Scott Hanselman

Happy Birthday to Mii - Wii Review

January 21, 2007 Comment on this post [35] Posted in Gaming | Reviews
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My Wish ListMy birthday is actually Monday, but my supercool wife Mo got me with a huge birthday surprise today. She organized the whole thing with my whole family chipping in and I never suspected. Without knowing (or caring) what a "Wii" is, turns out she'd been driving all over Oregon all last week, while sick, looking for a Wii for mii. She saw my Amazon Wishlist and went off hunting for a Wii. The amazing part is that she actually thought it was US$450 because I added a "bundle" to my list, and was thrilled when it was $249. Still "ridiculously expensive why do you have so many gadgets," but cool when one finds that something is nearly half what they expected it'd be.

Lately I've been thinking about games and hobbies that would bring family and friends together, rather than Gears of War style games that I can't play with anyone but the sick bastards at work. :) My buddy Eli and boss Chris have turned me on to alternative (my word) boardgaming, and that'll be the topic of this week's Hanselminutes. More on that later. I'm looking for games that are fun. Full stop.

I did research on the Wii for the podcast on Next Generation Gaming, although I got a few things wrong, I generally had the right idea. The Wii - specifically the controllers and the experience - is built to be fun, and really stretches the classic controller design assumptions.

It's tiny, the Wii is. Quite wee, in fact. It's smaller than the Xbox360's HD-DVD by a considerable margin. It's of course, easy to hook up as it includes Composite RCA cables, and a sensor bar. Everything else is wireless.

The sensor bar appears to be two IR receivers on a foot long bar that has to be mounted either above or below your TV. From what I can glean in an hour, there's two physical transmitters next to each other on the Wiimote and there's two receivers. When you're pointing the controller (folks talk about calibrating, but I never saw those screens. It just worked.) it knows the orientation (if you twisted your wrist) as well as the location you're pointing to. The IR details, along with the internal gyroscope and accelerometer give it a pretty decent idea of where you are. The little floating hand cursor actually twists with you. It's very much like the Gyromouse of years past. (Folks are hacking the Wiimote for Linux and Windows, but it's kind of pointless as that controller is freely available. I use it for my Media Center.) I believe Nintendo either bought or sleeps with that company.

The Wii outputs composite, but you can get Component Cables that'll do 480p. I believe I'm out of Video Inputs though, so I'm just plugging it into the Camcorder front jacks on the Receiver. I seriously doubt the screen quality would get THAT much better, considering that my Onkyo is upconverting the output to 480p anyway and pushing it through HDMI, but I'm probably wrong. I'll try the component cables one day.

I hooked it up, and went through a few menus. It was very Japanese minimalist. Big, clear buttons, simple menus. The hardest part was typing in the WEP key for my WiFi with the on screen keyboard. After that, the Wii went through a lengthy self-update process that seemed to have three parts. Not sure why it took so long.

I popped in the free Wii Sports game and tried tennis. It took literally two minutes to get it. The controllers really work well.

I thought it might just be me, so I figured I'd use my control case - the wife.

"Here dear, try this."

"Oh, lord, what is this. The video game; no you go ahead."

"Seriously, two minutes. Try it."

The video at left is the two minutes. She actually liked it. She liked it a lot. This is a woman who sees little value in the Xbox360 beyond Bejeweled. I asked if it was the controllers or the graphics that she appreciated (remembering to myself that she was wholly unimpressed while I foisted Topspin Tennis on the Xbox360 on her). She said that fact that there was no learning curve, and that we were 'off our butts.'

Wii Sports is a silly little ditty, but addictive and fun. I look forward to having four people playing mixed doubles. I hope that Nintendo comes out with deeper version of Wii sports...even a "Wii Summer Games" would be a blast.

At this point I can say that while the Xbox360 and Sony PS3 are both truly gorgeous, the Wii is just good fun. So far that's based on one game, and what I hear about Zelda. The current Wii lineup appears, IMHO, to be fairly weak. It'll take a year I figure for the developers to really do something interesting with the controllers beyond minigames.

The Xbox is all about community. It really is. I have at least 50 folks on my buddy list and I enjoy that distributed community. I get the impression that the Wii is also expanding the community to the person standing next to you. The DS and Gameboy were like that also with their game sharing and head-to-head features. Yes, I know that there's lot of systems that do this, and yes, I know that Fusion Frenzy was a great party game on the original Xbox. But argue with this: The number of times that Mo has played Gears of War with me is somewhere between zero and bubkes. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the Xbox immensely when I get a chance to play it. But if there's a chance to spend time with the Wife, the Wife always wins. Ideally I'd combine the two hobbies and actually play a game with the Wife. The fact that she picked up the controllers and was losing a virtual tennis match two minutes later is a significant event, IMHO. The Whole Wii Experience was seamless, from Out of the Box to Game Over.

For now, if I were considering buying a console, I could totally recommend the Wii. Even after tonight's few hours with it, I suspect Mo and I will play Tennis a few times a week. I also think that the accessibility and non-existent learning curve might even get Mom and Dad using the Wii.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 21, 2007 14:16
Hey man happy your incoming birthday ;-)

I didn't know much about Wii but it's cool. Wii controllers are really really great. I have to buy one :-P
January 21, 2007 16:19
Happy Birthday Scott,

I stumbled upon (and swiftly snapped up) a Wii whilst at a planning session with my team. After they day's cycle and iteration planning we set my Wii up on the projector in a small conference room, man it was so much fun.

I totally agree with the family thing as well, a lot of the guys said they'd be happy to let their kids play with this where they didn't want to buy 'violent' xBox and PS games.

I think it was the first workout for a few of them too =) <- me on the boxing game =)
January 21, 2007 16:28
Dude. No.
Rule #1 - Don't let the wife on the Wii.

I've had mine for well over a month now, and I've had maybe three or four hours total on it (the Wii, not the wife). Almost everytime the kids are in bed and I try to get near the console I can hear (tock .... tock.... tock.... or Stttrrrrrrrrrike!) from halfway up the stairs. I can't even get any two-player games because she is busy 'training'. Having said that this has got to be the big appeal of the Wii - even my parents know what it is and asked if they could have a quick try, there are only so many shootie blowie uppie games you can play on the other consoles.

Happy Birthday, and congrats on having a wife cool enough to go out of her way to find one for you ;)
January 21, 2007 17:13
Happy birthdat scott!

I got a wii for christmas and I love it, it's great. You'll likely like zelda, great game, and you can always enjoy the virtual console (it's actually quite fun, if you don't mind 80's and 90's games :))
January 21, 2007 18:03
I got a Wii and love it too. Unfortunately my wife is even more closed-minded and still refuses to admit that it's any fun. I guess it's her loss.

The sensor bar is actually two transmitters, not receivers. The front of the wiimote has a receiver and uses the two points of IR light to determine the direction it's aiming. In fact, people have been able to replace it by using two candles to emit the same IR light.
January 21, 2007 22:22
Happy b-day. Expect an e-card coming (I think it was LinkedIn that reminded me and I set something up, but then telling you about it isn't very fun is it?). As for board game discussions in your upcoming HM, a couple of interesting things to check out. Settlers of Catan is fun. I've played both the board version and electronic one(s) and will hopefully see it show up on XBL soon! I really dug Axis and Allies long ago (which got me into those kind of board games). I've worked with guys who are just crazy about them and there are tons of games outside the norm that we geeks don't see. It's almost an entire sub-culture like D&D or something so the podcast should be fun!
January 21, 2007 22:37
I was going to try to look all smart and point out that the sensor bar doesn't actually sense anything, but Jake beat me to it. He even mentioned the thing about the candles. There are several how-tos out on the web for making your own sensor bar - like, if you're using a projector and need a wireless, wall-mounted sensor bar.

Your WAF of the Wii is probably spot-on, exactly what Nintendo was going for. The funny thing is, I have no WAF for the Wii at all. My wife, a full time stay-at-home mom, is thoroughly an Xbox 360 gamer. I finally talked her into trying Oblivion in early December, and since then, she's logged about 150 hours in the game. Before that, it was Jade Empire or Knights of the Old Republic (original and sequel) all the time. She tried the Wii for about an hour, then gave up and went back to Oblivion.

My brother-in-law, more of a "hardcore" Xbox gamer, swore to me that he completely wasn't interested in the Wii. This was until he came up for my wife's birthday a few weeks ago and I made him try it. Then he monopolized it for the entire weekend. :)
January 22, 2007 1:05
yeah the wii is tempting - too tempting. they need to release more new games though. But since I'm playing my game cube might as well just upgrade to a wii and the sell the old. hmm...
January 22, 2007 1:11
You guys should try DDR or Guitar Hero. Both huge wife wins in my household.

And you're WAY "off your butt" playing either.
January 22, 2007 1:35
Hi Scott,
Happy birthday from me too...
I surely look forward to your boardgames podcast; my humble input:

- a few things we always take into account when buying a game:
- can it be played with two and/or more
- how long does a typical game take (it's just fun to play a quick game in 45 min, instead of the all night D&D campaigns)
- some gamers prefer games where luck takes a bigger part (dices/action cards/...), this is sometimes important to keep everybody happy :-).

- Settlers of Catan is certainly a classic; for two persons there is the card version (which is different but just as much fun)
- Mesopotamia from Phalanx Games
- Maharadja from Phalanx Games
- Carcassonne from 999games and its many incarnations
- Tadsch Mahal from Alea
- Machiavelli from 999games (card game)

sites (in English):
January 22, 2007 1:47
Happy b-day Scott (a few days early).

In regards to alternative gaming (board games), there is a high WAF here as well. My wife and I have a few favorites to play just the two of us. I'd recommend investing a few dollars in Lost Cities or Balloon Cup for play with your wife after Z goes to bed. (These can be found at my old game store, among other places. I sold the store a number of years back when it got bigger than a part-time hobby. If you need any info on these types of games, let me know.)
January 22, 2007 2:23
Happy Birthday Scott!

I managed to snag one just before xmas. It wasn't easy though with all the crazy christmas shoppers here in Scotland. Anyway, so far I've just been playing wii sports with my missus and call of duty 3. Planning on getting warioware smooth moves and zelda at the end of the month.

Are you going to post your wii number? It would be cool to get you mii character to play against!

Happy gaming!
January 22, 2007 4:28
Happy B-Day, Scott.
What a coincidence. I was one of the poor souls lined up under Chicago snow, from 6am to 8am, in front of my local Target to get the Wii. Another coincidence is that the wife here also got hooked and won't let go of the tennis and bowling games.
January 22, 2007 4:50
Component cables make a big difference, not so much in Wii Sports, but Zelda and Excite Truck shine in progressive scan. Excite Truck is pure fun, recommended.
January 22, 2007 5:07
Happy (belated) birthday from me - for computer games, you might want to take a look at Albatross18 ( a fun golf game - downloaded on two (or more) computers, you can play for free against each other on the internet. I got my wife into it after Thanksgiving - unfortunately she's better than I am at it - but its good fun.
January 22, 2007 7:40
Happy Birthday Scott!

Have you checked out the "Settlers of Catan" board game? I don't think many board games come even close. I bought this as a family game a few months ago.
January 22, 2007 8:03
Happy Birthday Scott... My birthday is tomorrow too! (1/22/80 I turn 27 tomorrow)
Enjoy the Wii... :)

January 22, 2007 11:15
Happy birthday Scott!
January 22, 2007 14:33
Happy Birthday!
January 22, 2007 14:38
Happy Birthday Scott. I think you nailed this one on the head. The Wii is definitely a family console. My wife got a Wii for Christmas even though she had little idea what it was. She has long been a fan of the classic NES and SuperNES games and said she could no longer play the current consoles since they started putting on more buttons that people have fingers. The Wii allows her to play the classic games she loves while also introducing her to a whole new way of gaming. It was simple and intuitive and we even had her parents playing with us on Christmas night. Great fun was had by all.
January 22, 2007 16:00

Wish you a very Happy Birthday Scott. The Wii does look cool. But I 've heard people saying the graphics are not as good although I havent seen one yet. But the idea of the Wiimote is pretty impressive. I guess I will have to think about this vs a ps3
January 22, 2007 18:08
Santa brought the kids a Wii this year, took a day off from work to go and wait in line for a presale (only had to wait 45 minutes). The Wii is great, finally we have a console we all can play as a family.

Christmas day even my mother-in-law played bowling with the kids, unheard of!

Nintendo "gets it", they figured out what we needed, not some super computer that plays the same old games with better graphics, they gave us something that is just fun for everyone.

Kudos to Nintendo.
January 22, 2007 20:24
Happy birthday Scott.

When I received the Wii at Christmas, my parents played it with my wife and I until 1 AM in the morning. The next night, *her* parents played it with us until 2 - my parents last played video games sometime around the era of Donkey Kong and Q-Bert, while my in-laws last played video games around the time of *never*!

It's a fantastic system and I'm pleased with it's ability to get so many people involved.
January 22, 2007 21:42
The Legend of Zelda : A Link to the Past (SNES) was just released on the virtual console.... nuff said!
January 22, 2007 22:18

Happy Birthday!

I think some people expect too much from devices these days. Each device fills a certain niche. While the Wii can't match PS3 or XBox 360's gfx, the Wii gfx is not too shaby either. If the Wii has equivalent gfx, no one would buy the Xbox 360 or PS3. Nintendo is not big enough to do all things.
January 22, 2007 22:55
Happy Birthday Scott. Just remember to be careful with the wrist bands snapping from the controller. Just imagine bowling and your WII controller goes soaring through the air.
January 23, 2007 2:42
Happy Birthday Scott!

My son is still trying to get his Wii but missed it last Sunday by about a body length. I can't wait til he gets one. ;-)

January 23, 2007 10:10
As others have said, Happy Birthday. Btw, the last show on MicroISV was great.

Anyway, regarding the Nintendo Wii. I agree that it is a family console, but the WiiMote is definetely NOT kid friendly, particularly on screens where you have to enter some sort of information (e.g. option screens in the Wii Sports games). It is difficult for a kid to use the Wiimote as a mouse - the cursor constantly goes off the screen and is far too sensitive. The programming of the console is just downright crappy. Even in windows, you can't move the mouse cursor past the confines of the screen. Why in the world, can you do that on the Wii?

Anyway, my rant for the day.
January 23, 2007 18:22
You need to adjust the sensitivity of the Wiimote/Sensor Bar. When we first hooked ours up it was very jittery at times, I set the sensitivity to max and it is rock steady now.
January 24, 2007 0:11
happy bday!
January 24, 2007 7:37
Semi-belated but happy birthday.
January 24, 2007 23:59
Happy (belated) birthday! Your wife sounds a lot like mine when it comes to gaming. Your review of the Wii has me thinking now... (evil grin). Great video, btw. You have a really wonderful family and it's great to read this blog and see someone who really enjoys (and understands) their family as much as I do mine.
January 25, 2007 7:28
I saw you had a birthday... was that Plaxo that reminded me? Anyways, after seeing you down in "The Byte" the other day playing games with Chris, I thought that I should sit in on one of those lunch sessions sometime. My wife reminded me of just how many board games I have after we recently moved, "Why don't you throw those away?" I just recently picked up a copy of On The Underground, its pretty sweet from Rio Grande Games.
January 26, 2007 16:26
Happy Birthday!

Enjoy the Wii! A friend who was waiting in line got me a voucher at our local Best Buy on Sunday - I love it!

Ramond Raving Rabids. A must get game. What other game can you whirl a cow in a hammer throw? Shoot evil bunnies (but yet still cute evil bunnies, this is Nintendo after all) in the face with a plunger? The mini-games are fun, and you can do two players if you are lucky enough to find another set of controllers (or have a friend just bring theirs over).

$44 at Costco instead of $50 everywhere else. Highly recommend it. Also, check out the fitness test in Wii Sports - it's a great little bit of daily exercise and can get some good competition going in the family :)
March 08, 2007 17:13
happy birth day all world famous

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.