What is WiiWare?

April 1, 2010

A few weeks ago, the Wii Blog For You explained the Virtual Console, which is an online collection of classic games from video game systems of the ’80s and ’90s. This week’s blog defines another collection of downloadable games for your Wii called WiiWare.

So, what differentiates the Virtual Console from WiiWare? Quite simply, whereas virtual console games are old games made for video game systems that are no longer available in stores, WiiWare games are brand new and made specifically for the Wii. This means that, unlike Virtual Console games, WiiWare games can take advantage of the Wii’s unique, modern capabilities, such as motion control and advanced graphics capabilities. In other words, if you are feeling nostalgic for an old game, the Virtual Console should be your destination. On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for something more contemporary, head for WiiWare. Since WiiWare games are shorter and less complex than disc-based Wii games that you would buy from the store, they are also much cheaper than the $49.99 price tag of store-bought games. WiiWare games range from $5.00 to $15.00.

If you are curious about trying WiiWare but are not sure where to start, here are two games I recommend:

1. World of Goo
World of Goo is a difficult game to describe, but, in a nut shell, it is a puzzle game where the player must figure out how successfully build structures made out of, well, goo. Here is a link to the game’s official site. And here is a link to IGN’s extremely favorable review of the game.

2. Excitebike: World Rally
Excitebike: World Rally is an action-oriented racing game that is a remake of the 1986 classic that was originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Here is a link to the game’s official site. And here is a link to IGN’s full review of the game.

You can find WiiWare games in a few easy steps:
1. Once your Wii is turned on, click on the Wii Shop Channel.
2. Click Start
3. Click Start Shopping
4. Click the WiiWare button in the center of the screen
5. Browse for games

And, that’s all there is to it. Enjoy!


Nintendo offers me a free game, and I complain about it

March 25, 2010

I received an interesting e-mail from Nintendo this week. In this email, which I’ve inserted below, Nintendo asks me if I have used my Wii to access the Wii Shop Channel and offers me a free game to download from the Virtual Console. What a silly question, Nintendo! Of course, I have been to the Wii Shop Channel.

For an explanation of what the Virtual Console is, see my previous blog posting.

The fact that Nintendo needs to implement an e-mail promotion like this indicates two things. First, it demonstrates that blogs like the Wii Blog For You are necessary. If four and a half years after its release, Nintendo still needs to promote basic online features, consumers clearly are not aware the Wii is capable of doing more than just playing disc-based games. Does Apple need to send out e-mails to people that purchased the iPhone to let them know that it does more than make telephone calls? No.

Second, the email I received demonstrates Nintendo needs to make some changes in how they use social media and how they promote the Wii’s lesser known features. Therefore, this week’s blog will recommend three things Nintendo can do that will more effectively make consumers aware of what their Wii can do.

1. Provide more support for the online community

Nintendo has a rabid, loyal fan base, but they rarely embrace these people in any meaningful way. To receive the above email from Nintendo, I had to take the time to sign up to be on their mailing list. So, that e-mail campaign, more or less, does little more than preach to the choir. The Wii Blog For You is just one of hundreds of blogs about the Wii and videogames. These bloggers are clearly more than willing to spread the word about the Wii. To reach more casual Wii fans who may not be as knowledgeable, Nintendo needs to embrace this online community by integrating it with their own website and using it as a promotional tool.

2. Update the Wii interface to encourage more online interaction

When you turn on the Nintendo Wii, it is a fairly tame experience. For comparison, when you turn on the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360, you can quickly see which of your friends are online and what they are playing. These other consoles are also much more flashy in how they promote their online content. The Wii interface, on the other hand, is bland, and there is no way to easily connect with other Wii players. As the screen shot below shows, the Wii dashboard is rather sterile.

Both the PlayStation and the Xbox have had the social elements of their online interfaces improved through free firmware system updates. It is time for Nintendo to follow suit and make similar changes.

3. Take better advantage of social networking

The PlayStation 3 has interconnectivity with facebook while the Xbox 360 interconnects with both Twitter and facebook. As of yet, the Wii has no such feature. Nintendo could very easily pique consumers’ curiosity about the Wii’s online features by integrating social networking into their marketing strategy. For example, when a person connects their XBox account with their facebook account, that person’s facebook status updates then include activities a person does while playing their Xbox, such as playing a specific game. Every time an XBox user does this, it is free advertising that reaches all the people that read that person’s status update. If Nintendo were to do something similar, it would literally make hundreds of thousands of more people aware of the Wii’s online features.

This week’s blog isn’t meant to sound whiny or overly negative toward Nintendo or the Wii. However, there are clearly things that Nintendo could do better to promote the lesser known features of the Wii.

Until that happens, there is a Wii Blog For You!*

*Sorry, I know that was lame, but I could not resist!

What is the Virtual Console?

March 11, 2010

This week, the Wii Blog For You will explain one of the Wii’s most popular online features, the Virtual Console. Simply put, the Virtual Console is a huge library of downloadable games that were originally released on the old video game consoles from the 1980s and 1990s. Happily, to access the Virtual Console games, there is no need to purchase any additional peripherals or hardware for your Wii. Instead, all of the games were programmed to be purchased on the online Wii Shop Channel and immediately playable on your Wii upon download.

The Virtual Console is great if you are feeling nostalgic and want to play a game that you remember from when you were younger. It is also good for revisiting the original versions of games that have been remade for the Wii. For example, if you liked 2009’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii and are curious about the game that inspired it, you might think about heading over to the Virtual Console and purchasing the original 1985 Super Mario Bros., which was made for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It also acts as an impressive demonstration of just how far videogames have come over the past 30 years! For comparison, here are screen shots from both games:

Super Mario Bros. (1985)

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009)

I get a big kick out of how games I thought looked amazing as a kid now look simply archaic.

Here is the complete list of old video game systems on the Virtual Console, along with the number of games currently available on each platform:

  • Nintendo Entertainment System – 86
    Super Nintendo – 55
    Nintendo 64 – 17
    Sega Mater System – 16
    Sega Genesis – 17
    TurboGrafx 16
    Neo Geo – 20
    Virtual Console Arcade – 12 (these are old arcade games from the 80s and 90s)
    Commodore 64 – 9
  • It is interesting to note that almost all of those were direct competitors of Nintendo when they were originally on the market, so it is somewhat amusing that 20 years down the road, their games are now playable on a Nintendo console. Obviously, Nintendo outlasted them all because none of those companies are making consoles anymore, and Microsoft (XBox 360) and Sony (PlayStation 3) are Nintendo’s main competition today. Perhaps 20 years from now, we will be downloading XBox and PlayStation games on a future Nintendo product.

    If you would like to explore the Virtual Console, here are the steps to find it:

    1. Once your Wii is powered on, click on the Wii Shop Channel.

    2. You will then be given the choice to return to the main Wii Menu or to continue on to the Wii Shop Channel by clicking “Start.” We want to do the latter, so click the “Start” button.

    3. After the Wii connects to the Wii Shop Channel, click the “Start Shopping” Button.

    4. You will then be presented with a screen that looks like this:

    If you have never made an online purchase on your Wii and would like to buy a Virtual Console game, you will need to add Wii Points to your account using a Visa or Mastercard. Wii Points are the currency you use to purchase the Virtual Console games, and one dollar equals 100 Wii Points. Virtual Console games, on average, range between 500 and 1,000 Wii Points.

    To add Wii Points to your account, click the “Add Wii Points” button in the center of the screen. The Wii will then guide you through the steps of making the purchase.

    5. Once you have added Wii Points to your account, return to the Wii Shop Channel screen shown above.

    6. Click on the “Virtual Console” button on the upper left side of the screen.

    You can now browse through the catalog and see if anything catches your eye and then make your purchase from there!

    Whether your feeling nostalgic for the games of yesteryear or want explore classic games you may have missed the first go around, the Wii Shop Channel is a great feature to have and one that is unique to the Wii. Nintendo adds games to the Wii Shop Channel every Monday, so check back regularly to see what is made available.

    That’s it for this week. Happy gaming!