When Nintendo announced the Wii Mini console, it left many people scratching their heads in confusion. Not because Nintendo has opted to redesign the Wii — the company has been releasing new versions of its gaming machines ever since the original Nintendo Entertainment System — but instead because prior to this announcement the company publicly stated that it would no longer be making games for the system. Even more confusing was Nintendo’s decision to only offer the Wii Mini in Canada. Regional excluvisity isn’t that strange in and of itself, but normally we see products restricted to either Japan or North America as a whole. By contrast, Canada seems like a very small market in which to launch a “new” console.
Unfortunately for those Canadians hoping to take advantage of the Wii Mini’s $100 price point, the above issues are far from the oddest aspects of the Wii Mini. In a new report published by Eurogamer, the Digital Foundry has dismantled a Wii Mini and discovered some strange design decisions within the console’s hardware.
While the article praises the Wii Mini’s rugged, child-friendly design and the huge number of extant games initially released for the original version of the Wii, it slams Nintendo for what it politely describes as cost-cutting measures designed to ensure that the company could still turn a profit on each unit sold, despite the Wii Mini’s minuscule price tag. Most glaring among these measures is the utter removal of online functionality. Not only has Nintendo stripped out the Wi-Fi hardware that was included in the Wii Mini’s predecessor, it’s also designed the console in such a way that Nintendo’s own USB Ethernet adaptor won’t work when plugged into the new machine. As a result, the console also ditches support for the Wii’s already-paltry online offerings; If you pick up a Wii Mini you won’t be able to use it to download classic games via the Virtual Console. As the Wii Mini also fails to support backwards compatibility with GameCube titles (another feature innately found in the original Wii), those who purchase a Wii Mini are restricted to those games available for the Wii library.
Oh, but that’s not all. In what may be the most baffling decision we can recall Nintendo having made, the Wii Mini offers no support for HDMI or component cables. In fact, the only audio/visual cables that will function with the Wii Mini are those ancient red, white and yellow composite cables you likely haven’t seen since the late-90s. Given that Wii games only support resolutions up to 480p this isn’t as huge an oversight as it would be on an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii U, but with modern televisions increasingly moving away from composite cables in favor of high-definition connections, this choice seems purely profit-driven.
Finally, the report again slams Nintendo for designing a system dubbed the “Wii Mini” that isn’t actually that much smaller than the original Wii. No solid dimensions are offered, but Digital Foundry describes the name as an “exaggeration,” and states that “it’s a little shorter and lighter than our launch unit but it’s just as chunky.”
In closing, the report offers a damning indictment of the Wii Mini. “Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the Wii Mini disappoints on almost every level,” it states. “It’s not a good-looking piece of kit at all, functionality has been stripped down to the absolute bare-bones, and perhaps worst of all for a product actively being marketed on its dinky form-factor is the fact that it’s not actually that much smaller than the original model. What we have left is a console designed for young children, marketed at a price low enough to qualify it as a toy.”