Friday, April 28, 2006

But Seriously

[News] [Computer Gaming]

Okay, I've had my kneejerk reaction to the name "Wii". Now I've had time to think it over carefully, and in all seriousness I have some very real reasons why this would be an extremely bad name for a gaming console.

1) The name does not come naturally to the Japanese.
Now, I'm taking some lead here from people who know Japanese better than I do, but I do know that there's no Japanese syllable/consonant for "wi" (or anything starting with "w" except "wa" and "wo"). It seems unlikely that Nintendo would choose a name that doesn't fit naturally into the language of their home turf, and if indeed the name is for real it seems silly.

2) "Wii" has no obvious meaning.
If you look back on past (successful) consoles, you'll see that they all are either existing words (Genesis), compound words (PlayStation), words built from word fragments (Famicom = Family Computer), or acronyms or partial acronyms (XBox, where presumably the X is for Extreme, or at least intended to convey mystery). Although Nintendo goes to some trouble on their website to explain that "Wii" is meant to suggest the word "we", with the two i's being like two people, that's not in any way obvious on its face, and it requires someone to explain it to you. And if it needs explanation, then what's the point of it? A title is meant to qualify an unknown product; you shouldn't need a product to qualify an unkown title ("qualify" in the sense of "reveal qualities").

3) The pronunciation of the name lends to obvious scatalogical jokes...
... and not just "mature" jokes (such as you might get if they'd called it the Nintendo Fook), but jokes that suggest an even greater level of infantilism than your average toilet humour. Let's be clear, the name is pronounced "wee". As in, "I'm going to spend a couple of quality hours with the latest Mario title and my wee," or, "I'm so glad I have my wee." I know this has been the point everyone's already focused on, but it is a valid point - it's remarkably hard to talk about interacting with the console without dissolving into giggles. And that's.... really not a good image.

4) The name does not convey the function.
This is really an extension of (2). Nintendo is presumably hoping to reach non-gamers; possibly they're trying to move away from the hardcore stigma of gaming but they now face the whole trouble of explaining to their potential new users exactly what a Wii is and what it can do. They're not just going to have to sell consumers on the benefits of their console over others; they're going to have to re-sell consumers on the concept of consoles in general.

5) The name is small.
No, seriously, it doesn't take up much space on a printed page. If an article says "this game will be available for the XBox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3," Nintendo's really only getting about 15% or something of that publicity space. (Please don't check my maths; I already know they're dodgy.) The name just does not grab the attention visually when placed among other print. Even the original XBox had that big mysterious "X" at the start.

6) It's unclear how the name is pronounced.
You have to have it explained to you how the name is pronounced. They're doing themselves no word of mouth favours if half their theoretical casual-gamer evangelists are telling their friends to go out and buy a "Nintendo Why", and then their friends are looking in windows for something with the spelling "Nintendo Y". Legions of people will be referring to it as the "Wee, or Why, or Whatever", or just not talking about it because it's all too confusing. My prose style makes that seem like a humorous exaggeration, but seriously, this certainly isn't helping their marketing. Why would you deliberately pick a name with this problem?

So that's six reasons. I know you should always shoot for 5 or 7 reasons because people like those sort of numbers, but six is all I've got. I'm very serious about them, though. There's six hard reasons why this is a damned ridiculous choice of name, and the only one I've really got in favour of it is that its sheer strangeness has everyone talking. I'm not sure that balances out, and the more I think about it the more I think that Nintendo realliy can't be serious about this.

Any comments?


Patrick Dugan said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate.

1) To reiterate some of Brinstars points, "w" in Japanese slips into the pronunciation "ui" which by itself means double, and "ii" means good, so its double good.

As to the rest, if it picks up enough momentum people will come to assume what it means, and it will gain its own uniqueness. Thats why its maybe not suicide for Nintendo to use that name. Consider your print example, it gets the least page space, but it stand out the most. Think about that. Less is more.

GregT said...

Point on Japanese conceded. On your other point, though, the challenge for a console has never been to maintain momentum, but to gather it in the first place; the critical period is the launch window and the time immediately after it. If the sales aren't strong there, the manufacturer risks losing the benefit of word of mouth advertising, and may face a reduction in third-party support. Considering it looks as though Nintendo are going to be last out of the gate in this generation, they already have a bit of a hurdle to overcome; I still say the name won't help.

Julia B said...

But to be honest, from my perspective they could call it the 'Julia-box: for the giving of wonderful things to Julia' and I still wouldn't buy it because I'm already saving up for a PS3.

And you'll buy one regardless of the name, because you were going to already. All they need is one good game, and they'll get the word of mouth to convert the undecided.

GregT said...

You lie! You would too buy a Juliabox. Particularly if it came with Final Julia XIII as a launch title.

Phrancq said...

If you're trying to go for a casual gamers/soccer mom market, you need a name that will grab their attention. I think Wii may not be the brightest idea but then again, perhaps all this commotion will do the trick.

And Final Julia XIII was crap. The series it spun out of, Fatal Matt, was much better. Coming soon to the MattSystem.

Julia B said...

Pshaw! You know nothing. Overall, Final Julia XIII was obviously a far more attractive game. And smarter too.

The only reason I would play Fatal Matt was for the Angry Chef side quests. ;-)

GregT said...

Fatal Matt was broken. The whole "griping" mini-game made the rest of the gameplay irrelevant. The spin-off (Ultimate Matt Dance Revolution) was alright, though.

GregT said...

Actually, better yet was its peripheral, the Dance Matt.

Julia B said...

Ok... I almost laughed out loud in Court while someone is in the process of being sent to jail. Damn you and your funnies!

Also - has some comments on the Wii.

GregT said...

Someone being sent to jail is funny. Someone needs to make a game based on being an associate in Magistrates Court, and by someone, I mean me. I'll start work tonight. I'm sure I can work in the phrase, "Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!" somewhere in it.

GregT said...

Speaking of which, if you find me some photos of the coutroom taken from some sort of third-person player perspective (like from the door) that would help heaps. I'll whip it up in ADS; it'll be a laugh-a-minute. You give me permission to use your likeness in a game distributed to millions of people for free, right?

Julia B said...

*trying very hard not to laugh inappropriately*!

GregT said...

Woot! That sounds like a "Yes - and make sure I have a ridiculously sized head compared to me body!"

Will do. Stay tuned for results.