Naming In The News

You Might Say It's A Silly Name And That's Exactly What Nintendo Wants

Giggle-inducing Wii helps build excitement around gaming system

By Beth Snyder Bulik
May 08, 2006

Revolution it ain't.

The moniker for Nintendo's next-generation game console known by that code name has finally been revealed — to sniggers, groans and even a few cheers. It's Wii.

Yes, that's right, Wii. In its press materials Nintendo writes with a seemingly straight face that "Wii sounds like 'we,' which emphasizes this console is for everyone. ... Because, it's really not about you or me. It's about Wii. And together, Wii will change everything."

Bloggers, game forums, video sites and consumer-generated media have been having a field day dissecting, exploring and poking fun at the name. The discourse ranges from faux taglines such as "Eat, Sleep and Wii" to new names like "WiiNES" (the new name plus the initials of Nintendo Entertainment System). Dozens of video creations have cropped up on YouTube set to background music such as "Wii Will Rock You" and "Why Can't Wii Be Friends." In fact, the Wii teaser video created by Nintendo for its launch Web site was the No. 31 most-watched and No. 21 most-discussed clip on YouTube last week.

"It's viral marketing gone wild," said William Lozito, president of Strategic Name Development, a brand name consultancy in Minneapolis.

Certainly, it couldn't be what Nintendo intended — or could it? Nintendo is a savvy enough global company to know that the name would raise eyebrows, and generate discussion. While the name seems destined for minor potty humor, consider the gamer target market of 18- to 34-year-old males and their sweet spot for humor. Not to mention that the announcement was made just two weeks before one of the most crucial events of the gaming year (next to the holiday season), the industry E3 show in Los Angeles this week.

Buzz Builder

It's worked well for Nintendo so far. They've gotten a ton of buzz and excitement heading into E3, where they will unveil more details," said Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg.

Mr. Lozito theorized that Nintendo did expect to generate buzz, but "this ran away from them more than they could have imagined." He advised Nintendo's ad agency, Leo Burnett USA, to embrace word of mouth, and maybe even save some media dollars by pulling back ad spending while the buzz runs its course. "Now that you have it, capitalize on it and build on it," he said. "If I were the agency, I'd be trying to figure out the best way to leverage it."

Nintendo of America and the Publicis Groupe agency are currently working on marketing strategy and an ad campaign for the introduction later this year. The Wii system will compete with heavyweight console players Xbox 360 from Microsoft that's already out and PlayStation 3 from Sony planned for next year.

The name follows function in many ways, too. The Wii console will be quite different from Microsoft's and Sony's offerings, and the name seems to highlight that. (Some have guessed the two "i's" in Wii represent two players or two remotes.)

Wii will have a remote control-like wireless controller that can sense a user's movements and act as an extension of the arm. More details will be revealed next week at E3, but it has been predicted the Wii controller (the Wii-mote?) will be used in virtual sword play and fighting, fishing rod casting, throwing a ball and hitting with a bat.

In the end, most agree Nintendo ends up with a win regardless of the name if the console and the games are groundbreaking. The offbeat name may be just another part of Nintendo's plan for its gaming revolution.

"Nintendo is not a me-too company. They've always marched to the beat of a different drummer, commanding some of the most powerful and best recognized brands in the business. Whether it's Mario, Zelda or Pokemon, Nintendo is known for its originality and ability to shape the industry itself," said David Riley, senior marketing manager with NPD Group.

Wii will see.