Nintendo's Wii was a smash hit when it launched in 2006 and
was sold out for months as buyers scrambled to get their hands on one. The
Wii's sales streak continued for years until the downturn in the economy and
competing motion-controlled accessories started making their way to more
powerful consoles (Kinect
on Xbox 360 and Move
for the PlayStation 3).
I. The Wii U
Keeping this in mind, Nintendo is looking stay relevant in
the home gaming console market and today announced its Wii successor: the
Wii U. While the name isn't very imaginative at all, the Wii takes an
intriguing new direction in controller design with a large, integrated
6.2" color LCD. The screen is flanked by two analog pads, a
"cross" control pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons, and ZL/ZR buttons.
In addition, the controller features an accelerometer,
gyroscope, rumble support, microphone, speakers, stylus, sensor strip, and a
front-facing camera. Nintendo also says that in single-player mode, what is displayed
on the controller's screen can change based on its orientation with the TV
screen. Likewise, the controller can also display information that isn't
readily available on the TV screen.
For single-player games, it sounds like unnecessary complexity for gamers who
will now have to divide their attention between a 6.2" display and a
42"+ HDTV, but we'll give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt with this one.
After all, not many expected gamers to be receptive to Wii Remote + Nunchuk.However, with multiplayer games, things get a bit more interesting. Nintendo showed a demo of a multiplayer game with four players using traditional Wii Remotes (4-player, split-screen). A fifth player was able to join in on the action with the new Wii U controller using the 6.2" display to keep up with the other players. Check out this video demonstration to see how the screen can be used in multiplayer.
While the new Wii U controller is the attention grabber
today, the old Wii Remote/Remote Plus, Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and Balance
Board are all supported by the new console.
II. The Wii U console
As for the console itself, it looks like a Wii that has bulked up a bit and gained a few more curves.
The Wii U measures 10.5" in length, 6.8" in width, and 1.8" in
height. An IBM Power-based multi-core processor will power the console. We don't know how powerful this processor is, but the graphics don't really seem to impress at the moment and don't look much different from the current Wii (see game screenshots on the right).
Like the original Wii, it will debut in white (although
there are sure to be other colors introduced down the road). The Wii U will
output 1080p over HDMI (component, S-video, and composite connections will be
available to those still stuck in the dark ages).
When it comes to storage, the Wii U has an unspecified
amount of onboard flash memory, a built-in Secure Digital slot (like the
original Wii), and four USB 2.0 ports. USB thumb drives and external USB hard
drives will be supported. It's unknown if the Wii U's optical drive will
support DVD playback, but Nintendo would be pretty boneheaded to disable that
feature like they did with North American Wii consoles.
Also, for those of you that have a stash of Wii games
collecting dust on the shelf, they will also be playable on the Wii U.
“Wii U redefines the structure of home entertainment by
fundamentally changing how the TV, the game console and the Internet function
and interact together,” said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. “The experience
enabled by Wii U and the new controller takes players deeper into their games,
while reaching out wider than ever before to be inviting to all kinds of
Since the Wii U won't be released until 2012, the company
isn't quite ready to reveal pricing at this time.