There has been a disturbance in The Force. I am unsure whether the “mainstreaming” of gaming is simply people becoming accepting or a fault line opening up within the industry. Is gaming culture becoming accepted, or have game developers learned how to craft their games and market them in a way so they aren’t perceived is such a negative light?
So we watched Nintendo’s big reveal. The oddly named WiiU has been unveiled to nerds the world over. Like it or not, Nintendo now has a comparable system to the PS3 and X-Box 360, HD 1080p and all. Check out this nice long list of hardware specs, follow by our personal thoughts on Nintendo’s new system.
New Controller: The new controller is a bit of a monstrosity with a 6.2-inch, 16:9 touch screen and (thankfully) some traditional button controls, including two analogue sticks (pads?) . The system itself can also ZAP images to the controller in real time allowing you to play any of your WiiU games anyplace in your home. (The rechargeable controller includes a Power button, Home button, +Control Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons and ZL/ZR buttons. It includes a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, rumble feature, camera, a microphone, stereo speakers, a sensor strip and a stylus. – Source Nintendo Life)
System Size: Approx. 1.8 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide and 10.5 inches long.
Backwards Compatible Controllers: You can still use your old Wii crap! Up to four Wii Remote (or Wii Remote Plus) controllers can be connected at once. All other “old” Wii stuff can be used as well.
Media (no blu ray) : Single motorized (self loading) media bay that can play both WiiU and standard Wii-games.
Audio Output: HDMI or old school composite.
Video Output: HDMI supporting 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i. Or component, S-video and composite. (Welcome to 3 years ago Nintendo!)
Storage: 8 GB internal flash memory with the option to expand using SD cards or a USB portable HD (Okay that I can stand behind).
CPU: IBM Power-based multi-core microprocessor.
SYSTEM SECRETS: The Nintendo WiiU also has four USB 2.0 connector slots (one for your HD).
Hey, Microsoft and Sony, welcome to 3 years later! where you finally realize motion-inspired gaming, and the non-hardcore demographic can make you money. (By the way, let’s all just agree that “hardcore” means FPS shooter, possibly even the “male mainstream”, and calling yourself a gamer while only playing CodBlOps is like saying your into music but you only listen to Limp Bizkit). We’re stuck in a creative rut, where the PS3 and the Xbox are essentially the same machine. If you were looking for a third machine for the same games to be released on, well you finally got your wish… sort of. Except now, Nintendo is giving game designers something new to build on in the form of a screen built into the controller. There is a clear difference between Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. Microsoft has wanted their own set-top hardware to dominate your living room ever since they realized people were putting PCs in the “computer room”. Sony wants to push their proprietary formats all over your face, but still the PS3 is a powerful media “Swiss Army” device. Nintendo is in the business of games and game hardware… not computers, not Walkmans, not enterprise level software and networking, and not making you keep your PS2 under your PS3 to play all your “old” crap.
Controller innovation, specifically the screen-in-controller idea, is nothing new for Nintendo, if you remember the link cable functionality of the GameBoy to the GameCube. Again, the problem is whether or not third parties will jump into this. You can pretty much bet on the fact that there will be some excellent first party titles. You can also bet on a Madden game with the play call selection screen on the controller. But there’s nothing new there… I’m looking for new gameplay experiences. Augmented reality, voice control, the ability to poop in the bathroom without having to stop playing. You get the idea… but my concern is the same as that with the 3DS, there aren’t a lot of new games for the system — I’d also wager that it is hard to convice someone who bought a DS, then DSi, then DSi XL, to buy a 4th handheld that currently has reboots and ports for launch titles. My advice for Nintendo is to come out of the gate swinging with your Wii U launch titles… and if you only use the bottom screen for maps, inventory, or stat tracking, we might have a problem. Don’t let me down.
Nintendo joins the big boys? I’m not so sure that I can agree with my nerd in arms editor Scott on this one. I do not think “hardcore gamer” equates to FPS. I would consider myself a hardcore gamer and I barely touch the stuff. What I look for is immersive, fun and high quality games. I think I find this on the XBox and I think this has been lacking, no matter how many Mario titles you throw at it, on the Wii. Also, I grew up a Sega kid, I don’t really have much nostalgia for Mario, Kirby, Zelda or the like. I know these are all top shelf games, but they aren’t going to make me invest in a console. I had commented to our buddy Ryan while watching the presser that I hope Nintendo doesn’t just release an HD Wii with 3D capability or something along those lines, I don’t view that as innovation. After watching it, I don’t feel like they let me down.
I can’t talk about the new Wii U without talking about the controller, because, once again, Nintendo is evolving game control into something else. I find it interesting that while they aren’t whole scale abandoning the motion gaming, they are obviously catering to a crowd that wants a controller to play their games and not just a stick you vaguely point at your screen. I think some of this has to do with the Kinect and some of it has to do with Nintendo’s past. I think Nintendo introduced motion gaming and Microsoft revolutionized it. Don’t believe me? Check out KinectHacks.com. These aren’t games, but they show what creative minds can do with unbelievable tech, and I believe (and hope) that this is what the Wii U promises with the new controller. This is no crappy screen corded up to your it is an opportunity for smart developers (your Wil Wright, Ken Levine, Tim Schafer types) to create a completely new experience for how you play games. Imagine playing something terrifying like Dead Space and having the screen black out, and now literally only seeing what you shine a light on. Imagine setting up battle tactics through a real interface while still running around the battlefield in first person. Nintendo’s past, much like Scott said, has pointed at their desire for multiple screens. The ability to hook up your Gameboy Advance to the GameCube, the DS, they have been waiting to bring this tech to the console gaming world for a while.
This machine, once again, unfortunately relies on the big guns of 3rd party to jump in and embrace it. If they do, I think Nintendo will have done it again. If they don’t? Well, I don’t know that Nintendo has a hold on your living room like they try to play off. The reason the Xbox and Playstation aren’t running new machines to market is because you are spending quite a bit of money in their respective online spaces, and we are just now seeing what the tech can do in the right hands (ie: Battlefield 3). Nintendo is just now entering that space and has a lot of catch up to do, we’ll have to see if the public and the developers bite.
Nintendo and I have a unique relationship. The last Nintendo system I truly enjoyed was the N64, (during the summer in which every gamer on the planet was playing Goldeneye-64). Both the Gamecube and the Wii were ambitious, but ultimately flawed systems in my eyes. The fact that the Wii had very little 3rd party support coupled with an almost psychotic amount of “waggle gaming” ended up isolating a large number of gamers, like myself. I never wanted to touch the Wii, not because I’m “hardcore” or what have you, but because the system was already dated upon launch. I can’t stand platformers, don’t really care for Mario’s adventures, and I laughed when I found out that Kirby was made of yarn. Am I dick? Maybe, but I know what I like and those products were surly not designed for me. I’m optimistic in thinking that the WiiU is a step in the right direction. Sure, we’ll still have yarn protagonists and squeaky voiced plumbers, but at least now they’ll have some horsepower underneath their hoods.
So this big fancy system finally brings Nintendo’s technology up to speed with its rivals Microsoft and Sony. This means Nintendo will finally have the third party support they have have had such historic problems with in the past (thanks Harold Goldberg). Sadly, from what we’ve all seen today, I don’t feel as though their newest technology is all that new. Sure, the controller has a lot of potential, but is not a “next gen” console, it’s simply a current gen console with a fancy controller. In my slightly jaded opinion the Wii wasn’t even a current generation console, but one that hovered somewhere in between the era of the PS2/XBOX and the PS3/360. While it will be wonderful to see high quality HD games from Miayamoto and the folks at Nintendo, I don’t believe that this is the “game changer” that everyone has been waiting for.