Wii in a home cinema

The day before yesterday I was lucky enough to get myself a Wii.

It was and basically still is impossible to get one here in Switzerland since the launch on December 8th. So I was very happy that I got the last device of a delivery of like 15 pieces to a game shop near where I work.

Unfortunately, my out-of-the-box experience with the Wii was quite poor which is why I didn’t write the review yesterday – I wanted to spend a bit more time with the console before writing something bad about it.

Here’s my story:

I’m using a projector, a receiver and a big screen – a real home cinema.

This means that the Wii is usually placed quite far away from either the screen or from the receiver (and especially from the projector about 25 meters in my case). This also means that I get into large issues with the relatively short cable with which you are supposed to connect the sensor bar to the Wii.

And the short A/V-cable didn’t help either, so I also couldn’t just place the Wii near the screen because then I wouldn’t be able to connect it to the receiver.

I ended up placing the Wii more or less in the middle of the room and while I like the looks of the console, it still doesn’t fit the clean look of the rest of my home cinema.

It gets worse though: I placed the sensor bar on the top of my center speaker right below the screen. It turned out though that this placement was too far below my usual line of sight so that the Wiimote wasn’t able to pick the signal up.

So currently, I have placed the sensor bar on top of an awful looking brown box right on the middle of my table – a setup I have to rebuild whenever I want to play and to put away when I’m not playing.

I SO want that wireless sensor bar to place it on the top of my screen.

But the not-quite-working goes on: At first I wasn’t able to connect to my WLAN. The Wii just didn’t find the network. Flashing the ZyXEL AP with a newer software helped there and the Wii recognized the network, but was unable to get an IP address.

Due to the awkward placement it was unable to get a strong signal.

I moved the device more to the middle of the room (making it even more visible to the casual eye) and it was finally able to connect.

My first visit to the shopping channel ended up with the whole console crashing hard. Not even the power button worked – I had to unplug and replug it at which time I had enough and just played Zelda (a review of that jewel will probably follow).

Yesterday I was luckier with the shopping channel (I didn’t buy anything though) and as I had my terrible “sensor bar on a box” configuration already up and running, I got a glimpse of what the Wii out-of-the-box-experience could be: Smootly working, good-looking and a very nice user control interface – using the Wiimote to point at the screen feels so … natural.

In my opinion, Nintendo did an awful mistake of forcing that cable on the sensor bar. As we know by now, the bar contains nothing more than two IR-LEDs. The cable is only for powering them. Imagine the sensor bar being another BT device – maybe mains-powered or battery-powered otherwise (though these IR-LEDs suck power like mad). Imagine the console being able to turn it on and off wirelessly.

The whole thing would not have been that much more expensive (alternatively, they could sell it as an addon) but it would allow the same awesome out-of-the-box experience for all users – even the one with a real home entertainment system.

If it wasn’t Nintendo (I admit that I am a «fanboi» in matters of Nintendo – the conditioning I got with the NES in my childhood still hasn’t worn off), I would have been so incredibly pissed at that first evening that I would have returned the whole console and written one bad review here – even the XBox 360 worked better than the Wii… *sigh*

And all that to save a couple of hours in the engineering department.