Nintendo’s Current Gen System: Wii U
E3 has concluded for 2012 and Nintendo has finally shown off the Wii U. The system has changed very little from last year’s showcase, but it now supports up to two tablet controllers (called ‘GamePads’) and some actual thumbsticks instead of circlepads. They’ve created an Xbox360-like controller for a traditional control scheme. Nintendo has finally decided to embrace the Internet with ‘Miiverse’, allowing for more communication including video chat.
With a system that supposedly launches this holiday season, Nintendo hasn’t announced a release date or price, and even stranger, has not revealed technical specs of the device. They’ve only hit on broad strokes: It can do 1080p. It has an IBM multi-core processor and an AMD Radeon graphics chip. It also has some internal flash storage.
What speeds are those cores running at? What kind of Radeon? How much internal storage? How much RAM?
The main draw of the Wii U, like every Nintendo system, will be the exclusive titles. We know that the device will play games that are coming out for current gen systems as they’ve shown off Batman: Arkham City. However, we have heard that it may not support Unreal Engine 4 for games of the future. This is a huge deal considering the ridiculous adoption of UE3 throughout just about every major game studio.
This leads me to believe that in terms of power and performance, the Wii U is generally on par with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; systems that were released 5 and 6 years ago respectively. The only thing that the Wii U really brings to the table is its GamePad.
But is that GamePad something special? Over the past year, Sony has quietly added this type of support to their PlayStation 3 with their newest handheld, the PlayStation Vita. Microsoft will be releasing SmartGlass to grant second screen support for the Xbox 360 through your existing tablet and smartphone.
There are plusses and minuses to each of these approaches, the most sound being that of the Wii U. Including the GamePad with each system ensures that everyone will have one. You can’t make that gamble with the PS3 and 360, so a second screen will always remain an additional feature instead of the primary one. Sony’s Vita, while being a more costly add-on, can actually function as a dedicated handheld instead of being tethered to a base station like the WIi U. Microsoft’s SmartGlass will utilize devices you may already own and are familiar with, potentially lowering the barrier to entry.
The main draw of the Wii U, like every Nintendo system, will be the exclusive titles. Pikmin 3 was used to bring the core on-board; NintendoLand to target the casuals, and of course they’ve got a Mario too. Fans are already complaining that there wasn’t a Smash Bros, Zelda, or Animal Crossing shown. Don’t worry fans, you’ll eventually get them again.
Mario may be all it takes to get you on board, but temper your expectations by not hoping for much more than that.Exclusives won’t be enough this time around, and lightning certainly won’t strike twice. The Wii brought a system to people who didn’t think they wanted one. After purchasing it, those people bought one or two games and either stuck with those or never touched it again as evidenced by its abhorrent attach rate.
For a very real and recent parallel, just take a look at the Nintendo 3DS. A system that was priced properly for a new handheld, but offered very little reason for the normals to upgrade. The new features and games from Nintendo just aren’t enough to make the 3DS as successful as it’s predecessor.
During their pre-E3 reveal, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata stated their focus was on being unique but the Wii U is far from that. All consoles now have their motion controls, second screen support, Internet functionality, and high definition graphics. They all can function as media boxes for streaming all the hot content. They’ll get the third party support for now. The price will certainly be right for the Wii U, and Mario may be all it takes to get you on board, but temper your expectations by not hoping for much more than that.