Armonk (NY) - IBM today announced that it has begun shipping the microprocessor that will be built into Nintendo's upcoming Wii video game system. Nintendo has a multi-year contract with IBM to create millions of the microchips, code-named "Broadway," which are specially designed with the Wii's unique game play interface in mind.
The Broadway chips are based on IBM's 90 nm and Silicon on Insulator (SOI) Power architecture. IBM kept details about the processor under wraps, but IBM promises that the "custom designed" chip "will deliver experiences not previously possible on video game consoles" while achieving a "20% reduction in energy consumption". According to previously published information, the Broadway chip is clocked at 729 MHz, which makes it at least on paper look like the slowest of the three next-gen game console processors - which are also based on IBM technology: Microsoft's Xbox 360 uses the "Xenon" processor, a tri-core 3.2 GHz Power processor; the Playstation 3 will integrate a 3.2 GHz Cell processor.
The partnership between Nintendo and IBM dates back to the development of Nintendo's last system, the Gamecube, in 1999. IBM apparently manufactured the microchips for the Gamecube without problems, and according to Nintendo the company is on track for the Wii as well.
"The first chips are in our possession," said Genyo Takeda, senior managing director and general manager in Nintendo's Integrated Research & Development Division. "Today's milestone marks the final stage of our drive to reach both core and nontraditional gamers with an inviting, inclusive and remarkable gaming experience."
The Wii's unique feature will be a one-handed controller, which is connected to a remote that does not only allow users to for example move characters around but also integrate a speaker system to create a greater sensation of surround sound. Nintendo believes that it can change video gaming with this technology: A company representative described the experience as "today you will see, tomorrow you will feel" at the E3 conference in May of this year.
The Broadway news comes just days after Sony confirmed production problems with its Playstation 3, and had to cut back on the number of units that will be available on their 17 November U.S. launch.
It is still unclear when Wii will be released and at what price. Nintendo has announced that it will be available for the holiday season and will retail for less than $250. Nintendo plans to ship 6 million units by March of 2007.