'Wii Parties' Help Sell Nintendo's Video-Game Consoles

Kris Smith called it "the equivalent of a man Tupperware party."

In early December, he and a few pals gathered in a basement in suburban Chicago to try out their friend's brand new Nintendo Wii video game console.

At the end of the night, Smith, 32, was sweaty, exhausted, and completely sold on buying a Wii for himself.

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Smith, who never enjoyed video games before the Wii, said the console has given him a new way not only to enjoy time with his wife and children, but also to socialize with his friends.

After securing his own Wii, Smith, who heads new media initiatives at a start-up, organized a "Wii Tournament" that included an hour warm-up session and a trophy for the winner.

The invitation told guests: "If you have ever picked your nose or punched someone, you can get in on the fun."

Smith's recent event is just one of a slew of Wii-themed home parties that have cropped up since the console's launch late last year.

According to Wii owners, the console's motion-sensitive controller, which can be swung like a tennis racquet or sword, makes it perfect for groups of people to take turns bowling or swordfighting in their living rooms.

"It's almost as entertaining to watch people playing as to be on the system," said Mike Marusin, the friend of Smith's who turned him on to the Wii.

Perrin Kaplan, vice president of marketing for Nintendo of America, said the Wii was also popular at family gatherings over the holidays — including her own.

"For the first time ever, over the holidays, all the people in my household were playing together," Kaplan said. "I know it was a first for a lot of households."

Indeed, Marusin said he was floored by how the Wii caught on not, only with his wife and friends, but also with his extended family.

"My father-in-law, who doesn't even have a debit card, was bowling," Marusin said. "That was the big talk of the family."

John Sams, a 20-year-old student in Greenville, S.C., said he knew the Wii would be provide a new opportunity for socializing before it even became available.

As a result, he and his brother, Indy, 22, started a Web site to link up people interested in Wii gaming parties in their area.

The site, http://www.wiiparty.net, has about 150 registered members and Sams said he has met several people through the site who have attended Wii parties at his apartment.

He now has friends and classmates over to play games like "Red Steel" and "Excite Truck" at least four times a week.

"I became famous for it," Sams said.

Recently, a man sent to repair his building's security system even joined in on the fun.

"He wanted to play, so he stayed for about 30 minutes before his cell phone went off," Sams said.