Nintendo’s Wii plays the platform game

wii.jpgNintendo’s Wii gaming system has been a hit on the marketplace, but to keep the momentum, the company is making a strategic bet, and turning it into a developer platform. With enough developer momentum, iconic products say an iPod or Facebook, can become a mass market phenomenon.

Nintendo today announced a new indie developer platform for its widely successful Wii console, likely to launch in early 2008. Dubbed WiiWare, the service is said to enable developers to create smallish, new games via download on the motion-controlled system.
“WiiWare brings new levels of creativity and value to the ever-growing population of Wii owners,” Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime said in a press statement. “Independent developers armed with small budgets and big ideas will be able to get their original games into the marketplace,” he added. Details about the upcoming projects and prices have yet to be determined.

This isn’t the first time downloadable games have graced consoles, however. Both Microsoft and Sony currently offer downloadable games on their Live and Network platforms respectively, though their indie friendliness has been questioned due to the high cost of development and strict license regulations.

Nintendo claims the possibilities of its service are “limited only by the imaginations of developers,” but the company conveniently omits the fact that Wii only houses a tiny amount of internal flash memory (512MB). System owners and developers will therefore need to explore other external storage options depending on how large the games end up being.

Still, the news is significant for several reasons. First, it reminds us that you don’t need the most technically advanced product to build a loyal community; only one that interests people. As a result, Nintendo will now be able to create a new sub-economy of users on top of its existing 8.5 million Wii base. Second, it shows that Nintendo appreciates the current trend of nano-type projects like MySpace Widgets, Facebook Apps, and any other company that sells to a community of a million plus members.

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