I’m not a gamer. Not really. Sure, I’ve played my share of PC games — Civilization IV, Neverwinter Nights, and Half-life 2 have all found an oft-used home on my drive these past couple years, and there was a whole semester of my college life where I basically didn’t sleep (or study, I imagine) after I got a hold of CivII — but my life hasn’t revolved around video games since about 1990, when I was one of the lucky bazillion kids who owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Bros., the first two Zeldas, Bionic Commando, the engrossing Romance of the Three Kingdoms … happy memories, those. But I never got the Super NES, never played on a PlayStation, an X-Box, or a PS2. And when the forthcoming “next-gen” console war was all the news about a year ago, I could care less.
So why oh why do we now own a Wii?
For starters, I blame Nintendo. Their shortage of systems has made these diminutive little game systems a hot commodity. Few people can get one, so everybody wants one. This creates buzz, which influences someone uninterested — like me — to want to see one. “What’s the big deal?” I began to wonder. And soon I found that whenever I passed by the console area at an electronics store I was keeping an eye out for a Wii on display. You know, one of those “try it out” things. Alas, even the floor models could not be kept on the floor. I began to imagine that they did not even exist.
Cut to this past week, when a long and convoluted fiasco with Best Buy came to a head. We used to be (past tense now) the owners of a terrific little 2.1 virtual surround sound home theater system, the Denon S-301. This system was incredible: beautiful sound, striking aesthetics, low footprint, high quality, great remote, near-future-proof … just amazing. Trouble is, after we bought a new Samsung HDTV we decided to use HDMI cables to connect the Denon to it. And lo and behold the HDMI connection didn’t quite work right. About twice in a movie it would drop out the video for about a second. Not a big deal, but annoying. Five minutes online revealed that this was a known flaw in early S-301s. Since I had an extended service plan on the machine, at the beginning of April I took it to Best Buy, who said they’d have it fixed in a week. Long story short, I still don’t have it. Indeed, Best Buy has managed to scatter the machine’s parts over a good part of the country, with some whispers that some of it may be “lost.” Thus, after some none-too-casual threats — I’ve been three months without my system — Best Buy refunded full price for the system, which we used to order a not-quite-equal replacement setup (the Yamaha YSP-800 soundbar with matching subwoofer) with free shipping.
In the course of this transaction I casually asked the customer service fellow we were working with whether they had any Wiis. He laughed. A genuine, earnest laugh. No, he said. The last shipment they got was about a week ago. 15 units, which were sold-out within 45 minutes of arrival.
Now, I wasn’t really thinking of buying a Wii, mind you. I was really just making small-talk. We completed our refunding and ordering, and I headed home.
I wasn’t home for an hour when the phone rang, with the helpful customer service fellow on the other end. You asked about a Wii, he said. Yes, yes I did. I have one here, he said. Want it?
Turns out that just after I left UPS came with a drop shipment of Wiis. Ten of them. Pandemonium erupted in the store. The customer service guy — with our conversation still in his mind — dove through the fray, beating off several senior citizens with his iPhone (he’s part of the GeekSquad, and they take technology seriously in that department), and picked up the last remaining Wii on a tuck and roll move that, on any other game system would have meant simultaneously pressing the A, B, Blue Triangle, Right trigger, and Down-then-Up buttons. Since it was a Wii, he just needed to roll his wrist around and click the A button.
Anyway, he offered to hold the Wii for me. I had a few hundred bucks in a gift card — the Yamaha system costs less than my lovely old Denon — so I bought it.
Thus, we got a Wii.
Reports on its use to come.