The Wii's going be cheap. Joke cheap - perhaps as cheap as a GameCube. It has to be, with further evidence that Nintendo is doing everything it can to slash the production costs of its new home machine. Development documentation leaked overnight outlines that the Wii will not support Dolby Digital output.
The stereo-only direction is confirmed in the outline of the Wi's AV cable, which supports only basic stereo. It was hoped that, in lieu of the optical output on the hardware case that DD would require, the Wii's bespoke AV output would include additional cabling compatible with the audio standard. This will not be the case.
So, does it matter? Well, a few years ago it wouldn't have been such a problem. But considering you can now buy decent 800W 5.1 sets complete with receiver for $200 from the likes of Sony, Samsung and every other major electronics manufacturer, and under $300 a set for 1,000W complete with progressive scan DVD player, 5.1 has become the norm in middle-range technology homes. This being the case, it comes as something of a surprise that the Wii doesn't make use of this installed base.
What's more, the Wii does look to do some rather clever bits and pieces with sound, a fact underlined by the very natty speaker included in the WiiMote. The way that the machine inherently functions - with an innovative use of spatial control - would have been the perfect basis for some clever sonic-driven gameplay.
We'll argue all day long that the Wii represents a revised future for mainstream videogames. However, for Nintendo to have neglected to include 5.1, thus stripping developers from creating games based around the movement of sound, is an error that SPOnG hopes will be readdressed before the machine launches later this year.
We'll update you on every element of the Wii hardware as final specs emerge.