The Wii gaming system has many of the features of a personal computer. It has an operating system, runs gaming software, and can connect to the Internet to access websites, email, and shop online. One important component that makes Internet connectivity possible is its built-in Wi-Fi support.
Wi-Fi (short for Wireless Fidelity, a humorous takeoff from years ago of the stereo world's 'Hi-Fi' or high fidelity) allows the Wii to wirelessly connect to the Internet.
There are several ways to enable that connectivity. One is to use any wireless router already in place in your home computer network. If that's not part of your network design, you can take advantage of the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector accessory. This small device plugs into your computer's USB port and acts like a mini-wireless router on a system that is hard-wired to the Internet.
But in any case, the Wi-Fi hardware/software built in to the Wii system is what makes it all possible. The Wii has an 802.11b/g wireless adapter built-in along with the firmware necessary to utilize it. Luckily for Wii owners, that's all free and part of the system right out of the box.
There's much more to the Wii's Wi-Fi feature than just hardware/software that Nintendo puts into the system during manufacturing, though. There are all the things you can do with it that the company calls 'Wi-Fi Connection'.
Wi-Fi Connection can be used for any of a dozen different purposes. Game downloads via the Virtual Console, updates, message exchange, downloading photos, and more are all possible thanks to Internet access that can only occur because Wi-Fi is onboard.
One interesting aspect is called Pay & Play. Games that use this provide add-on content that make the game more exciting and keep it fresh. There is typically a modest fee, which are paid via Nintendo Points (for which you pay cash, of course), but the small extra money is often well worth the cost.
WiiWare is a good case in point. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, Lonpos, Guitar Hero: World Tour, and many others are that much better for being part of the Pay & Play system.
One way that Wi-Fi does its job is through the assignment of a Friend Code to your console. This is a unique 12-digit 'password' that you share with your Friends. To allow someone to become a Wii Friend, just add their Friend code to your system (and vice versa). That mutual agreement (recognized by the Nintendo website software once both parties get online) ensures security for all.
Best of all, of course, is the possibility of playing online, and with other players. Wi-Fi support lets you take part in multi-player games over the Internet. It also supports up to eight players using the Nintendo DS as a sort of add-on controller for the Wii. That allows players to use the DS's touch screen for game variety.
All sorts of things are needed to enable these features, but that stack of goodies all start with the Wii Wi-Fi support built right in to the console.