Nintendo Chief: We're Going After Non-Gamers With Wii

The latest round in the video game console wars appears to be a race among Sony Corp. (SNE), Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) for the flashiest, most powerful system. But that's not how Nintendo President Satoru Iwata sees it.

While Microsoft and Sony have wooed gamers with speedy processors and high-definition graphics on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Iwata said Nintendo's Wii console is trying to address a more pressing concern: luring more nongamers into the fold.

"The approach to make more gorgeous-looking graphics ... to have the horsepower, to have much faster processing — they don't do anything to ask nongamers to play with a video game," Iwata said through a translator in an interview with The Associated Press.

Ever since the Wii console was announced last year under the codename Revolution, company officials have pushed the system's nonconformist ways and declined to talk much about any high-tech specs.

And while Microsoft and Sony have divulged pricing and availability details, Nintendo has yet to say anything about cost or set an exact launch date, except that it will be available sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.

At the center of the company's vision is the Wii's TV-remote style input device, which can be swung around to mimic a baseball bat or pulled back and aimed like a bow and arrow. A palm-sized attachment, which plugs into the end of the controller, adds two-handed capabilities for games like "Super Mario Galaxy."

Iwata said traditional video game controllers, bristling with buttons and triggers, have intimidated nongamers. He said he believes the Wii could break down the barriers between avid gamers and newcomers.

"We thought if we could make this type of TV-remote, these nongamers would play also," Iwata said. "We are hopeful this kind of approach can expand the gaming population. What we have come up with has turned out to be something really different from what other game companies have come up with."

Though the Wii will play traditional DVDs with an add-on accessory, it lacks features like Blu-ray or HD-DVD drives for high-definition movies or startlingly realistic graphics.

Still, the Wii has been a huge draw at this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

As the show opened each morning, a stampede of attendees sprinted to Nintendo's booth to get first dibs on Wii games such as the off-road racer "Excite Truck" and "Wii Sports."

In "Wii Sports," players were on their feet and swinging their arms wildly in virtual tennis courts and baseball stadiums. Other games have people conducting an orchestra or casting a fishing line.

"Nintendo's mission is to try to make people happy, to try to make people smile," Iwata said.

This happiness extends beyond fans to business adversaries like Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore.

"I'm a huge fan on Nintendo and I love the innovation," Moore said of the Wii controller. "I'm sure it's going to be fun in a lot of games."

As for the name Wii (pronounced "We"), Iwata said:

"We wanted people to remember the name as soon as they heard it," he said. "When people become so accustomed to the Wii name, nobody is going to say it's a strange name, just like nobody is going to say that Google is a strange name, or Ikea is a strange name today."