Wii: All Part of the Plan

Chris Kohler writes about why “Wii” may be a good strategic choice for the name of Nintendo’s next generation console (emphasis mine):

It isn’t the name of a video game system. And that’s where its power lies.

the type of name is really what matters. It’s distinctive, it’s simple, it’s iconic. It’s half-word, half-picture. And damn if it’s not going to get people talking.

That the Internet in toto is less mature than a group of thirteen-year-olds is not surprising, but neither is it damning to Nintendo’s fortunes. Of course, I expect the Internet to brim over with toilet humor; that is what the Internet is for. But the Internet is not real life.

…In real life, the name’s soundalike will pass almost entirely without notice. The positives of Wii will vastly outweigh the negatives. I do like something about Wii. I like that it is further evidence — very strong evidence — that Nintendo has stopped paying lip service to the mainstream and started aggressively pursuing them.

One world, one name. And “Revolution” was never going to fly in Japan, where the word is nearly unpronounceable. The end. If it’s a shock to anyone, it’s only to those who can’t imagine a world beyond their tiny corner of it.

Nintendo: Crazy like a fox?


EDIT: One thing. English-speakers don’t have the monopoly on playing videogames. “Wii” as pronounced in another language does not have the same meanings as it does in English. In Japanese it’s probably just a name. In French, it sounds like their word for “yes”. English-speakers: stop being so self-centred. This is a global brand, a console marketed to the world. Live with it.

  11 comments for “Wii: All Part of the Plan

  1. Id
    28 April 2006 at 10:12

    Some excellent points. The part about “Revolution” being unpronounceable in Japan is pretty important. I’ve accepted it but I will probably continue to call it the Revolution for a while. I think we will see some T-shirts on the internets on this matter before this is done.

  2. 28 April 2006 at 10:58

    No offense, but Chris Kohler is full of shit. All of his arguments are pure drivel. I can’t even respond to them on their own merits because they have none.

    And it is named after a wang.

    That is all.

  3. 28 April 2006 at 11:07

    I respectfully disagree with you, Finster.

    I’m not excited about the name “Wii”, but neither am I up in arms about it. I don’t care too much what it’s called, as long as it provides me with a good gaming experience. I mean, I have a handheld console called a “GameBoy” for crying out loud. If I was as particularly image-conscious and shallow as all the whingey gamers complaining about the Wii seem to be, then I wouldn’t have two iterations of the GameBoy.

  4. 28 April 2006 at 11:35

    Actually, it means absolutely nothing in Japanese. I have a friend of mine who does freelance translation for a popular manga publisher in the U.S. I asked him. He said it means nothing in Japanese, and there is no name or word or anything in Japanese that is represented by ‘Wii’.

    Also, my disdain at the name makes no statement about the quality of the end product. But what you name your product really does matter. Sorry if you think that’s whiney.

  5. 28 April 2006 at 12:38

    Named after a wang? Dude, maybe if you’re like four. When I saw “Wii”, “wang” must have been the furthest thing from my mind and still is.

    “Wii” is no sillier than “RAZR” or say even “MobiBLU” or hell, even “Phantom” when one really thinks about it. It doesn’t sounds as hardcore as Xbox 360 or techy a PlayStation 3 … but anyone who has been watching Nintendo shouldn’t be too surprised there.

    It’s silly and it has a lot of people talking about it. Not the worst thing for a gaming product not on the market yet.

    And Kohler definately has one point. The Internet is not reality. If it were, we’d all be having bonfires by our 360’s wondering why nobody ever bought a PSP or how long it will be before id goes out of business.

  6. 28 April 2006 at 12:49

    Actually, that’s right. If I had believed half of what I’ve read in forums, Wii would be a silly name just because Nintendo should already be out of business.

  7. 28 April 2006 at 13:17

    I’m not exactly up in arms about it – names don’t bother me too much – though I do think Wii is a stupid name.

    Not as stupid as Kohler’s argument, though.

    It’s a Nintendo system. The very word “Nintendo” is synonymous with video games. Calling it the Nintendo Wii no more separates it from being a video game system than calling it the Nintendo TV Hook Up Box does. If you go after the mainstream with a marketing plan based on a name and not the product you want to sell, like, I don’t know, games, you could be in trouble.

    As for the linguistic issue, sounds have meanings. I get that Revolution doesn’t work in Japanese. Fine. And you want to have a single name world wide. Also fine. But the connotations of the sound WEE means that instead of having people talk about the technology or controller you are bringing, people are making pee jokes. Hell, I’ve been making pee jokes.

    And chasing the mainstream? Madden may make that happen. Wii won’t.

  8. 28 April 2006 at 13:24

    I’m actually not sure why a single product name worldwide is overly desirable, come to think of it.

  9. 28 April 2006 at 13:57

    To prevent the dillution of a brand? I don’t know how well it worked for the Sega to call the Genesis the “Mega Drive” in Europe. But Americans contend that it’s the Genesis, and Europeans say it’s the Mega Drive. They’re both right of course, and no one is more right than the other… But the debate seemed important to the Sega diehards. And then there’s the Nintendo Entertainment System versus the Nintendo Family Computer (FamiCom). I don’t think any of the recent consoles have different names…

    Then again, other products have different names in different countries. Usually they’re things like cleaning products, beauty products, and the like… I don’t know how much the same is true for non-games electronics.

    I can’t say that I’m not concerned about Nintendo’s naming convention here, and I can’t say that the name isn’t silly. Nintendo has been good about maintaining a stable financial position, and catering to a certain set of gamers. Maybe this move will be good for them, maybe not. Who knows?

  10. 28 April 2006 at 17:44

    You’re point about people being all enthocentric about Wii is so valid–all the pee jokes, etc. about Wii is annoying, but I think what makes me the most unsettled is how a lot of people seem to think that most everyone speaks English.

    A few things along these lines: I had read that “W” in Japan commonly means “double” in regards to advertising and abbeviations. Also Wii would be pronounced as “ui” in Japanese. (I saw on the Nintendo Japanese site you see the kana for this.) To go along with this “ii” in Japanese means good. So Wii=double good. Then there’s “Oui” for France.

    In the long run, I think people will get used to it. I’ve just been really bothered by the idea that people think that Nintendo should just cater to the English-speaking folks.

  11. Patrick
    28 April 2006 at 18:34

    Its been almost a day since I’ve heard, and already I can see where Wii can go. I almost regret signing the petition (at around 180 signatures right now).

    I feel comfortable one day saying in a press release “we’re going to release this as a Wii exclusive.”

    And I can imagine, in about six months, a series of ads that make this work effectively.

    Ultimately it boils down to the designers and producers coming out with games that take advantage of the controller in powerful and intuitive ways with subject matter and verb sets that are culturally relevant and make non-gamers care about this medium.

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