Nintendo, which helped create today's video-game industry more than 20 years ago, had to change its game plan quickly to avoid being overwhelmed in the home-console wars.
Now Nintendo and its Wii are riding the biggest wave of success at the E3 game summit, overshadowing tech giants Microsoft and Sony and their more powerful entries.
With its unique motion-sensitive control system and several hot homegrown games, the $249 Wii's infectious physicality has caught the attention of gamers and newcomers alike. And as sales outstrip those of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, game developers are noticing.
The results are evident in a slew of new Wii titles on the way, from Dance Dance Revolution:Hottest Party (Konami, fall), incorporating the remote and nunchuk controllers in dance moves, to more Wii-action-friendly sports games such as a retooled Madden NFL 08 from Electronic Arts (out Aug. 14).
"We're seeing (third-party developers) who might have not been that interested in developing much for the Wii changing their tune," says Ricardo Torres of GameSpot.com. "Many are now really giving some thought to what can be done on the platform."
Resurgence is sweet for the company, whose Nintendo 64 and GameCube were swamped by the popularity of Sony's PlayStation and PS2 and Microsoft's tech-forward Xbox.
"We hunkered down and looked at what the market was missing, took a big risk and did what we thought was right," Nintendo's Perrin Kaplan says. "It's not about beating Sony or Microsoft, but what can we do to keep consumers engaged and to have new players enter the fray."
Wednesday, Nintendo unveiled its latest innovation for the Wii: a physical-fitness game called Wii Fit (due in 2008, no price set) that combines aerobics, core conditioning and yoga with activities such as ski jumping and blocking soccer balls. Players stand on a balance board that also evaluates body mass. The program tracks your fitness age, similar to how Nintendo's Brain Age game tracks mental acuity.
And the anticipated Super Mario Galaxy (due Dec. 3) introduces "Bee Mario" and uses the remote and nunchuk to maneuver through strange worlds.
EA has three Wii-exclusive games on display here, all due this year, including a karaoke-dance game called Boogie; EA Playground, a collection of games that includes dodgeball and tetherball; and MySims, a Wii version of the classic simulation game.
Also on display are the new "family play" features for newcomers on EA's Madden NFL 08, NBA Live 08 and FIFA 08. In Madden's "family play" mode, a simple wrist flick can snap and pass, then stiff-arm defenders. "The computer controls your player so you get to focus on having fun with the free-motion gestures," EA's John Schappert says.
Also on the way:
Mushroom Men (Gamecock, fall). In the aftermath of a meteorite, mushrooms and other flora come to life; as a mushroom man, you fight evildoers.
Dewy's Adventure (Konami, fall). Players make like Mother Nature, wielding weather forces.