Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
I've already grown to like the name, but mostly negative reaction has greeted Nintendo's offical moniker for the console formerly code-named Revolution. "Wii" is certainly Nintendo's highest-concept name ever for a console. Apart from a fair amount of mispronunciation that Nintendo concedes the system will receive, though (I heard someone ask today if it's called "W2," and nothing says "fun" like an IRS form), the literal name of this game is not the figurative one.
A year ago, I commented on the Big Three console companies' efforts to court the casual gamer. Microsoft, for example, continues to tout initiatives such as Xbox Live Arcade as a way of bringing new (or maybe old) gamers into the fold. Microsoft cites the high conversion rates for the addictive Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved – a frenetic cross between Asteroids and Robotron -- as evidence that casual gaming has a home on the testosterone-siphoned Xbox 360.
However, while Microsoft touts the high adoption rate of Xbox Live as evidence that the Xbox 360 is bringing in new family members playng casual games, it concedes that such games are attracting other family members after its high-powered retail software has opened the front door for the 360. On the other hand, while it may not be expanding the gamer audience, Xbox Live's easily, if slowly available, game demo downloads embody the mixture of quick pickup and advanced graphics I advocated a year ago, and the company's commitment to work with independent developers announced yesterday will be a shot in the arm for this genre-worn industry.
Nintendo has been hammering home that Wii's name is consistent with its "virtual console" backward compatibility and controller design that will broaden its appeal beyond the core console fanboy. After all, "GameCube," while uninspiring, could not have been more descriptive, and that didn't help Nintendo escape a distant third place in the home console market even with a lower priced offering.