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Mii, You, Wii January 12, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in games.

With Santa delivering a Wii chez la maison fukumimi this Christmas past, and having been too ill to venture out during the holidays, much of my time was spent wrapped in a blanket in front of the good old TV. When I wasn’t watching the Emperor’s Cup final, university rugby, high school football, or the Hakone Ekiden roadrace – all staple sporting events of the New Year holiday, I spent too much time playing with my Wii.

Wii [I’ve decided to go with the usage where the plural of both Mii and Wii are the same as the singular, like “sheep”] still apparently in short supply in some parts in Japan, you still can’t be assured of getting your hands on one by walking into your local electronics megastore. On the other hand, PS3 supply issues appear to be pretty much resolved.

With certain games (like Nintendo’s Wii Sports), you can play the game with an avatar (called Mii in Nintendo parlance), which you create in montage fashion. It reminded me of the traditional Japanese New Year game of fukuwarai, which consists of an attempt by a blindfolded player to position facial parts (eyes, nose, mouth, etc) on a facial outline.

Anyway, creating a decent Mii is a challenge in itself, especially for someone lacking in a talent for visual arts like myself, and I spent too much time playing with various types of head shape, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, hairstyle/colour, (sun)glasses, and all the other features available to try to create a likeness. There are a serious number of possible variations possible. (I will attempt to do a calculation of the total number of possible avatars which are possible -even though some are complaining that the choices are too simplistic – I think this list is pretty good for starters)

Getting (finally) to the point of this post, Springwise points us to an enterprising outfit which offers to print likenesses of your Wii on a T-Shirt, by using the “send your Mii to a friend” capability available on any (internet connected) Wii. Very enterprising.

What I wondered was if Nintendo has actually got IP protection on the various facial components and the assembling thereof (and if that was actually possible and defensible – after all the graphics could be argued to be part of the UI which may be defensible property), and alternatively if they intended to get on the act themselves, maybe in alliance with a dropshipping outfit like Cafepress. They already offer a custom (black on white) engraved battery cover for your Wii remote if you are a Club Nintendo Platinum member (but you only qualify if you had enough points for 2006, which puts new-to-Nintendo Wii purchasers out of the loop).

Custom T-shirt printers could also recreate (to the extent that it would not infringe Nintendo’s IP Rights) the Mii creation application (probably Flash based, like this one although this would probably cross the line if it was a commercial effort) as part of the T-shirt customisation UI, this might be the easiest way to recreate a Mii outside of the Wii universe – users just need to configure their Mii using a “similar” interface. (Although you can send your Mii to others, others cannot deconstruct said Mii to easily reverse-engineer your Mii)

Thinking one step further, having spent too much time creating my Mii, here’s another free (niche) business idea –

Assumption: People who want a really nice Mii for themselves and cannot create one for themselves would be willing to pay a reasonable fee (say a few dollars) for a custom Mii to be created. You get them to buy your service and send a photo of themselves, from which an artist will create a Mii or two, and will send a Mii recipe to the user (so they can recreate their Mii and tweak it as necessary). I would certainly shell out a few bucks for a better Mii.

You will need: 1 (one) virtual shopfront with payment reconciliation mechanism (Ebay or similar?), and 1 (one) [or more] visual artist types (cartoonists of the type who sit on the pavement in tourist spots and draw caricatures for a fee would be great, art students and budding manga designers might also be applicable – perhaps even ship out a bunch of Wii to a low cost nation and find the above resources in that country), and probably 1 (one) Wii for each artist (or if you can get them to come into an office and set up a 24/7 shift system you would need only one Wii for each shift slot and get 3 times the throughput! Or you could as easily offer bored artistically talented housewives an opportunity to supplement their income working from home? – Actually, if the Flash Mii creator is accurate, that would work fine…. Although using it or a similar clone for commercial use might be, well, dodgy).

It could be integrated with a dropshipping service with Mii T-Shirts and other Mii goods for supplemental revenue. I think a system could be lashed up pretty quickly and easily, and you could make reasonable pocket money. I see miiforsale.com and miidesigner.com are free right now…..

I think users would be more comfortable working with a professional looking shop which can have a system where the individual designers do not get hold of people’s names and email addresses and the like.

I guess you could drive traffic to the site by creating a bunch of Mii of well known celebrities (and give out recipes for them on-line, so users don’t have to give you their Mii codes although I guess that would work (minus the ability for customisation of the imported Mii)).



1. I love people who “just do it” « from the inside, looking in - February 6, 2007

[…] blogged about my Wii here, and in the post, I wondered out loud if there wasn’t a niche market for designer Mii (the […]

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