Nintendo has announced the Wii U, set for release sometime in 2012. If the unique feature of the original Wii was the motion controller, this new one is characterised by a smart controller that is in effect a mini-console in its own right, complete with 6.2″, 16:9 touch screen, accelerometer and gyroscope. In fact, it sounds a lot like a tablet with game controller buttons.
As for the console, it is not so different from before except that it now includes an IBM Power-based multi-core processor and from what was seen at E3, a substantial advance in graphical power. The original Wii Remote controllers are still supported, as are accessories like the Wii Balance Board.
The console has internal flash memory, but you can attach an external USB hard drive. The disc drive reads a new proprietary high-density format as well as existing Wii titles, with which it is backward-compatible.
Why two screens? Well, it opens up many new possibilities for game play as well as non-gaming uses. At E3 it was shown being used for video chat.
Nintendo spoke of the Wii U having a “strong bond between games, the TV and the internet,” and the new controller could be used for social interaction while the main screen is showing TV or internet content.
Having a second screen also means you have use one for navigation and the other for content, which makes a lot of sense.
I admire Nintendo’s ability to innovate. Now that the other consoles have picked up the idea of motion controllers, Nintendo is branching in a different direction, and this looks like a good upgrade for the Wii.
At the same time, the similarity of the new controller to an Apple iPad or RIM PlayBook or Android tablet gives me pause for thought.
First, it is going to be expensive relative to the original Wii.
Second, what are the possibilities for gaming if Apple put together the iPad and the Mac, or if Microsoft broke with its past and actually integrated Windows 8 on a tablet with the Xbox 360?