What is the Wii U supposed to be?

It’s a tablet, console, babysitter, and nagging significant other all in one…

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We’re getting close to the release of Nintendo’s next console, the WiiU, so I’ll share some of my early impressions of my limited time spent with it and point out some of the questions it’s raised for me.

Is Nintendo’s WiiU trying to stick to their “Blue Ocean” strategy they started with the Wii: being the outlier that offers unique gameplay you can’t get anywhere else?

Or is the WiiU supposed to bridge the gap with current gen consoles?

Maybe it’s even trying to tap into the casual gamer market established by Apple by introducing the tablet controller.

Here’s my gripe: They don’t tell you! It feels like they’re trying to do all of the above, which is great, but without mastering any of it because of one huge glaring problem: THE LAUNCH CATALOG IS NONEXISTENT!

First party games are supposed to be where Nintendo thrives, yet I can’t name a single one that’s propelling me to go out on launch day and fork over the $350 for a system just so i can play the latest WiiResort. Super Smash Brothers, Zelda, Metroid, Pikmin and Mario are what keeps the Nintendo faithful coming back for more. Those aren’t casual games; those are for the dedicated gamers that have been around for over a decade, with accessibility for the masses. Those need to be the driving force behind this launch. I know those titles will come, but for a company that’s been bleeding money lately, can they truly afford to go with the wait and see approach and hope to keep scraping by? Release them too late and the market is going to be flooded with Xbox720’s and PS4’s, which will certainly hurt sales.

Come on Nintendo, do what you’re greatest at doing.

The elephant in your hands

I want to address the tablet. It’s functional, it’s nifty, but it’s not for hardcore gamers. I appreciate they added the two toggle sticks, but they’re awkwardly placed compared to a PS3 or XBOX controller, making it difficult for quick movements on first person shooters, it just doesn’t feel comfortable. Nintendo needs to jump in front of it and offer a properly made controller with real thought, enough of trying to emulate the past SNES controllers, give us something real like the N64 and Gamecube styles that fit so perfectly in our palms that anything else felt unnatural.

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Now it does come with some promising potential to expand how we game. They’ve demonstrated how it could be used in conjunction with a Wiimote to enhance golfing experiences, and being able to play console games on the tablet could be amazing, but emphasize the could.

It may also add little bonuses to regular games, but we’ve seen this before and it wasn’t that amazing. Who remembers hooking up their Game Boy Advanced to their gamecube? Not many, right? It was gimmicky and distracted from the real heart of gaming. So here’s to hoping they get it right this time around.

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Is it next gen or just slightly better current gen?

Here’s what we think we know in terms of specs as of a few weeks ago (there’s always room for surprises when they do a real tear down)

CPU:

“Espresso” CPU on the Wii U has three enhanced Broadway cores

GPU:

“GPU7” AMD Radeon™-based High Definition GPU. Unique API = GX2, which supports Shader Model 4.0 (DirectX 10.1 and OpenGL 3.3 equivalent functionality)

Memory:

Mem1 = 32MB Mem2 = 1GB (that applications can use)

Storage:

Internal 8 GB with support for SD Cards (SD Cards up to 2GB/ SDHC Cards up to 32GB) and External USB Connected Hard Drives

Networking:

802.11 b/g/n Wifi

Video Output:

Supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i

Video Cables Supported:

Compatible cables include HDMI, Wii D-Terminal, Wii Component Video, Wii RGB, Wii S-Video Stereo AV and Wii AV.

USB:

Four USB 2.0 Ports

So as you can see, the graphics are better than current gen, but based on leaked reports of the next Xbox and PlayStation, it’s going to fall behind those consoles which could raise the same issues the Wii had with third party developers making cross-platform titles for the Wii.

To Buy or Not to Buy

I’ll forever have faith in Nintendo until they completely drop the ball, they’ve earned that kind of respect with gamers, but they’re on a short leash with this console. It’s just all starting to feel like the men in charge are just not responding to gamer needs these days, and they simply don’t care. Don’t take that as a slight at Miyamoto, I think he’s brilliant and I put zero blame on his shoulders, but still, you have to wonder how those board room meetings are really playing out.

I’m excited, yet hesitant, I have a strong feeling I’ll be updating this one.

8.5/10

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