It’s common knowledge that the Nintendo Wii is far and away the biggest success of this past console generation, dwarfing both Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in overall sales largely because of its innovative and user-friendly Wiimote controller. According to the patent holder for the Wii’s gyroscopic motion controls, however, both Sony and Microsoft could have killed the system’s smashing success before it even existed.
That patent holder, Tom Quinn, says that he presented the technology to Nintendo’s two primary competitors all the way back in 2001, only to be rejected by the two of them.
Quinn, a California-based inventor who invented the tech that would later be used in the Wii, told CVG that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer initially “loved” the idea of the motion controls, so much so that he set Quinn up with the Xbox team himself. However, things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
“But the meeting went terribly,” Quinn said. “The attitude I got from them was that if they wanted to do motion control, they would do it themselves and make a better job of it. I mean, they were just rude.
“In fact, the meeting went so terribly that one of the executives came over to me afterwards and apologised on behalf of others. I remember him saying how this was not how Microsoft should be engaging with potential partners.”
Some months later, Quinn got himself an audience with former Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Ken Kutaragi to pitch his motion tech once more. But again, potential success quickly turned to embarrassing failure.
"I'll never forget that meeting at Sony. We were in a tiny little room with a big PC projector and Kutaragi comes in, introduces himself, sits down and—I swear this is true—he closed his eyes the moment I started showing my pitch. He never opened them until I had finished.
"It was awkward, very awkward, but I still asked him for feedback and he said, 'well, can you produce this for 50 cents?' I laughed and explained that would be impossible, so again I left empty handed and, to be honest, that time it got to me. I felt pretty let down. You have to remember that Sony and Microsoft were by far the two biggest console manufacturers. Nintendo wasn't doing well and we hadn't thought much about them."
Quinn then turned to the struggling Nintendo by the end of the year, and the Wii’s rise to global gaming dominance was born.