Kyoto (Japan) - When Johnny Carson told a joke that bombed, he often reclaimed the lost laugh by meekly explaining to the audience the intent of the punch line, as if to salvage some semblance of its intended cleverness. Today, one cannot help but notice that Nintendo’s unveiling of the new name for its next-generation game console, formerly code-named "Revolution," comes with a rather long-winded explanation.
"While the code-name ’Revolution’ expressed our direction," Nintendo’s Web site reads this morning, "’Wii’ represents the answer."
The late, great Benny Hill, here seen in the early 1980s as one of his immortal characters, "Baby Boy" - a sort of reverse-Lolita. "Baby Boy" was known for enjoying, as he would say, "going wee !" the definition of which would vary throughout the sketch. For several generations, Benny Hill was the very definition of "Wee !"
In a statement yesterday, Nintendo’s US vice president of marketing, Perrin Kaplan, assumed Carson’s mantle, explaining further : "The name Wii works on several levels. It sounds like the word ’we,’ which emphasizes the all-inclusive nature of the system." She went on to explain that the two little "i’s" in the name looked like little people, as did the "W" if you look at it a certain way. And they also look like the system’s new remote controllers...if you take their little tops off.
Among the many bullet points which Nintendo UK executive Ron Saunders gave the British game enthusiasts’ blog Cubed3, was the following : "We wanted a short name that would not need to be abbreviated, so that anyone could instantly understand it and there was no need for a nickname." Indeed, now, there will probably be a contest for people submitting possible nicknames for the Wii.
This morning, a marketing executive told The Rocky Mountain News that, any time a company opens up its new marketing campaign with a long explanation for why it chose the name it did, that’s a bad sign.
Although we’ve reported over the past few months how Nintendo has been enjoying a resurgence of market share, especially in Asian markets and in the wake of a bad start for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, game enthusiasts worldwide are wondering today whether Nintendo has been feeling just a bit too self-certain. One of the posters of the blog Liloia.com, who just goes by the name of "Dan" (which some might say is better than "Wii"), wrote this comment last night, under the heading, "Wii don’t like it :"
When I first saw the announcement on the boards I read it as Nintendo "Why", and thought, well that’s odd. And then when I saw the official Nintendo statement realizing it was pronounced "We" I realized it wasn’t just odd anymore, it was simply garbage. Nintendo says the idea of the name is to show that it’s a system for everyone, but when you can’t even pronounce it the first time you see it, there has to be something wrong there (I’ve heard someone as going as far as thinking it was called Nintendo W-2 at first impression).
Multiple posts on many other blogs today have also noted both the name’s and symbol’s resemblance to the common abbreviation "WWII," for which they expressed puzzlement at how that symbology would play out, especially in the Japanese market.
"Wii" isn’t the first home entertainment trademark to be introduced in the past 12 months with a strange name and a "double-I." In fact, "Wii" could almost be an anagram for "Viiv," Intel’s platform for home entertainment PCs, whose name a Nintendo spokesperson might describe as the union of two people stuck between two flower pots.
Adam Riley’s analysis, which appears later in Cubed3, includes an interesting idea, which in the US could be labeled, "The Smuckers Theory :" Any product whose name is this bad, must be really good to stay viable ; so therefore, naming a product so poorly must be a clear indication that the underlying product must rock. Here’s an excerpt :
... What if Nintendo is stringing us all along ? What if Nintendo is proving a point that people are too bothered about an image and or a name ? Then it would indeed be making a very strong, valid point. People are too bothered about how a name sounds (despite people accepting the bland XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3), what a system looks like and how many polygons can be shifted even before running a game on the hardware. But what would really be the need for such deviousness and deception ? Nintendo would have to have something immensely special waiting in the wings if it did not want to incur the wrath of the gaming world !
Perhaps Intel could borrow this theory ; it, too, could use some help right about now.
Finally, the blog that accompanies the online comic Penny Arcade summed up one of its fictional characters’ feelings quite brilliantly :
You really must be joking. What names were rejected, that something like Wii remained vertical at the end of it ?...What makes me mad isn’t that Nintendo has chosen a name based on bizarre, interstellar philosophy. It’s that they chose a name that was and is so readily used to obscure and discredit the imaginative power of the system.
If the news of Revolution’s new name did accomplish something well yesterday, it was the complete and successful drowning out of all speculation as to why the company has not yet announced a release date for the console.