Nintendo Japan made the news official today with a short statement on the system's product page that read simply "production over." It marked a particularly subdued ending for a console that had such a dramatic impact on the gaming world.
UPDATE: 10/22 -- Nintendo sent over this clarification Tuesday morning:
"The announcement that the Wii console has been discontinued is specific to Japan. There is no change in the status of Wii in the United States, and it is available for purchase this holiday season."
Prior to its formal debut as the Wii in 2006, Nintendo used the codename "Revolution." No one had any idea how descriptive that term would prove to be. While core gamers may mock it today as being too focused on a mainstream audience, the Wii was something we see all too rarely from console makers: an innovative risk.
Without the Wii, there would be no Kinect or PlayStation Move. Without the Wii, game publishers might still be exclusively chasing the core gaming market, throwing nothing but cheap shovelware at the mainstream audience. And without the Wii, there's no telling where Nintendo would be today.
Rather than focusing on a generational graphical leap, Nintendo opted to re-imagine basic gameplay elements through the lens of the system's then-revolutionary motion controls. The strategy worked with not only gamers, but with their parents and grandparents as well. It proved so immediately successful that it was still hard to find a Wii store shelves the holiday season after it launched.
Nintendo predicted all of this before the system was released, though no one believed them.
"Until now, within a single household, we've had family members who play video games and family members who don't play video games - and they've been very separate," said president Satoru Iwata in 2005. "Gradually, the barriers between those two have gotten stronger. ... Today, if you don't understand the controller, you're not able to enjoy video games. ... We expect [the Revolution controller] to become the standard in video game controls."
It never went quite that far, but it did force Microsoft and Sony to alter their game plan.
Of course, the shine soon faded for the Wii. A few years after its launch, third-party publishers began realizing that gamers were largely only interested in games made by Nintendo and began to back away from the system. The lack of HD graphics began to catch up with the company the longer the generation wore on. Eventually the Wii would find itself outsold by the Xbox 360 and PS3 on monthly sales charts, and by 2011, the biggest games of the year weren't even making a Wii port.
These days, it's the Wii U that Nintendo wants to focus on. And while that system hasn't lived up to its predecessor's success in any measurable way -- it's been a rough ride, to say the least -- the Wii U enjoyed a respite from the doom and gloom with an uptick in sales in September. It's got a long way to go to recapture the magic of its forbear, however.
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