You ask a good question. And as you make your decision for what games console to buy, there are several considerations to be made.
First, and I think foremost, is what your son thinks he wants. I have little doubt that he has already investigated the Wii for himself to some extent, be it through reading about it on the internet or playing at a friends house. There may be a specific game he wants to play, like Mario or Zelda, that he could not play on the other systems, which is why he has asked for a Wii specifically. Perhaps he is drawn to the more physical approach that the systems controller requires to play many of the games. There could be a number of reasons why he has asked for a Wii and it would probably do you well to find out if that is the case. You may find he makes your decision easy for you. Another consideration is his videogame budget. How much are you willing to spend on his videogames per year? While your brother-in-law has a point that many of the games made for Wii are for more 'casual' gamers, your son may be more interesetd in a lighter experience where he can just sit down for a few minutes and have fun without having to worry about following an intricate plot or thinking about solving difficult puzzles as in some games. And if he is looking for a deeper experience, the Wii does offer a selection of games such as Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And of course there is always Pokemon. Personally I dont believe that him "growing out of" the system will be an issue. There is plenty available to amuse a 12-16 year old.
As for the other two systems, if you find that he does not have those Wii specific desires that I mentioned earlier then perhaps they should be given more consideration. Some things to consider are that both of the systems are much more expensive than the Wii and do generally cater to an older audience; typically the 18+ crowd. Also, particularly with the Xbox 360, a lot of the enjoyment to be had with the system is via its online aspect. It offers the opportunity to play most games with other people across the country and allows for the online purchase of arcade type games and extra content for specific games, etc. This also costs a nominal fee per year and requires broadband internet access. PlayStation3 also has a dedicated online gaming network akin to Microsoft's Xbox Live service. And while largely technologically superior to the Wii, and offering a much more robust online, multiplayer experience, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are arguably targeted at different audiences and cater to different consumer interests than the Wii. For example the PS3 is also a Blu-Ray dvd player and the Xbox 360 offers an addon HD-DVD player. And they are both created to look best on high definition TV set-ups.
Honestly, I think the biggest help to you would be to understand why exactly your son has asked for a Wii by name. He may give you some very valid reasons for purchasing it over the other two consoles. But the other major considerations, as I see it, are the amount of money you are willing to spend for the system and the games/accessories. Consider that most Wii games will be $50 or less while most Xbox 360 and PS3 games will be $60.
Also, consider what your son really needs. Does he need a high definition dvd player? Does he need the ability to go online to play his games with friends or random people, for a small fee? Would he be better served by more 'fun' and lighter games or does he need a deeper, more involved experience?
If I were in your shoes, I would feel just fine about putting a Wii under the tree for him this Christmas, but the other two systems are viable, and worthy, alternatives. I really think it is more a matter of what he wants to do with the system, and how much you want to spend now and into the future. I hope this was of some help.
Good luck and Merry Christmas,
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