September 27th Update: Wii sees a price drop of $50, to $199 in the US. The Wii is Nintendo's fifth console and successor to the Nintendo Gamecube. It is part of the seventh generation of home consoles which includes the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, however Nintendo has opted for a different strategy compared to its two competitors. Instead of advancing the graphical capabilities of their system to the "next-generation" Nintendo has changed the way people interact with their games using the Wii Remote (Wiimote), while making a relatively modest improvement in graphics over the Gamecube.
Nintendo's Wiimote contains motion sensing capabilities that allow the console to measure 6-degrees of motion (accelerating up-down, side-to-side, front-to-back, and rotation with pitch, yaw, and roll). Using the included sensor bar that is placed above or below the television for triangulation, the console can also determine where on the screen the player is pointing, giving the Wiimote cursor-like capabilities.
The Wiimote has a port where controller attachments can be connected. Up until now the only attachment that is available is the Wii Nunchuck which has a analogue stick and has the same 6-degrees of motion capabilities that the Wiimote contains.
The console itself measures in at 44 mm wide, 157 mm tall, and 215.4 mm deep which makes it the smallest console by far, relative to the 360 and PS3. Despite this small size Nintendo has included a host of ports that extend the system's capability, such two USB ports, four Gamecube controller ports and an SD flash reader.
Nintendo's Wii also contains an integrated B/G wireless network interface for connecting to home wireless networks. No ethernet port is built into the system, however a separate ethernet to USB accessory is available for purchase.
The Wii is fully backwards compatible with all Gamecube games, and plays them with no problems or enhancements. Regular Gamecube controllers are required to play Gamecube games as the games don't recognize the Wiimote or the Wii Classic controller.
High-definition output is also not available on the Wii. The console ships with composite cables in the box which limits the output resolution to 480i. Component cables are available to purchase separately which will increase the output picture to a progressive 480p.
In line with the trend of seventh generation consoles, the Wii ships with many software services available as part of the standard operating system. Photos and videos that are loaded into the Wii's flash slot can be viewed, Miis (which are game avatars) can be created and edited, and players can access the Wii store to download new services and Virtual Console games. Following the TV aesthetic the different OS services are known as channels.
The console ships with the Photo Channel, Mii Channel and Wii Shop Channel. Available for download on the Wii Shop Channel are the Internet Channel, Everybody Votes channel, News Channel and Forecast Channel (for weather). Thus far all of the channels are free, however in the future the non-beta version of the Internet Channel will cost money.
Another of the Wii's capabilities is its ability to play classic titles through the Virtual Console. From the Wii Shop Channel users can purchase old games from a variety of consoles including the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super NES, Nintendo 64 and even non-Nintendo consoles such as the Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16.
More information on the specifics of the hardware and a demonstration of the various channels can be found here.