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Nintendo Giving Wii A Facelift In Europe, 'No Plans' For America
Nintendo Giving Wii A Facelift In Europe, 'No Plans' For America
August 17, 2011 | By Kris Graft

August 17, 2011 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Nintendo is giving its Wii a facelift, due to arrive on shelves by Christmas in Europe, with new bundles that include the slightly streamlined hardware, a controller and Wii Party and Wii Sports, according to reports.

Nintendo is known to redesign its home and handheld gaming systems to varying extents. This is the first such redesign for the Wii since it released in 2006.

The updated Wii's changes are a bit more than cosmetic, however, as UK's Official Nintendo Magazine said the new model will not be backwards compatible with GameCube games, and therefore won't have the GameCube ports or memory card slots.

Nintendo's UK arm also confirmed with Eurogamer that the company will discontinue the current Wii model. "In Europe we will focus on the new Wii Bundle/s going forward," Nintendo said.

The new Wii appears almost indistinguishable from the current model, aside from a slightly more oblong disc slot and buttons that are labeled more for horizontal placement of the console. Nintendo will reportedly introduce a number of Wii hardware and software bundles later this year.

Nintendo of America has yet to confirm the streamlined console or new bundles for the U.S. market. Gamasutra has contacted the company for confirmation.

[Image credit: Eurogamer]

[UPDATE: A Nintendo of America spokesperson tells Gamasutra the company "does not currently have any plans to release the Wii bundle that was announced by Nintendo of Europe on Aug. 17."]

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Carson Gallo
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Makes no sense that they're updating the current one a year before your releasing a next gen that eventually will discontinue that one. They're repeating what they did with The DSi XL all over again, which they released a year before 3DS...but they announced it, AFTER they announced the 3DS.

I don't see any good sense of marketing in that at all.

Raymond Grier
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They do this with all their consoles, in fact they did it with the NES after SNES was released so this really is just part of their usual cycle.

E Zachary Knight
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Not quite sure what I think of the lack of backward compatibility. I don't think it was ever a real draw for most Wii owners. It was also the first time outside of handhelds that Nintendo has ever included backward compatibility.

Even though I own a Wii, I still have my Gamecube for one reason. It has a feature the Wii does not have, The Gameboy Player. Other than that I play all my Gamecube games on the Wii.

I do wonder if this will raise the same level of stink that Sony raised when they dropped PS2 compatibility. Probably not, since the Wii is not for "Hardcore" gamers.

Jamie Mann
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Backwards compatibility is a major driver during the initial launch of a platform, as it helps to mitigate the risk and cost of buying the new device - "I can sell my old console and still play my games!".

Not having this feature during launch can cause significant backlash from the public and press - the launch of the Xbox 360 is a prime example of this: after initially announcing that there would not be any BC capabilities on the Xbox 360, Microsoft was forced to implement a BC system.

However, over time, the importance of being able to play these games diminishes as newer games with better graphics and improved ergonomics appear. Personally, I'd suggest that after 5 years, there's going to be minimal outrage - Sony's publicity problems mainly stemmed from the fact that they began dropping BC less than a year after launch, when people were still actively interested in their gaming back-catalog.

With that said, it's going to be interesting to see how things go when the current-gen hardware transitions (i.e. the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3); with the rise of DLC, a significant percentage of gamers now have a significant financial investment tied into the hardware, the vast majority of which is arguably not subject to becoming obsolete in the same way as older games (e.g. Rock Band songs, emulated arcade games, XBLA titles, etc). Currently, it's difficult to transfer this media between the equivalent hardware - for instance, to fully transfer game licences from a 20gb Xbox 360 to a 250gb Xbox 360, you need to register the new machine on the site and then manually re-download each item from the dashboard.

I suspect that's going to become the subject of a blog post at some point...

Daniel Gooding
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As soon as I got my Wii, I got rid of my Gamecube, and then I ended up playing mostly gamecube games on my Wii.......

Jason Withrow
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I find it interesting that the 3DS has a system transfer feature. It seems limited at the moment - as if only for... repair work, perhaps? If anything, it's there for future system upgrades. Speaks well for the future, I just hope the other systems come up with a solution before too long.

Vin St John
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@Ephriam - I held onto my GameCube for the same reason! Love that little Game Boy Player.

Concerning the redesign, I wonder how helpful this is for them? I imagine this has some small effect on the manufacturing costs, but from a marketing perspective, the 'new' Wii looks nearly identical. Furthermore, it loses its main visual differentiator from the Wii U, which is the fact that they are marketing it in a horizontal orientation. Usually their redesigns come with a price drop and a slight resurgence of interest in the console due to the 'new look' - artificial buzz, but effective nonetheless.

Joshua Lubitz
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While I'm reading through the comments I just wanted to thrrow a thought out. While in the past backwards compatibility may not have been a huge deal due to graphics updates made to newer generation software. Take for example Playstation to PS2 the jump was easily noticeable, making it much more enticing and a pleasure to play the new software. But as we move on past this generation which I believe is the 7th in the console cycle, our shift on graphics in video games will start to sway back toward making more intelligent software. Considering consoles will most likely be hooked to a tv with a resolution of 1920X1080, and Graphics hardware has been easily able to handle this res for years, it's now become more important to add the little touches rather than worry about High-Res textures and poly's per second. The focus now shifts to Physics, A.I., Dynamic Gameplay features, multi-threading our games, etc. Also since the realm of storage has changed and become somewhat cheaper to use, we can focus on more content to add to realism, things such as multiple endings, dialog, cutscenes, actor details "think L.A. Noire and 3disks".

Essentially the less noticeable the change in graphics the more important backwards compatiblitiy will be, since the enticement to play those newer titles won't be so great. True they'll offer more pleasure since bullet holes can have true depth ala DX11, but also ragdoll effects, advanced shaders, more refined HLSL, more damage effects in general. Things the average gamer may never really notice, but to a developer can make emersion so much simpler.

Mark Kilborn
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How are people going to play Super Smash Bros. without a Wavebird?

E Zachary Knight
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That was also something that crossed my mind. In all the Smash Bros. tournaments in my area, all players use the GC controllers. I know of no one who uses the Wii Remote/Nunchuck or the Wii Classic Controller.

Kyle Orland
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Uh, those tournaments can use one of the tens of millions of existing Wiis with Wavebird support, no? I doubt they'll be hard to find.

Sean Hayden
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Removing all Gamecube functionality seems rather unwise... there's quite a large amount of Wii games that have integrated the Gamecube controller. Of course, as an American who already has a Wii, I guess it doesn't really matter to me.

E Zachary Knight
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All games I know of that allow for the use of the GC controller also have Wii Classic controller support or at least support for the Wii Remote/Nunchuck combo.

Sean Basile
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Love the design. I guess it's easier to develop if you leave out specific inputs, such as GC gaming compatibility.