When it comes to video game consoles, Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) doesn't seem to get a whole lot of play these days. While it continues to dominate the portable gaming market with its addictive Nintendo DS, it has fallen behind market-leader Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and distant silver-medalist Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) in the sector it once dominated.
Yesterday, Nintendo revealed the name for its next-generation console. What was once known as the Nintendo Revolution is now simply Wii, pronounced "we." The company claims that the "ii" in the name represents the system's pair of slender, motion-sensing handheld controllers.
That's probably right, but I'm guessing that Nintendo won't mind that the Wii is just one failing letter grade away from being spelled "Wi-Fi." Web-based interactivity has become a major component of Nintendo's latest Nintendo DS games. My home has at least two DS systems at the ready, because many of Nintendo's recent games, like Tetris, Nintendogs, and Mario Kart Racing, let players compete against one another over a wireless home network connection. In most cases, you need only one game cartridge for both players to play in the same game.
Wii will have an uphill battle. Nintendo's rich library of proprietary characters, including Mario, Link, Samus Aran, and Donkey Kong, didn't help improve the company's market share with its previous-generation GameCube. It will now be hitting the market at least a year after the introduction of the Xbox 360. At least Sony's PlayStation 3 has assured itself a robust upgrade market, thanks to its installed PlayStation 2 base in the tens of millions.
The public wouldn't mind a success, since retailers like GameStop (NYSE: GME ) and software developers like Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) rely way too much on Sony's success. The PlayStation 3's delayed release has dealt a fiscal blow to software publishers, and even to Gamespot.com parent CNET Networks (Nasdaq: CNET ) . A big hit from a non-Sony company, especially one with mold-busting aspirations like the Wii, could really shake up the video game industry for the better.
Will Nintendo deliver? Wii can certainly hope so.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is an equal-opportunity gamer. He has gaming consoles from all the three companies in his home. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.