Joeblade

Nintendo name their console ‘Wii’

So, though I am technically supposed to be spending my time on something else at the moment, I felt unable to let this one pass by unmentioned. As you may have heard already, seeing as the internet exploded with the news last Thursday, Nintendo have revealed that their next console, previously known as the Revolution, will, in actual fact, be known as Wii.

Nintendo has been, for as long as I can remember being a fan, a difficult concept to sell to the Ordinary Joe on the street, with the Sony and Microsoft options always appearing both more stylish and more adult. Trying to explain to people the joy of Pikmin or the appeal of Animal Crossing is not easy unless you can actually sit people down with a controller and make them have a go.

Lately, Nintendo has been doing very well for themselves. The surprise success of the DS, followed by the buzz over their successor to the Gamecube with its freestyle, motion-sensing controller, followed by the buzz over the revised, slimline DS Lite has led to the company regaining a significant amount of respect. It seemed like Nintendo was really on top of things. It was possible to even be proud of being a Nintendo fan.

And then they named their new console ‘Wii’

Backlash

The news broke on Thursday and spread swiftly, and the response was a storm of comment, overwhelmingly negative and derisive — I would never have thought it possible that so many people could come up with so many jokes and puns all based on the association of the word ‘wee’ with urination. It’s been incredible, and Nintendo knew that it was coming which is why they announced the new name now, so that it wouldn’t overshadow announcements made at E3.

This negative association is only part of why I think this name is a bad name. People defending the name have pointed out that the most vocal communities on the internet represent only the tiniest fraction of the game-buying public, and they’re right — if the internet at large immediately thinks of going to the toilet when hearing the name ‘Wii’, then this is probably not indicative of what the real world thinks, as Chris Kohler mentions at Wired:

“In short, the fuss over Wii is an Internet Problem, not a Real Life Problem. In real life, the name’s soundalike will pass almost entirely without notice. The positives of Wii will vastly outweigh the negatives.”

I decided to test this claim by asking some non-gamers what their reaction was, and you know what? Kohler was right — not a single person I’ve asked so far as made the connection. However, only one person so far — my mum — realised that it was supposed to mean ‘we’. Other people have thought it was supposed to be ‘wifi’, or ‘why’, or just ‘what the hell’s that supposed to mean?’.

This is why the name is problematic; a good name should not cause embarrassment in the speaker, it should not confuse people as to the pronounciation or meaning, and it shouldn’t require an explanation to go with it — certainly not the sort of meaningless marketing nonsense you can currently read on Nintendo’s Wii site. The notion that ‘Wii’ is supposed to symbolise both the unique controller and the image of people gathering to play is the sort of soulless waffle that I expect to hear from the likes of Intel and Microsoft.

We’ve been wrong before

Perhaps I should just trust Nintendo. After all, the DS was never supposed to be successful either, and look how that’s turned out. Similarly, the reaction to the Wii controller was fairly negative until Nintendo showed us a video of how it worked, and we all went weak at the knees. Perhaps calling a console ‘Wii’ will turn out to have been another instance of sounding crap but working incredibly well — just like Animal Crossing.

At best, though, I can see myself tolerating the name, but only because I have to — I’m never going to love it, and you’ll never see me defend it either.

By Paul Haine, in