As a video gamer for my entire life, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen he evolution of the arcade, the classic 2D RPG golden age, the polygonal 3D revolution, the demise of Sega’s hardware outings, the HD generation and everything in between.
What I’ve never seen (until recent years) is the thick layer of ignorance and misinformation surrounding new hardware releases. When the first Nintendo Wii was announced, Nintendo showed only a prototype design of the console many of us now have hooked up to our tv’s with no games, no controllers and no hardware information.
Flash forward to E3 2011 and Nintendo were again announcing a new console; this time the Wii U. Not only did they show the console, they revealed the controller, a bunch of playable concept demos, revealed some of the hardware specifications and even a reel of games they’re hoping to get together for launch. The next day, everyone seemed “confused”. Media reports pointed out that Nintendo were launching a “tablet” and would ultimately fail because “it’s not an iPad”.
From there, the reporting of Nintendo’s Wii U went south. Every misinformed moron emerged from the woodwork to declare to the world how confused they were. For readers, this made things even more confusing – they saw the demos, the controller, the console and yet everyone’s speaking as though we were watching some different press conference, perhaps on another planet.
Today, we’re going to get to the bottom of what the Wii U and it’s controller actually is. I will give you some videos and pictures, as well as direct quotes from REAL people; none of this “anonymous source” crap you’ve been reading all over the internet. I’m not even going to use the term “people/person close to the matter”, because nameless people are fake people. So let’s find out what the Wii U is, what it’s not, and everything we can about it.
For as long as they’ve been in the console business, Nintendo have made a habit of releasing a new video game console for the home about every five years. We call these “generations”, because developers generally stop making games for the old console and universally move onto the new.
The Wii U is the first announced console of the Eighth Generation. It feature high definition graphics and digital sound, will connect to the internet, and plays both Wii and Wii U games. The console has a brand new technology that allows it to stream game content wirelessly from the console to it’s controller (more on that later). Since the console will connect to HDTV’s (like your new plasma) via a HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable, players will be able to press the “on” button on their controller to boot up the console and the TV at the same time.
While Wii U will come with one Wii U Controller, it will also be playable using the current Wii Motion Plus controller, as well as all the accessories currently available for Wii. This means that developers can still develop games that use the Wii’s Balance Board, and you wont have to run out and buy a new device. It also means that developers are uniquely free to make games however they want; touchscreen for “casual” games, dual analogue stick for hardcore shooters, or motion sport games like Wii Sports all for the same console, making it a pretty good proposition to consumers.
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Super Mario series, explains why you’ll be able to use your old (or current) Wii remote on the new console, “Actually, as I was making [the Wii U] I didn’t have a whole lot of doubts in my mind that the Wii Remote would still be used as it was. I feel like the Wii Remote has pretty much become its ideal form with the Wii Remote Plus,
And when I thought whether we really needed to require the purchase of something completely new, I felt that we could continue with this way to play for another while.”
Development of the Wii U started shortly after the Wii was complete. Nintendo wanted a way solve the age old problem of having to use the television to play games. Simply put, a console as powerful as the Wii U – or any home console for that matter – is impossible to make in the scope of a handheld without it being excessively expensive. So the company made Wii U’s controller with a touchscreen embedded in the centre (something, I might add, gamers have been dreaming about for years) and found that not only does it allow people to play high quality, home console games without turning on the TV, it also opens up a world of new experiences developers and place into games.
First and foremost; it’s not a tablet. Yes, it’s the general shape of an iPad – but it’s not a tablet. You cannot use the controller on the train, it’s not designed for that. It’s a controller – like the Xbox 360 controller or the PlayStation 3 controller. Indeed, it has a screen, but the content on that screen is beamed from the console to the controller.
It’s very important to realise the difference here. A tablet is a computer in a small form factor which allows you to get online, do word processing, Skype, etc. A video game controller allows you to play video games on a console. They’re two very different things. They may LOOK similar, but more different they can not be.
Now, the Wii U controller contains motion controls, a front facing camera, a touch screen, a stylus, a bunch of buttons (including four trigger buttons) and stereo speakers (complete with headphone jack, should it be required). It also includes an IR Sensor so it can be used as a pointer (like the Wii Remote) and a rechargeable battery.
Nintendo are hoping that developers will make use of that touchscreen in a variety of different ways. One exciting possibility is removing all the elements we’re used to being on the screen away to the controller. Maps, health bars, ammo count – these can all be removed, leaving a beautiful, high definition image on your beautiful TV set, with all your information a mere glance away on the controller.
The motion sensors mean the controller knows where it is in 3D space in relation to the TV screen. This means action can take place all around you. Imagine a “Ghost Busters” type game where you have to hunt around your room, looking for ghosts, even if they fly off screen.
Since the Wii U can take Wii Motion Plus controllers, the huge potential of five-man multiplayer is born. One demo for this concept was a “Hide and Seek” type game, where one player uses the Wii U Controller to hide and four players with Wii Remotes and the TV, run around looking him.
Unfortunately, these potentials were overlooked as media outlets pointed out that in all the demos shown, only one Wii U controller was present. This, for some reason, led people to believe that you will only ever be able to use just one touchscreen controller with the console.
Of course, this fact hasn’t been confirmed, other than Nintendo saying that the console ship with one controller. Apparently, no body seems to realise that all consoles generally come with just one controller. The truth is that at this point, Nintendo have not confirmed or denied the Wii U’s ability to run multiple Wii U touchscreen controllers. They have said, however, that the controller will be more expensive than the Wii Remote, so they didn’t want to dwell on multiple controllers at the console’s unveiling, as the media might’ve negatively dwelled on the possible price. Seems the media will go after anything anyway.
In fact if there’s any reason Nintendo aren’t talking about multiple Wii U touchscreen controllers, it’s because they feel very few people will shell out the cash to actually buy a second, let alone third or fourth. Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata explains;
“What I can say is that we are also thinking, that with one console you would get one of the new controllers as a complete set. As I am sure you can imagine, the cost of the new controller will exceed the cost of a standard controller up until now.
Regardless of the technical question as to whether or not we could do that (use two of the new controllers), for the time being, we will focus on what we can do with a single new controller with the system.
In the future, we may look at what other opportunities there are for gameplay and, how having two of those controllers might create fun or interesting new styles of play, but of course in doing that, it would require a consumer to purchase an additional controller. Therefore, we would need to carefully consider how we could create such an experience and, potentially, how we could ensure that there would be enough value within that experience for the consumer to accept that cost and make that purchase.”
So, if they can come up with a multiplayer game that is so tempting to play offline (remembering that the Wii U is capable of “Xbox 360″ level online multiplayer), then yes – they might consider selling multiple controllers. Of course, this doesn’t mean they aren’t, or haven’t already decided either way – it just means that Iwata only wants consumers to think “hey, I don’t need to worry about upgrading my Wii controller”.
At no point in any document, speech or meeting that I have found (and trust me, I’ve looked) is there any evidence – concrete evidence – that the Wii U is “under powered” and cannot “handle” a second controller. There are some “developers” and some “factory workers” who have “come out”, anonymously, and have said all sorts of things, but those reports can’t really be trusted at this point since they refuse to mention their name or their place of work, or how they came across this information.
Of course, it’s likely that some may be true, but considering the amount of coverage on this issue the press is giving, it wouldn’t surprise me if these people are just figments of someone’s imagination.
Video games for Wii U are currently under development from all major publishers such as EA Games and Ubisoft. Here we have a list of games that are confirmed to be in development for Wii U as of 2011. Every other game that isn’t on this list is a rumor and is not concrete. Of course, the industry is a fickle one, and some games may drop off this list by the time the console comes out in late 2012.
- Darksiders II
- Aliens: Colonial Marines
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online
- Metro: Last Light
- Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
- New Super Mario Bros. Mii
- Dragon Quest X: Wii U Edition
More games and a release timeframe are expected to be announced at E3 in 2012.
Having done extensive research on everything Wii U, I’ve put together a list of “FAQ’s” one might have in mind when they’re reading media reports on the console. This hopefully will clear up some key points. I have included a source for each answer.
Q. Is the Wii U a portable console?
A. No, the Wii U is a home console, designed to plug into your TV. The Wii U controller is wireless and has a limited range.
Q. Can Wii U handle multiple touchscreen controllers?
A. There has been no evidence released by Nintendo that points to Wii U ONLY being a one controller system, and besides, the online multiplayer will be beefed up. Nintendo will sell touchscreen controllers separately if there’s a game worth buying one for, as they will be more expensive than Wii Remotes, which are also compatible with the console.
Nintendo have confirmed, however, that up to five people can play together in select games; 4 using Wii Motion Plus controllers, 1 using the Wii U Touchscreen Controller
Q. What controllers work with Wii U?
A. Every controller that Nintendo released for the Wii, except GameCube controllers, will work with Wii U. This means there are five different control types on offer, which I’ve listed below;
- Wii U Touchscreen Controller
- Wii Motion Plus Remote
- Wii Motion Plus Remote + Nunchuck
- Wii Classic Controller
- Wii Balance Board
Of course, all the wheels and attachments will also work.
Q. Do I need a TV to play Wii U?
A. Technically, no. Wii U games will be able to be switched over to the controller, however there’s no evidence to suggest that this will be the case for ALL games. Nintendo have announced that the Wii U Controller will be able to play small games – think “Chess” or a basic “Tetris” type game – on the Wii U Controller by itself, without turning the TV on.
This also extends to applications. For example, an internet browser will be built into the controller, so you can surf the web without bothering someone as they’re watching TV. When they’re done, you can then switch over the content to the TV.
Q. Why hasn’t Nintendo talked publicly about Wii U since E3?
A. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that they’re waiting for the biggest gaming convention in the world to deliver all the release information for their new console. The other is that we’re approaching the biggest shopping season of the year; the holiday season. And Nintendo are currently selling games for three different consoles. Adding a fourth for consumers to worry about when it’s not going to be released for maybe 12 months is ridiculous.
Q. Why are video game analysts predicting the Wii U will be a failure?
A. Video game industry analysts get paid to give their opinion as “talking heads” for lazy journalists on slow news days. They’re supposed to look at the industries’ facts and figures and come up with an informed opinion on the future, mainly so investors can decide to buy or sell stocks. I have yet to find evidence that any analyst have ever touched a video game console.
Analysts such as Michael Pachter seem inconsistant with their opinions. Patcher, for example, predicted the demise of Wii’s launch, saying that third party developers would fail. What really happened was that third party titles helped the console become one of the best selling consoles of all time.
Q. What are the hardware specifications of Wii U?
A. Nintendo haven’t – and probably wont – released an exhaustive list of all the hardware specifications of Wii U, so speculation on what they are or might be, or if they’ve been changed, lowered, beefed up or anything else is ridiculous. You can find the official specification list here.
I hope I’ve helped dispel some confusion you might have from reading the media reports out there. I would suggest from here on out, be wary of anonymous sources. All will be revealed in time.