It’s a Saturday night in Sherman Oaks, California, and twenty-six-yearold Devin Curry is hosting some friends at his apartment. Some are playing poker; others are just talking, enjoying a beer or a glass of wine. A room full of onlookers quickly turn their attention to the Nintendo Wii as Curry picks up his “Wiimote” control and begins bowling on his big-screen TV. “Oh man! Turkey!” he shouts, signifying that he has just bowled his third strike in a row.
Soon most people are staring at the screen. Diana, a college student visiting from Chile, is playing tennis against a newfound friend and, despite the fact that she has rarely played any form of video game, is holding her own in the match and having a great time in the process. Later in the evening, a group of guys will play a baseball game, using some of Devin’s avatars, or “Miis,” and a “Mii” named “Ice Cube” hits a home run off of “Phil Jackson.”
The hugely popular Wii does not have spectacular graphics. Unlike many of its competitors, it’s intuitive and has only a small handful of buttons on its controller. The Wii’s signature advantage is that it allows real actions to have a virtual impact on its games, and it has created an activity that is the hit of this party, and many others like it around the world.
In 2008, Nintendo was sitting atop the video game industry thanks to its innovative Wii. This placement would have been unfathomable just a few years earlier. But how Nintendo achieved its lofty position, and where that success has led, has redefined the video game industry.
Nintendo was founded in 1889 in Kyoto, Japan, by Fusajiro Yamauchi as a small company that made Hanafuda playing cards. It enjoyed modest success throughout its early years until, in 1959, Nintendo partnered with Disney to