Nintendo's Wii Surprise Hit Among Video Game Expo Attendees

Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s new Wii video game console, considered the underdog in the console wars because it lacks the high-definition graphics and multimedia features of its rivals, is stealing the show at this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show.

The wait to try out the Wii at E3 pushed past four hours on Thursday afternoon, while the wait for hands-on time with Sony Corp.'s (SNE) PlayStation 3 was barely 30 minutes.

Both consoles will hit the market later this year, though the Wii is expected to cost much less than rival consoles.

The Wii (pronounced "we") uses a motion-sensor enabled controller that looks like a TV remote and allows users to direct action on the screen by wielding it like a sword or swinging it like a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club.

"It's basically a whole different thing from anything I've seen before," said Josef Faulkner, who had been waiting in line for three hours to get his hands on Wii. He still had an hour to go. "This is definitely the biggest thing here."

Faulkner and other attendees agreed that the unique controller is what is drawing people to the Wii.

Unlike other next-generation consoles, Wii doesn't sport high-definition graphics or make any promises of being a multimedia entertainment hub, but it promises a unique, fun experience new to video games.

While the company insists that Wii is not a direct competitor to powerful new game consoles like the upcoming Playstation 3 and Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox 360, there is no doubt that it has stolen much of other consoles' thunder.

"You have to play [Wii] in order to understand what it is," said Don James, Nintendo's executive vice president of operations.

James said the company knew that lots of people would be drawn to Wii, but he was surprised by the sheer numbers.

He said that after 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time (22:00 GMT) they had to stop allowing people into the line because there was no way they would be able to see the console before the convention center closed three hours later.

"I didn't think the line was going to go around the whole convention center," said James.

The enduring image of the show might end up being the enormous line, which snakes completely around Nintendo's floor space. A security guard estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people have been in the line at any given time.

Matt Rogers and Steve Bollinger said they waited almost three hours to get their hands on Wii, even though they lined up as soon as the convention center doors opened. After exiting the booth, they said the wait was definitely worth it.

"Nintendo really nailed it," said Rogers.

"They really worked hard to put fun games in this booth," said Bollinger. "Now I know the next thing I'm getting."