Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Weird Case of the Wii Mini

$99.99 ... Canadian?

With the Wii U currently released and making the rounds, you'd think that it would be the Nintendo system that is on the tips of everyone's tongues these days. While there is a lot of talk about the newest kid on the block, there's also been some rather strange spotlight sharing with an offshoot of the previous generation: the Wii Mini.

It's not unheard of for a company to release a different more affordable version of the previous machine when a new one hits the block, or even before: that's why there's a slim PS3 and the Xbox 360 redesign. The Wii Mini though seems to be targeting a somewhat different market due to some of the choices being made.

First and foremost, the machine has no inbuilt Internet capabilities. This means that there's no virtual console available, so no game downloads. Also gone is the backwards compatibility with the Gamecube, so anyone who still owns a library of miniDVDs won't be able to use this system to play them. These concessions make it somewhat clear that Nintendo is aiming for a younger audience with this particular model of Wii. Kids won't care as much about the lack of an Internet connection, nor will they mind the lack of backwards compatibility.

In a lot of ways, it's almost a throwback. It hearkens back to previous generations when consoles where used to play games and only games. There is a certain elegance to that, although admittedly hte idea may not appeal to everyone.

That isn't the oddest thing though. What really takes the cake is that this system is available ... only in Canada.

The official page on the Nintendo site says as much: "Wii Mini is available exclusively in Canada during the holiday season. No information is available about its potential availability in other territories in the future."

Now, there's no telling if the Wii Mini will end up in the US, or even worldwide. The decision to limit it only to Canadian markets seems to be a strange one though. That's not to say that my home and native land isn't a viable gaming market, but the US strictly speaking has a much higher population and thus more people to buy the system.

I'm not sure if this is a move to make the Mini a niche collectible of sorts, there are certainly people who will buy one for the kitsch appeal alone, even if they already own another Wii system. While you can buy a regular Wii that has all the bells and whistles that this one lacks, it is worth noting that the difference in price is around $70.

This system seems to be meant to appeal to parents that might not have adopted a console early this cycle and are worried about the potential problems that an Internet connection might bring even with precautions in place. That being said, the Wii Mini certainly stands as one of the more paradoxical choices to put under the tree this holiday season. Still, somehow I wouldn't be surprised if it sells well, stranger things have happened after all.

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