Next-gen consoles have grabbed the headlines, but at $99, this throwback is good value for video gamers.
The other new console this holiday season is a strange blast from the past.
Forget the next generation. Just one more time, ostensibly for a different crowd, Nintendo is embracing the last generation, revamping the Wii for one final go-round with the Wii Mini. And it’s the strangest new console of them all.
It’s a machine that delivers plenty of intrigue, although it so obviously could have been so much more. Nintendo strips down the Wii a little too much, but it slashes the price, too.
The resulting machine seems meant to appeal to a different, less hard-core crowd. It’s part of a very unique strategy by Nintendo, which offers five machines this holiday. The portable 3DS has a luxury model in the 3DSXL and a stripped-down, budget version in the 2DS. Similarly, Nintendo makes the expected push with its next-gen $299 Wii U this holiday. And then it offers something far more budget with the $99 Wii Mini, a machine available only overseas until last month. It’s as if the company is embracing a smartphone strategy, offering different levels instead of one-size-fits-all gaming.
“We understand that different systems and games appeal to different people,” says Nintendo’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs Cindy Gordon. “So we wanted to provide enough value and variety to make it easy for shoppers to find something for everyone on their list.”
The approach is appreciated, especially in this age of consoles that cost more than a monthly car payment. But the budget console in Nintendo’s lineup falls slightly short.
There’s a lot to love about the Wii Mini, starting with its large library of games. This is a console that draws on almost a decade’s worth of existence and that means quality titles are easy to find. Just as important to the budget consumer, you won’t need to blow $60 bucks a game. New titles can easily be purchased for $20 a pop. Used games can be had for even less. The Wii Mini comes bundled with Mario Kart Wii, a classically brilliant title as well.
The form factor is appealing to retro gamers, too. Oddly, the Wii Mini isn’t really that much smaller than the Wii, although it is a few inches shorter. But in today’s world of solid colors and edgy builds, the Wii Mini’s plasticky design and red-and-black scheme reminds you of the 8-bit Nintendo age.
But the Wii Mini is nothing more than that, in large part because of what’s missing. In a world so interconnected that even my mom lives on Netflix, the Wii Mini has no Internet connection, something that limits its retro gaming potential. That retro gaming potential is further hindered by the fact that this machine can’t play GameCube titles, either. There’s also still no HDMI support, and even component cables don’t work, something that could become an even greater shortcoming as HDTVs ditch such support in favor of HDMI and USB connections.
The Wii Mini also isn’t as portable as I may have hoped, either. Originally, I wanted to view the Wii Mini as a convenient home console that would be easy to pack for road trips and the main element of the console certainly fits that bill. But it’s a little bit annoying to still have to tote along a monstrous power brick, a reminder that this console isn’t exactly meant to go places.
In the end, it’s hard for true gamers to really fall in love with the Wii Mini, because there are simply too many shortcomings.
But the device still has a market. It’s destined to have a niche appeal for console collectors and it’s a decent buy for casual gamers who only aim for a gaming fix once or twice a month. If the age of iPad gaming has taught us anything it’s that not everyone chases hyper-realistic HD graphics and stunning gaming experiences, and some people just prefer simplicity.
That’s where the Wii Mini fits in. It’s a strange entrant from Nintendo. But for a handful, it can still deliver plenty of old-school fun.