Sunday, May 20, 2007

Usability of Nintendo Wii

The Nintendo Wii is a groundbreaking concept in gaming. While other systems have expanded into higher resolution graphics the Nintendo Wii’s graphic level hasn’t changed. Much like the user-centric nature of the Apple computer line, Nintendo has developed a gaming system with the user in mind.

Much of the press of the Wii has been focused on its motion controller, which in itself is a unique extension of gaming. This however is not a new concept in gaming. Video golf has been out for a while, in fact, my 6 year old has a little golf game that has a club and a sensor tee to detect motion. My other son has a fighting game with “power gloves” that allow him to punch bad guys as a teen titan or marvel superhero.

The unique nature of the Wii comes from the application of generic motion controllers. But beyond the generic motion controllers that can be used for boxing, bowling, shooting and swinging is the understanding of how to explain it to the user so they can master the various motions necessary to perform the complicated gaming motions in an easy and fun way. The Wii provides step-by-step instructions on how to do complicated tasks through the veil of micro-games until the users have a proficiency in the game. From proficiency the user can then move on to mastery.

The Wii also takes personalization to a new level in gaming with avatars that can be customized to look like users. This profile is then built up over time as the user plays under their persona. Statistics in the Wii family of games are saved under your profile and the system keeps track of how well you are doing over time and presents it to the user after completed games. This persona can also be downloaded into the controller and taken to a friend’s house where all the data is users to play in against others.

With a unique sense of self and realistic motion is it any wonder the Nintendo Wii is still the toughest system to acquire over seven months after its initial release? If you design for the user, users respond by design.

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