Live from New York, It's Wii

Throngs of rabid fans in Times Square is nothing new. With the MTV studios across the street this is practically a daily happening. But it wasn’t the latest hip-hop artist, boy band or even Britney that brought out the masses. The crowds this time were at the world’s largest Toy R Us. And what brought them out on this chilly November evening?

It was a little thing called the Wii! Nintendo’s newest gaming console arrived this morning at 12:01am, and unlike the scene that greeted the Sony PlayStation 3 just two days earlier, it was calm, organized and peaceful in Times Square — potentially a first. The crowd, many of who were passing the time in multiplayer matches on the Nintendo DS, wrapped completely around the block to Sixth Ave. and nearly back to Broadway.

“Today is going to be fantastic day,” proclaimed Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo, as he took the time to pose with fans, and even pick up a controller to show that he’s still a gamer at heart. “The crowd is having a great time.”

DJ Ravidrums pounded away on a small stage with other entertainment, while tricked out Segway scooters with the Wii connected to them circled the flagship Toys R Us store in Times Square where some 3,000 people lined up for a chance to take home Nintendo’s new $249.99 game machine. And unlike with the PS3 the fans here were actually likely to go home with a console! “All the folks in line are calm and collected,” said Fils-Aime, “because they know we have a ton of product. I’m really pleased with the way the day turned out.”

As teams of Nintendo and Toys R Us employees moved handtrucks full of Wii systems, it seemed that the Grinch wouldn’t be striking tonight. “We have several thousand systems here, and thousands more nearby,” added Fils-Aime just before the midnight hour.

This latest round in the video game wars is now in full gear as the Wii made its debut to the masses just two days after the Sony PlayStation 3. While considered less powerful than the PS3, or even Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which arrived last November in North America, the Wii is being targeted as a pure gaming machine – unlike the rival systems, which offer movie playback and work as an entertainment portal, including support for HDTV.

The Wii is a simpler gaming console, with the major innovations being the motion-sensitive abilities of the remote control. The system is also backward compatible with games for the Nintendo GameCube, while older Nintendo and even SEGA games will be available via purchased downloads. Just prior to the official release, Rils-Aime also announced that the Nintendo Channels had gone live.

While many analysts continue to watch whether the PS3 can catch the Xbox 360, the real battle this holiday season might just go to Nintendo. They took over Times Square and made it their own, creating an air of calm, cool fun.

Shown here, a failed competitor to the SEGA DreamCast.