The Nintendo press conference is over, and I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that the crowd, both in-house and internationally, have been sufficiently wowed. Nintendo released some yawn-worthy 3DS updates followed by a much more impressive reveal, the much rumored Wii successor, Wii U.
Stupid name aside (Reggie garbled on about how it represents you as a gamer… how clever), the Wii U represents at the very least a glove thrown down to Microsoft and Sony – sure, their next consoles will easily leapfrog Wii U in terms of graphical tech, but they won’t be able to claim revolutionary status unless they can unleash something equally or more impressive, and soon.
The Wii U, for anyone who hasn’t been following along, is a sequel to the Wii in that it will be backwards compatible and work with all Wii games and accessories. The Wii U will still use Mii avatars and cutesy interface options, but that’s about where the similarities seem to stop.
With a controller that’s also a fucking tablet, the system is mind-boggingly different from both its predecessor and from other gaming experiences. With a standard control layout plus a touch screen that’s 6 inches across, plus a gyroscope, plus streaming video plus cameras, this will easily be the most complicated and no doubt expensive console controller ever devised.
But the possibilities are astounding in several respects. From the simplest perspective, the controller can act as an additional or a substitute screen, freeing console gaming from the television, at least assuming lag isn’t a huge issue. This also means multiple gamers can experience the same game from multiple viewpoints at once, reintroducing same-room multiplayer without the option to “cheat” and look at your pal’s corner of the TV.
The AR aspects are interesting as well, both in conjunction with a TV screen and separated from one. We saw a demo where the screen could be used in Wii Sports to catch a baseball or line up shuriken against enemies, then using the touch screen to “throw” them. Even more interesting was a Silent Scope-esque shooter in which a player could look around the room, then snipe targets, presumably other players doing the same.
A lot more was shown, and all of it potentially impressive, but ultimately we should stop for a second and remember that this is what Nintendo does – promising revolutionary changes. But will they deliver? And considering the fact that Wii U is a direct successor to the somewhat disappointing Wii, will gamers be let down when the final product arrives?
Nintendo has stated they want to recapture the core gamer with hardcore experiences, HD graphics, and better online play. The ball is in their court to prove it. In the interim, Rabid Ferret and I will be at the Nintendo booth tomorrow to try this technology first hand and let you know what we think.