Wii Modchip A-Go-Go

Posted in Moding,Wii by Michael Pica on the March 7th, 2007

It seems like almost daily for short span of time last month there was a new Wii modchip announced. First the Wiinja, then the Cyclowiz, the WABCheap mod, the Wiikey, and the Chiip. in the course of 2 weeks we had 5 different chips announced (and undoubtedly more on the way), Some are even hitting their second version already; Cyclowiz V2 and the WiiFree (based on the WABCheap mod). So how good are these chips and what does it mean for the “Wii Scene”?
When the Wii was released it was quickly discovered that the built in Gamecube emulator was also capable of emulating exploits allowing GC homebrew to run on the Wii, while this was cool it wasn’t very functional because the GC didn’t have much of a homebrew following behind it. If anything the GC homebrew available is more like a collection of prototypes then actual apps that people would want to use with regularity. The simple fact was that the Xbox did it better with more power, more storage space and OS-esque “dashboard”, it was hacked much much earlier and it had a community like Xbox-Scene behind it with oodles of users begging for some slick hombrew applications.

While homebrew is not yet possible on the Wii the security system has been found to be very much like that of the Gamecube. As a result the community has very quickly produced modchips that break portions of the security ultimately allowing gamers to play backup discs on the Wii. While the Xbox 360 beat the Wii to this hack with the firmware modifications, and has also recently beat it to homebrew with the recent hypervisor hack I think it’s important to realize that the Wii’s modchips were out in the wild only three short months after it’s release, for those that are wondering that’s LESS time then it took for modchips on the Xbox 1 to arrive.

Much like the early Xbox 1 days the first chips were light in terms of features, but that’s already changing with a few chips already entering V2, not to mention most chips boasting the ability update their software for added features and compatibility down the road. Also very reminiscent of the Xbox 1 days is that there are already a few “open source” modchips available: Chiip and WiiFree. Though unlike the early Xbox 1 days these first run chips are easy to install with only a small handful of wires, unlike the 29 wire chips of the early Xbox 1 mods. Also unlike the Xbox 360 hacks these Wii hacks are likely to stick around without being undone by system updates. Purportedly they modify the code coming off the disc on the fly, meaning that there isn’t really any changes to the system itself. Cool stuff indeed.
Other factors like storage space and a strong community backing are changing as well. The Gamecube didn’t have any onboard storage some modchips came with minimal space to launch apps, other apps had to be streamed on the fly through the broadband adapter, or loaded from a disc. The Wii had 512MB of onboard storage, which is more then enough for most homebrew apps, on top of that it has an SD card slot good for up to 2GB cards, and even if that isn’t enough it also has standard USB ports and built in WiFi, meaning that streaming media or roms over a network from a server is a painless process, and access to an external USB based device wouldn’t require any special hardware. As for the community, with the release of the Wii there has been a barrage of new Wii dedicated sites popping up; I’m most excited about Nintendo-Scene personally not to mention the massive amount of market share Nintendo has been able to attract in such a short amount of time it looks like Nintendo will have their day in the modding and homebrew limelights.

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