Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

4 May, 2006

WHEEEEEE!
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:02 PM

Yeah, I know about the Wii. I usually don’t post about these types of things because everyone else posts about it. I figure people come here because they like something a little offbeat.

But I can’t ignore it anymore. Jeff Freeman commented on an article that points to some reactions to the name. It’s amazing that some people are just being dumb about the whole thing. Seriously, is a name like Wii really worth all the hate? Don’t people see this is, in all seriousness, a brilliant marketing move?

The furor over the name is much ado over nothing. Yeah, it’s a silly-sounding name. So are most console names, really. “PlayStation” sounds like a brand name for teledildonics (link not safe for work; oh, and you’re welcome); Chris Charla in the Gamasutra article correctly pointed out that “PlayStation” wasn’t welcomed with open arms when it was introduced all those years ago. How easily we forget. “XBox” sounds like all that “TO THE XTREME!” crap we put up with that only ever impressed dumb teenagers, it just needs a number related to rotation to make it TOO L33T FOR WORDS! (Oh, wait… Maybe Nintendo should have called it the GameCube 2π?) Only the “GameCube” sounded reasonable in the last generation of consoles, but it was too pedestrian and too boring.

I’m a bit surprised at people saying the name is a stupid marketing move. I can’t read any gaming-related news site without about a third of the stories talking about the Wii. That means Nintendo got their name in the press a few weeks before E3 starts. I consider that a pretty major marketing coup, especially since Sony probably wanted to start hyping PS3 news during this time. Now they can’t, because everyone’s fixated on how “stupid” a name Nintendo chose. Plus, it was pointed out in the Gamasutra article that the announcement lets them focus on the games during E3 instead of the name.

The bigger issue here is that developers don’t like Nintendo for various reasons. If you read Ernest Adam’s response in the Gamasutra article, one can infer by his tone that he didn’t like the console originally. He states that the term “wee” has the connotation of being insignificant, but I argue that’s only for things that you don’t like: a “wee hurricane” is insignificant. When you talk about something you actually do like, such as a “wee orphan puppy” or a “wee kitten”, it takes on connotations of something dear, precious, and to be protected. The name is almost like an litmus test, where your preconceived notions determine what you think about the name. People that didn’t particularly like the console to begin with, surprise!, don’t like the name much, either.

Unfortunately, this once again shows how many game developers simply don’t understand the business side of things as much as they should. Marketing is hard, but getting this many people to talk about your product is great. So, now that people are paying attention to the Wii, it will be so much easier to show off the games. One can speculate if this whole thing was intentional or accidental, but the result was still brilliant.

In the end, I don’t think it will mater much. Casual gamers will appreciate the short and friendly name. The hard-core living in mom’s basement can continue calling it the “Revolution” since they are not mature enough to stop thinking about urine or genitals while saying the name. (*giggle*) Those of us able to pull our minds out of the gutter for a few seconds realize this name has other, positive connotations, too; “whee!” indicates having fun (again a positive connotation), and “we” (first person, plural pronoun) has connotations of inclusion which a console with mass-market aspirations surely needs.

The real question here is still how fun the controllers and how well the games will be received. After all, isn’t fun and games what we’re really talking about here? It could be called the “Nintendo Root Canal Rapist” and I’d still buy it if it had great games. (Okay, maybe I’d just call it the “Nintendo RCR” while buying it, though.)

So, here’s my challenge to all the developers that are embarassed to order a “Nintendo wee” like Ernest is. Go to your local game shop and ask for the “Nintendo WHEEEEEE!” instead. And, when you say the name, throw up your arms and run around like a kid without a care in the world. If you can’t do that, then perhaps you’ve outgrown the industry you once loved?

My thoughts on the whole thing.


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2 Comments »

  1. Dom wrote:
    Heh, that’s twice now you’ve indirectly called me immature or close-minded because I didn’t share your view. Soon I’ll start feeling offended! :)

    I’m sorry. Let me fix that: Hey, Dom, fuck you and your closed mind! See? No more indirectness. *grin* ;)

    In all seriousness, I’m merely discussing my point of view. Of course I think people that think otherwise are wrong. If you inferred that I think my opponents are immature or close-minded, that wasn’t my intention. I’m interested in good discussion.

    Obviously I disagree with you. But, let me expand on one thing: I think the acronyms are more of a convenience thing than a serious attempt at rebranding. The online gaming has encouraged people to abbreviate, because it’s shorter and easier to type the abbreviation rather than the long-hand. Hell, consider the abomination that is “MMORPG” as an example of acronyms out of control. People my game M59 not because we encourage it, but because they want a shortened version. People even abbreviate my pseudonym to “PC”, which I detest. In particular, Sony still uses PlayStation 2 on all the packaging and advertising (probably because that’s the main trademark), so I don’t think there’s been a serious rebranding effort.

    Also, it is funny that you mention the iPod, because when that naming system started, people hated it. Do you remember when the iMacs were launched? All the tech geeks hated it and made fun of it ruthlessly. Of course, most of those tech geeks didn’t use Macintosh computers. They really didn’t care for the product, so they made fun of the stupid name. Sound familiar? It didn’t help that the computer was targeting the “newbie” audience without heavy tech ability. Of course, the iMac proved to be a tremendous success for Apple, and that allowed the the funds to make the iPod.

    Is the name alone going to convert people over to Nintendo’s side? Probably not. But, it has people talking. And when the tech geeks start talking about something this much, the mainstream media usually isn’t far behind. Given Nintendo’s stated goal of reaching beyond the traditional gaming hard-core for their console, this is exactly what they need.

    Anyway, as I said the real test will be how the controllers work and how the games play. If those are cool, it doesn’t matter what the console is named, for me at least. If they suck, then Nintendo could have called it the “Nintendo Blowjob” and I still wouldn’t have touched it.

    So, as I said, there’s much ado over nothing when it comes to the name of the console. The real proof is yet to be shown, and hopefully will be shown at E3.

    My further thoughts,

    Comment by Psychochild — 4 May, 2006 @ 7:50 PM

  2. The acronyms are a convenience, no doubt, but it IS also a rebranding in many cases. Sony might still put “Playstation 2″ on all their packaging, but look at the side of the console itself. Highly stylised logo reading “PS2″. In my opinion, it’s definitely a deliberate marketing issue.

    I’ve also heard lots of people use the argument “people laughed at the Playstation/iMac/the light bulb when it was first announced”, and I still don’t think it’s really fool-proof. The other products proved the naysayers wrong by simply being a good product. If the Wii does the same, then yeah, I’ll take my hat off to them, but there is of course no guarantee that it will. People seem to use the aforementioned platitude as a reason not to ridicule something for having a stupid name or product description, but I don’t think that’s all too valid. People laughed at the Phantom, too, and look how that turned out. I’m happy laughing at the Revolution’s new name, so long as I accept the possibility that it MIGHT turn out to be a good little console, which I do. It IS still a stupid name, though.

    You know, if anything, this whole fiasco has just emphasised how many freaking stupid names we have for oour consoles and other appliances. I mean seriously, who’s deciding all this stuff?

    Comment by Dom — 5 May, 2006 @ 1:18 AM

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