Full Wii History
This article is a work in progress.
This article is outdated.
Note: This article is very old and inaccurate, mostly based on guesses and speculation from before data from the Zammis Clark Breach was available.
The Nintendo Wii's history and development started sometime in the mid-late 1990s when Nintendo first began conceiving motion controller prototypes, and its legacy continues to this day with BroadOn's E-Ticket system still being used on Nintendo's latest platforms.
The creation of the Wii begins with the creation of its controller; Nintendo reportedly experimented with motion controller prototypes throughout the mid-late 1990s and early 2000s, which culminated in a motion controller prototype for the GameCube being sent out to Factor 5 in 2000. While Nintendo ultimately never released a motion controller for the GameCube, it would seem that they were planning to at some point, as Nintendo collaborated with Gyration to develop the GyroPod, a motion controller prototype for the GameCube which eventually became the Wii Remote.
While Nintendo was working on new controller ideas, they were also working on the conceptualization of a new console; Nintendo had decided immediately after the release of the GameCube that they wanted to change their business strategy to be more open to new ideas and new markets, and with this, it was decided that their next console would be an evolution of the GameCube focused on appealing to a wider range of audiences rather than a powerful next-gen system. Nintendo used the DS as a trial run for this strategy, designing it to be less powerful than its competition but with a wide range of features, and marketed it at a wide range of demographics. This proved to be very successful, and cemented Nintendo's decision to go ahead with this concept for their new console.
While Nintendo began planning a successor to the GameCube based on the GameCube's hardware immediately, with hardware manufacturers confirming that they would be involved in Nintendo's next console as early as 2002, few public details were announced prior to 2004 as Nintendo was still deciding on the concept and overall vision for the system, planning to use the DS as a benchmark for what they should do next.
Motion controller development really gets off the ground, as a whole host of prototypes are made including those weird frisbee and GC controller prototypes you've probably seen from that photo (Pre-Wiimote Protos); this is all for GameCube still in terms of controller development, but the Wii hardware development also starts up around this time. Early development on the CPU/GPU and overall chipset design including the Starlet begins, boot0 is also probably written at some point during this year. Towards the end of this year the "wand" controller shape is considered; overall, this year symbolizes a lot of experimentation and playing around with the controller idea, so a lot of prototypes were made and scrapped; all software testing for them being presumably done on GC devkits, as the Wii at this point had no SDK or libraries and was still in very primitive hardware development stages. By the end of this year we likely had an early, wand shaped Wiimote and Nunchuk, and probably some kind of very early Wii board with the first Broadway and IOP (Starlet) revisions.
Software development for the Wii starts, controller development matures and (mostly-) finalizes, and the first Wii-related things are given to third-party devs. The VC service is likely conceptualized very early in this year or maybe last year, as Nintendo expands their online plans to the rapidly developing Wii. At E3 2005 Nintendo shows off the empty prototype Wii shell case (E3 2005 Revolution Case), but no actual hardware is shown; GCs are even used to run demos, as at this point development on the Wii's SDK has just begun, with a few GC things imported over to a Wii development tree but little new stuff yet. Nintendo mostly (some SDK drivers still use it) stops using the term "NNGC" at some point in this year. Nintendo mainly focuses this year on finalizing the Wii's hardware, both console and controller; the controller looks pretty different from final at this point but has the same basic design and is being distributed to third parties starting July 2005 as a GameCube peripheral until the Wii devkits/SDK are ready in 2006. The classic controller is also invented during this year, as a controller shell which the Wiimote would fit into. As the year progresses much more effort is put into the software development in the Wii, particularly in the realm of wireless stuff; the VC service is rapidly worked on with a Shop Channel prototype being made with BroadOn, as well as early channel/menu development, although at this point everything is in pretty early prototype stages, it does exist and most of the early prototypes of channels/the menu discussed in the Iwata Asks interviews are probably from later in this year. The controller in its wired version is mostly finalized by the end of the year with most work being focused on the still incomplete wireless version as well as getting the devkits and SDK ready for third-party release. By the end of this year, the Wii is probably close hardware-wise to final, although a few tweaks were most likely made between then and when the hardware was finalized in August 2006.
This is the big year where stuff goes from its prototype form to being ready for final release, as well as the Wii being fully opened to third party devs. This can be seen in both the console, controller, and software; the console is shown in its final physical form at E3 2006 this year and its hardware is finalized in August 2006 (as evidenced by release of the NDEV 2.1 as the final version NDEV), and the Wii's SDK as well as NDEVs are finally released to developers in March of this year. The controller goes through a lot of minor changes this year, including the infamous "pause/arrow" plus/minus button design (Dev Tool v4) and the round DPD (sensor bar lens), although the controller and Nunchuk retain the same shape that they did at the end of 2005.
The software most likely transitions into resembling final at this point; the TurboGrafx is added to VC in March of this year indicating constant active development on VC and by extension most likely the Shop Channel as well. As the Mii Channel was stated in the Iwata Asks to be one of the last channel additions, and it was revealed to exist at E3 2006, this most likely indicates that channels were being finalized around the time of E3 2006 as well, with everything between the Startup Disc Menu and final release of the Wii menu and channels most likely being minor bugfix type revisions. This is reflected in the start of system configuration library development at the start of this year, as well as a system configuration menu being given to developers around the middle of the year. "Formalities" for production like factory discs and 0002 are most likely made towards the end closer to system release, although much of it is copied from the GameCube anyways.
Libraries and the SDK are finalized as the release date for the system draws near, and by October 2006 the system and software are completely ready for final launch, with August-September most likely being minor software bug fixing. While IOS certainly existed in 2005 due to the existence of the Starlet, and likely in some early prototype form in 2004 as well, 2006 is the first year where we have information about its development, with IOS3/0, IOS4, and IOS12 existing earlier in the year with IOS9 being developed more towards August. DVD support is also scrapped in this year, likely circa or before E3 as it is not mentioned at E3. Overall, this year from start-E3 is a lot of finalization of stuff prototyped in 2005, with the rest of the year being a lot of bugfixing and finishing up for final release.
The sequel to the Wii, called the Wii U, was introduced at E3 2011 on June 7, 2011. The Wii was discontinued in North America on October 20, 2011. It was later discontinued in Europe and Australia in November.
Nintendo's online service for the Wii, WiiConnect24, was shut down on June 27, 2013. The Wii console was discontinued in Japan on October 20, 2013 and the Wii Family Edition was discontinued in Europe on the same day.
The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was shut down on May 20, 2014.
The Wii Mini was discontinued worldwide on November 13, 2017.