First of all, let me tell you that I am in no way a hardcore gamer. I like to play every so often and I'm not too competitive. I don't care too much about graphics or the like. What I like about the Wii is the games. I'm a big Legend of Zelda fan among other older Nintendo titles. I've also gotten into the Trauma Center series.
This console is best suited for the non-hardcore gamers such as myself and for small (elementary-aged or younger) children. The games aren't super-competitive and focus more on problem solving skills and getting up and moving. Studies have also linked several of Nintendo's games to strong mental health.
The different channels available through the Wii menu provide access to more than just games, such as Mii creation and news/weather. Also, it's possible to view digital media through the Photo channel
Online access is also family friendly. The player-vs-player competitive games are slim pickings, but quite a few games have online rankings. There's also the Wii shop where one can purchase titles from older consoles or additional channels. The Check Mii Out channel (available as a download through the Wii Shop) allows people to post the Miis they've created online for the world to see and also has regular themed contests.
The best thing about the Wii as a family-friendly console is that it has parental controls. In order to connect to the Internet, make purchases, or access certain features one must put in the 4-digit pin set up when parental controls are activated. The only thing the parental controls don't cover is game ratings, which could be effectively added as an update at a later time.
For people who want to use the Internet features on the Wii it's simple. All you need is a wireless network or a Nintendo WiFi USB connector for your computer. The console has a wireless router built in and connecting to a network is as easy as letting it search for nearby networks and selecting yours. The Wii is constantly connected to the Internet as long as it has a network connection, so you rarely have to worry about updates interfering with game play.
Another great thing about the Wii is that in order for someone to message you or play games with you, they need to know your Wii console number. It's a 16-digit number that must be put into their address book. Also, to make sure you never have weirdos adding your console it is required for both parties to add each other to their address books in order for messages to be sent. Email addresses can also be added. Family can keep in touch easily by sending quick notes back and forth.
And now for the big wow-factor that has everyone going “Hmmmm.” The Wii controller is unique in its design for the fact that it is used as a motion detector for most Wii games. The common term for the usual motion one makes with the Wii remote is “waggling” but usually there's more finesse to the moves. In Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess the player swings the Wii remote to make Link swing his sword and the nunchuk attachment is pushed forward to control the shield. In the Trauma Center games the remote uses a wide variety of motions to simulate OR procedures. Also, the Wii Sports game (comes standard with each Wii) uses the remote as various sports equipment such as boxing gloves, a golf club or a bat. In all three of these games (and, indeed, in most if not all of the Wii games) the trick is to use hand-eye coordination to move the controller in certain ways to get the proper results.
The biggest draw I've found overall is that the Wii is the lowest-priced out of all of the new consoles. At an easier-to-swallow $250 it's a great investment for so little. Each game is comparatively priced to those on the PS3 and Xbox 360, too. Nintendo makes up for the cost with all of the additional pieces (such as the Wii Sports remote housing shaped like the various equipment) and accessories (carrying cases, remote covers, stands, etc.). Each of these extras is just that: an extra. Not necessary at all.
Downsides to the Wii? There are a few, with family gaming in mind. First, the remote works on two AA batteries. It doesn't drain them too fast, but after a while the cost of batteries gets a little crazy. Instead, Nintendo sells a charger stand and rechargeable batteries that accommodates two remotes for around $30 (additional rechargeable batteries can be purchased for additional remotes, and the remotes can be rotated in charging cycles). Also, if you want more than the one remote that comes with the console it's an additional $50 (total for the remote and nunchuk attachment, sold separately), but that's also comparative to the other consoles.
All in all, I love my Wii and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for family-oriented game play.