By Wendi Sierra, St. John Fisher College
The Miiverse is a particularly interesting community to analyze, both for the WiiU’s underwhelming position in Nintendo’s rocky history since the release of the N64 system and for how Miis differ from other game avatars commonly studied.
The Wii U sits unceremoniously between two incredibly successful consoles for Nintendo. The company, whose sales declined dramatically during the N64 and Gamecube eras, was reinvigorated with the release of the Wii U’s predecessor, the Wii. Indeed, deWinter argues “the Wii console saw a spotlight shine on Nintendo in a way that hadn’t happened since the 1980s”
(109). This system, which enticed new audiences with games like WiiFit and WiiSports, used innovative hardware and game design to appeal to groups Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation 2 simply weren’t reaching (including everything from retirement homes to elementary school gym classes). The final console sales numbers demonstrate the Wii’s dominance, indebted primarily to Shigeru Miyamoto (who held the role of General Manager at the time of the Wii’s release) and his design philosophies: “games are for fun, community, and communication; hardware creates a direct connection between the player and the actions on the screen” (deWinter, 109).
It’s worth observing that the top selling non-bundled (meaning not included with the console) game for the Wii is a first-party title console exclusive (designed by Nintendo and only available on the Wii), while the top selling game for both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 is a third-party title (designed by an outside developer and available on multiple systems).
|Console||Units Sold WorldWide||Top Selling (non-bundled)|
|Wii||101.63 million||Mario Kart Wii, 37.2 million|
|Playstation 3||87.4 million||Grand Theft Auto V, 17.27 million|
|Xbox 360||84 million||Grand Theft Auto V, 15.14 million|
Table compiled from data on
And of course, the system following the Wii U was also a breakaway hit for Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch, while releasing four years after its competitors (the Xbox One and Playstation 4), is the fastest selling console of the current hardware generation. The system nearly doubled Nintendo’s first year projections, selling 17 million units. It is praised for both its innovation in hardware (like the Wii) and its impressive games library, which includes 2017’s game of the year, Breath of the Wild.
Between these two systems, then, we have the Wii U. And in many ways, it is an intermediary system- it iterates on the motion features and interface first developed for the Wii and explores hardware design that would become foundational for the Switch (though, as Cox notes, many of the social functions from the Wii U were left out of the Switch). At the same time, the awkward dual-screen system and limited hardware (compared to both Microsoft and Sony systems) made it a challenging system for developers to work with. While Nintendo itself designed a number of well-received games (most notably Super Mario 3D World), many developers either refused to design for the system or limited their output on the WiiU.
The Miiverse also has a form and function that makes it a distinctive type of community. A substantial amount of the work done on gaming communities focuses on role-playing games, and specifically Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). These studies have explored everything from motivation for play (Demetrovics et al), to social support in game (Longman et al), to developing a typology of guilds and players (Williams et al). MMORPGs, as a genre, share several features. They usually require a fair amount of leveling for players to advance their character from a “newbie” stage to an advanced level, they often involve group activities known as raids, and they typically require players to put in a substantial amount of weekly play time in order to remain current with the game’s content, much less advance. In contrast, the Miis of the Miiverse are more than simple game avatars. Jones and Thiruvathukal, reflecting on the Mii’s introduction on the Wii, argue they go beyond simple game avatars: they’re “also a kind of software toy with gameline features: collecting, manipulating, and watching [Miis’] simple emergent behavior” (105). As Cox explains in the “How was the Miiverse used” section, this game community was entirely different, with different modes of interaction and a different audience.
Demetrovics, Zsolt, et al. “Why do you play? The Development of the Motives for Online Gaming Questionnaire (MOGQ).” Behavior Research Methods 43.3 (2011): 814-825.
DeWinter, Jennifer. Shigeru Miyamoto: Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2015.
Jones, Steven E., and George K. Thiruvathukal. Codename Revolution: The Nintendo Wii platform. MIT Press, 2012.
Longman, Huon, Erin O’Connor, and Patricia Obst. “The Effect of Social Support Derived from World of Warcraft on Negative Psychological Symptoms.” CyberPsychology & Behavior 12.5 (2009): 563-566.
Wikipedia contributors. “Seventh generation of video game consoles.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 Sep. 2019. Web. 2 Sep. 2019.
Williams, Dmitri, et al. “From tree house to barracks: The social life of guilds in World of Warcraft.” Games and Culture 1.4 (2006): 338-361.