Video game consoles are essentially a closed platform. Once
the hardware is finalized, the specifications usually remain the same
throughout the lifecycle. There have been little tweaks here and there with home consoles towards the end of their life cycles, such as slimmer and
smaller PlayStations, but game systems usually keep to the status quo.
Handhelds are a different story, however, as Nintendo has
written the book on how to reinvent and redesign portable systems. Nintendo
clearly realizes the profit potential of incrementally improving its hardware—not
so much as to introduce new functionality, but to increase usability—so that
customers may even buy the same system twice.
The most recent example of this is the Nintendo DS, which
saw an initial release form of a bulky, sturdy folding brick, and later
reinvented into the DS Lite, a sleek, shiny iPod-like fun machine. Considering
Nintendo’s great success with this strategy, it should not be surprising to
learn that the games maker is plotting a similar strategy for the Wii, perhaps
even earlier than most expected.
In an interview, GameDaily
asked Nintendo of America VP Perrin
Kaplan if the ‘hardware revision model’ would apply to the Wii, to which she
replied succinctly, “Sure, absolutely. You'll see the ways in which we do that.”
Kaplan’s assertive but tight-lipped answer points to more
than just adding something like DVD video playback. In fact, a DVD movie-enabled Wii
has already been announced for release later this year. Kaplan comments on the
DVD playback as something minor in the scheme for Wii: “I think it's just to
give them a choice. We've not yet come out with a firm date; we haven't talked
about it too much. It's not the top thing on our list.” When asked if DVD video
capability was part of the plans for a new Wii hardware revision, Kaplan says, “There
are always lots of things in the future.”
The Nintendo marketing VP isn’t showing any of her cards,
but one thing is for sure: there will be another Wii. The obvious things that
Nintendo would do to make the Wii more attractive are add new colors, increase
its internal flash memory, include rechargeable batteries for Wii Remotes and
component cables. There isn’t much merit to making the console any slimmer or
lighter, and high definition support isn’t likely to happen.
The Wii is attaining mass-market appeal, much like the iPod.
It may only be a matter of time before Nintendo adopts Apple’s hardware