Ten years ago this week, I stood outside at the GameStop on West Street from noon to midnight, in chilly, 30-degree weather. I was second in a line that, by midnight, was two dozen people long. Once they let us in, I was finally able to buy a Nintendo Wii - they only had three to sell.
The Wii was revolutionary. Before it, nearly all video games were controlled with a joystick or buttons on a controller. With the Wii, though, the controllers had accelerometers and other sensors that let the system know exactly where the controller was pointing, and how it was moving. This allowed for a more intuitive control style for some games, including for people who hadn’t really played video games before. I took my Wii to my parents’ house that Thanksgiving, and everyone had a blast playing Tennis, Boxing, and Bowling on the TV. Everyone--those who played video games for years and those who hadn’t ever played. We all had a fantastic time with the system.
From a pure technology standpoint, the Wii was not exactly impressive. It was almost identical to its predecessor, the Gamecube. In fact, it was so similar, you could play Gamecube games on the console. At the time, HDTVs were still relatively uncommon, so the Wii only included cables to connect to analog TVs. This kept costs down, with the Wii selling for literally half the price of the competing PlayStation 3, which was released in the very same week.
The low price, combined with the wide-reaching appeal, made the system very popular. Over the course of the life of the console, Nintendo sold more than 100 million systems. The PS3 and Xbox 360 might have been better for hardcore gamers, but the Wii was the first game console made for everyone else.