A few years ago, we all remember the bustle when Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii, was released in 2006. It was revolutionary at that time, as this was the first time that the game player was the controller! Nintendo had returned to the head of the video game industry by leading the pack with this way of playing a video game and working into game control what we all did anyway: move our heads and our bodies as we played. Now we are in 2012, 6 years later, and we have their next offering: the WiiU, which arrived in stores today: Sunday, November 18, 2012.
This new console takes what we had with the original Nintendo Wii and bumps it up. We now get the benefit of high-definition video – this was lacking in the previous version, but it was really unnecessary. Do we really need Mario and Link to be in high-def? (The short answer is yes, as everything is better in high-definition.) The WiiU will support video of up to 1080p, but (and here’s the kicked) everything points to the console not being able to play DVDs or Blu-Ray discs. This is a major detriment, I think, as that is where most of the benefit of a high-definition output comes in! Yes, it can connect to the internet and it does have a Netflix application (same as the Wii) so we can view high-def videos that way, but… really? Gaming consoles today become multimedia hubs for a home. The ability to have one device to view all of my media options would be ideal and other consoles have this already. This is definitely an area that Nintendo did not improve upon with this release.
To perhaps account for the missing DVD/Blu-Ray player, Nintendo is offering a service to the United States and Canadian customers for the holiday season called TVii. This is a service that lets the user access systems (such as Netflix, Hulu, and integrates with various cable and satellite systems) to watch TV and movies. The goal here was to make the physical media unnecessary, as the streaming digital media would take its place. It also permits streaming of items on YouTube and social media sharing, so if you are enjoying a show you can easily post that to Twitter and Facebook. This service is not available today, however, as Nintendo announced that they had a few more tweaks to the service and they did not want to launch with a product that they felt was not perfected yet (** cough cough Apple Maps cough **). This will be available for early December, though, in hopes that this selling point will help it for Christmas sales, where this is the first new console in a number of years.
Perhaps the most interesting change for this console, apart from upping its system hardware, has been the controller. The Wii was inventive for going back a step and recreating such a simple controller, reminiscent of their original NES controller. (How reminiscent? I can do the Contra code on this controller!) This new controller is a little larger, but with good reason: it now has a touchscreen on it. Why would we need a touchscreen when we are playing our games on our TV?
Imagine if you were in the middle of a game but someone in your household wanted to watch something on TV. Well they can, and you can keep playing your game on your smaller screen! Or, if you needed a smaller screen to supplement game play – such as to choose your weapon in a first-person shooter – imagine changing that so your opponent doesn’t know what weapon you have! (I’m thinking Goldeneye…)
The controller also supports NFC chips. Although not yet standard in cell phones, NFC (or Near Field Communication) allows the device to interact with other compatible chips. Imagine being able to place the controller in range of your credit card and purchasing additional credits for game downloads, or in use with games such as Skylanders where you only need the item near you to get the benefit? There are some definite possibilities here, but now Nintendo needs to step it up and take advantage of these opportunities!
At launch, there are already a number of games available. We can’t expect a full-blown array of games on day 1, but depending on the region you’re in when the console is released you will have a nice variety to choose from. U.S. and Canadian consumers will enjoy 25+ games available right away, and I expect more to be released before Christmas. Some mainstays are already out – such as a new Mario game – but we also get games such as Assassin’s Creed III and Batman: Arkham City. The WiiU is positioning itself as more than its predecessor, and they are definitely drawing attention from some of the big names in delivering the games. What’s really nice, though, is that many of the games you may already own for the Wii will work here as well – you don’t need to worry about shelving them! (Although Nintendo Gamecube games are not compatible with the WiiU, I’m sorry to say.)
All in all, this console sounds like it will be a big seller for the holiday season, especially because it’s dropped into stores the weekend before Black Friday (which is one of the biggest shopping days in the United States). This is the only new console this year, and its enhanced feature set (and the uniqueness of the controller) will definitely make it something to talk about. Although I have yet to get my hands on one, it is in my consideration pile. It will depend on if more games come out in time for the holidays or not, as I have my hands full with my Wii and Xbox 360 right now – I need to make sure that adding another console to the mix (and one that cannot play Blu-Ray discs) is worth it for the entire media experience.