged new look. Coming into existence around the onset of its successor, the Mini is more a fresh coat of paint than an entirely new offering.
And just like the Micro, or perhaps even more so, the Wii Mini is receiving an inordinate amount of shit from the gaming community merely for existing in the capacity that it does, sometimes even from the same people who are now kissing up to the GBM. Granted, the Mini does give people some seemingly legitimate reasons to be upset. It lacks the ability to connect to the internet, and backwards compatibility with GameCube games has been removed. Still, those driven into a blind fury over it are simply misunderstanding the machine’s purpose.
To suggest that Nintendo is “out of touch with the internet and the future,” as the above article does, and then offer no evidence beyond the supposed downfalls of the Wii Mini does not make for a very compelling argument. The Mini is not Nintendo’s flagship product, nor does it represent Nintendo’s future. That burden falls to the Wii U. The Wii U, though not perfect, is Nintendo’s most internet-friendly and internet-integrated console to date, with a persistent online experience and some exclusive features to boot. In fact, the console’s browser has been deemed by many as the best console browser ever, and the YouTube experience in particular is nothing short of fantastic. So a company who is “out of touch with the internet” is the one providing me with the best possible way, on a console, to browse the internet? Riiiight. Now I get it.
The point of the Wii Mini is not to go online, or to be a “Netflix box.” The point of the Wii Mini is to play Wii games. Even though the original Wii sold like mad, there are still plenty of people who have owned only a PS3 or a 360 for the past five to six years, and I’d be willing to bet that some of those people are fans of Nintendo franchises. The internet is loaded with ex-Nintendo console owners who jumped ship because the Wii was so “casual,” as you undoubtedly know from gaming blog comment sections, but that doesn’t mean those people don’t still love Zelda. See what I’m saying? Those are the people the Wii Mini is targeting. Lots of folks have fond memories playing Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask as children, but have yet to touch Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. Now they can, for ninety-nine dollars. Sounds pretty compelling if you ask me.
Let me give you another scenario. A middle school-aged kid who loves videogames, but whose parents don’t exactly support his hobby. They think new consoles are all about violence and trash talking online, so they hesitate to buy their child an online-enabled system, even the Wii. So, this kid has been happily playing his used GameCube for most of this generation, but is aware of all that he’s been missing. For $99, he or she could reasonably ask for the Wii Mini for Christmas, with some great $20 games thanks to Nintendo Selects, and because the system is offline and so cheap, his or her parents would be more than happy to oblige. I’ve seen lots of comments around the internet saying things like “I feel bad for the kid who gets this for Chrsitmas instead of a Wii U,” but I don’t feel bad at all. If said kid has never owned Wii, do you really think that this handsome little red box sitting under the tree, surrounded by the likes of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, is going to be taken as a disappointment? Frankly, I don’t see how that’s possible.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know there’s more to the story. I’m not blind. The lack of Virtual Console access is a bit of a bummer, and certainly no one would complain if they were able to watch Netflix on this thing. But I think the people whining about that stuff may be momentarily forgetting that there’s a whole new generation of young folks just now falling in love with gaming. You may be pissed that you can’t “indulge in nostalgia” by playing Super Mario World on the Wii Mini, but Nintendo knows that if you really want to play that game you probably already have it on your regular Wii, or have an emulator on your PC or smartphone. And if you have a regular Wii, then you aren’t really this device’s target audience. The Wii Mini has potential to bring modern Nintendo games to that small percentile of non-Wii-owning gamers, as well as those who maybe just don’t have the means of acquiring a Wii U this holiday season. I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with that.
Mark my words, in five years time there will be editorials popping up online about how cool the Wii Mini was. About how stylish and small it was. “Boy, if only Nintendo still had those stellar design chops!” they’ll say. And that’s fine. I’m not going to pull my hair out over it. After all, I will have already bought three of them at $99 each, with two on eBay for likely double or triple the price.
Oh, and the console is only being released in Canada, so what does anyone even care anyways? Just quit bitching about it!