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Revolutionary: Dreaming of Wii 1.5

Mike Sylvester
With both E3 '08 and the midpoint of this generation fast approaching, while it may be a bit premature, we wouldn't mind seeing a few changes in the Wii hardware. Within their lifetimes, the PS2 slimmed down, the Gamecube parted with a port, and the DS shed its baby phat, so it's not unreasonable to expect some sort of alterations to the Wii.

A compact box that's already inexpensive to produce (and continuously remains in greater demand than supply can keep up with) may not cry out for revision, but there are a few bits that can be nipped and tucked to enhance the appeal and value of the Wii. This week Revolutionary goes Revisionary.

The first thing on the operating table is the internal storage. We've written countless times of the hassles in swapping downloaded games and channels to and from an SD card, so naturally, that's something we'd like to see addressed. 2GB is a nice round number which shouldn't add more than a few cents to the bill of materials for the Wii. With the price of flash memory falling at such an alarming rate, we'd expect that, if any part of the Wii were to be technically altered during this generation, it would be the integrated flash memory. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has confirmed that the storage limitations are something they are looking into, so perhaps this will be the solution for new console buyers.

Many of you contended that Nintendo could resolve the problem by simply "unlocking" the SD card slot and allowing us to play games and downloaded content directly from it. I'd argue that Nintendo wouldn't do that when it could also open up more doors to piracy, and they have another marketing prospect to capitalize on. But should they feel so generous, we'd gladly welcome being able to use the SD cards we already have in a new Wii. That includes the cards with greater than 2GB capacity that aren't supported in the current console.

Any mid-cycle Wii upgrades would have to be limited to secondary functions that wouldn't affect the playing of existing games or alienate the existing user base. We can't really expect a faster GPU and more RAM, unless they are there to facilitate new non-essential functions. We shouldn't be required to have the Wii 1.5 to play Pikmin Wii, because the 1.0 version doesn't have enough RAM. But if Wii 1.5 ships with a DVD Movie Channel, it wouldn't be wrong to include any additional hardware or software necessary for playing DVDs in the revision.

In our fantasy Wii 1.5, the front of the console would trade in clicky buttons for touch-sensitive, capacitive ones. Like on the PS3, the power button would be multifunctional. Touching the power "button" while the system is powered off or in standby mode will turn it on. Holding it while in standby mode will power it off (and disable WiiConnect24). Touching it while powered on will reset it, and holding the button will put it in standby mode. I think we can all agree that touching is good.

On the aesthetics side, a sleeker chassis is what I'd like to see. While minimalism was apparently central to the original design theme, it wouldn't take a windtunnel study to show areas where it can do with some streamlining. The flimsy Gamecube port covers should be replaced with something sturdier. If the whole case is made of slightly transparent plastic, we can still see those ports when the flap is up. And even though the front flap covering the SD card slot and sync button doesn't hold up as poorly, I just don't see a need to keep it.

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Like Mario shot from a cannon, we've blown the corners off this baby. Rounded edges give it a more unique profile which won't be easily mistaken for your computer's DVD burner. Okay, so I borrowed a little from Apple's design school, but the big Wii logo on the side helps promote the brand when guests are drawn in by the hypnotic blue glow of the disc slot.

And when they ask, "Does it come in black?" you can respond with a resounding "YES!" The first time we ever saw the Wii (back when it was still going by the "Revolution" codename), it was housed in a sexy black casing. In the world of home theater appliances, the brilliant white gleam of our 1.0 Wii sticks out like a sore thumb. Black just goes with everything, and Wesley Snipes says to always bet on it.

Up to this point, this has just been a wish list. What's guaranteed to happen before the end of the cycle is a reduction in price and maybe a new SKU or two. The most likely candidate for bundling in a package to sit on store shelves alongside the Wii Sports-bundled SKU is Wii Fit.

Replacing the Nunchuk and Wii Sports pack-ins with a Balance Board and Wii Fit could enhance the appeal for a new demographic. The cute Miis and perceived competitive rooting of Wii Sports may not be for everyone, so the solemnity of Wii Fit could be the Trojan horse that makes the Wii platform attractive to more of those people who are still turned off by a games machine.

If they've already dropped the price of the current SKU, ($199 is the sweet spot, but $229 may be more likely) by the time they're ready to sell this bundle, I'd estimate a Wii Fit-bundled Wii to go for $279. Otherwise, $299 would be still be a good deal. In all sincerity, if Nintendo were to release a refresh Wii that is anything like the package I've outlined above, I'd buy it in a heartbeat and give the one I've got to a friend or family member whom I'd hope could be converted into a gamer.

What types of upgrades or enhancements would it take to get you to buy another Wii? How about your friends and family members that haven't been pulled over to the light side yet? What do you feel could be done to the system to get them to part with their hard-earned jack and bring one home? Scroll down and leave a comment for discussion.

Every other week, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities. We've got our hopes up for some new announcements regarding hardware at E3, not least of which is a supplemental storage device. To see why we're waiting for Nintendo to throw the storage-starved a bone, take a look at Revolutionary: Wii can has hard drive?

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