E3 2011 Viewpoints: Nintendo Wii U and 3DS | (yes, Nintendo's next console is pronounced, "We You")

Bill Loguidice's picture

After starting off with Microsoft, Sony, and Apple, it's only fitting we conclude with Nintendo, and the biggest announcement of the week: Nintendo Wii U. I'll also talk about how my predictions from April 19, 2011, based on previous rumors, worked out, inline, as appropriate (EDIT: You can read for yourself, actually, so I won't inline comment, I'll just say that I was correct in my prediction that the controller would be the ONLY innovation, in that any other expected innovations would add too much to the cost beyond the fancy controller):

  • Nintendo Wii U, "equally satisfying for all players" (hardcore and casual). Released some time in 2012 (Nintendo's focus this year is 3DS, with more franchise titles (Mario Kart, Star Fox, Kid Icarus, Mario, Luigi's Mansion)). I'm not sure I'm a fan of the name. I probably like it even less than I did "Wii", which did eventually grow on me. We'll see.
  • The controller looks a lot like a white tablet. It's generously sized (it has a 6.2" screen--goodness knows what the controller will be priced separately!). Pen-enabled. Also works with a finger. The screen (mock-up or not), looks very nice. It's a motion controller too and can play games stand-alone or in conjunction with a TV. It also has a camera (voice and video chat enabled). Nice!
  • Nintendo definitely took inspiration from Apple's iPad here. It's like the bastard child of an iPad 2 and Wii, with a little Xbox 360 thrown in for good measure.
  • It's backwards compatible with all the games and peripherals of the Wii.
  • Games appear to work differently if a player is using the new controller or a Wii Remote. There looks to be a lot of emphasis on the motion control features of the controller.
  • It's NOT designed to be a portable game machine, even though it shares some design characteristics. Everything is wirelessly transmitted from the console (no latency).
  • They talked a lot about HD images on TV or on the controller's screen. So this is definitely HD (EDIT: The console will output 1080p to the TV, but the controller screen will NOT be HD). Based on the non-gameplay and other graphics they showed, it's quite impressive looking, so probably at LEAST a little more powerful than Xbox 360 and PS3.
  • The Nunchuk port on the bottom of the controller is interesting, as it can also be used to snap the screen controller onto plastic peripherals.
  • They emphasized video chat and showing photos on your TV.
  • They talked about the expected interaction between Wii U and 3DS games, with Smash Brothers being the example.
  • They mentioned ONE game in particular (third parties mentioned others, like Batman: Arkham City and EA Sports stuff), Lego City Stories, a new open world game (exclusive to Wii U and 3DS). Beyond that, they made sure to mention what would be considered hardcore (core) gamer titles.
  • They talked a bit about online stuff, so hopefully they'll be more committed to the concept this time. The hardware is certainly there for it, at least.
  • There was no mention of storage or other specifics, so we'll probably have quite the wait for details like that.

As for the 3DS:

  • Nothing special here outside of the usual future game releases (which, like the other platforms, are what they are), but Nintendo did release the 3DS Web browser and activate its online store yesterday, which they talked about again today. They even included a free Pokemon 3D viewer and a temporarily free 3D version of the original Excitebike. I'll report back when I have a chance to put in some quality time with them.
  • There was brief mention of 3D updates perhaps via the 3DS Virtual Console of retro console software, "even before the NES". There was stuff before the NES?

So what do I think of the Wii U? Outside of the lame name, I think the core concepts and ideas are great if they can be executed smoothly. As more specifics are revealed in the coming months, I'll definitely provide further thoughts, but first impressions are quite good. The backwards compatibility thing is certainly appreciated as well, though I wonder if that extends all the way back to the GameCube?

So, there you have it. All the Microsoft, Sony, Apple, and Nintendo updates in their own respective blog posts. Let's hear your own thoughts in the comments!

Comments

clok1966
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nice idea
Matt Barton wrote:

Some interesting commentary here. I particularly like:

Now I’m not particularly bothered about Killer Freaks, what I am bothered about is the possibility that the use of different controllers could be used to implement different types of expression. For instance, imagine playing Jason Rohrer’s Sleep is Death on Wii U, or something similar to it. One person controlling another players experience, through the means of a touch screen device. What about other scenarios? What about three players, one with a normal joypad, Wii ‘stick’ controller and Wii U touchpad combining these different affordances together into one experience?

Will something like that actually happen? I remain a deep cynic, but its there on the table.

far to original idea to make it.... and IM A HUGE fan of working togther in games, you know the old AD&D thing, im a cleric I HEAL, im a tank I tank, etc... FPS have tried to do this... but the major flaw as alwasy is the people who play them.. I have seen it a MILLION times.. I love playing support classes since nobody likes too. Its all about KILL COUNTS and score... as soon as game makers make the support classes atractive fro those "my score is bigger thant your" people, they complain but cuse the support classes dont shoot. They cant be being beat by someobdy who just "runs around and heals all us stupid dopes who run into live fire "

Im sorry people working toghter well is never going to happen (enough) to make a game like that profitble... We have lots of conversations about why gmaes have changed..... I still say its not the devlopers to blame as much as the cattle who keep buying HALO XXXX modern warfare XXXX, COD XXXX as long as they make the most money, people are going to copy that in hopes of achiving the same success...

Matt Barton
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Clok, I honestly thing it's

Clok, I honestly thing it's just a phase we're going through. There aren't enough adequately-funded developers to really cater to the full market, so they're pooling their resources and zeroing in on games like COD and Halo. Niches that are much smaller, yet still profitable, are neglected. I think eventually this will change, and it'll be like the movies. Sure, you'll always have the big summer "vehicles" with nothing but mindless action and big stars that rake in the big bucks. But you'll also have smaller-release films with more variety.

What worries me is the Spielberg/Lucas thing with games. Where are our out-of-left-field designers who have the expertise, vision, and persuasive ability to push through the dinosaurs and get their big budget masterpieces in production? I've been reading a lot of different books lately, and one of them was talking about how the early 70s and 80s were an incredible time because the industry was really suffering; the dinosaurs at the studios were seeing decreasing revenues and threats from TV. The dinos finally figured out that the "sure thing" they were used to making weren't cutting it anymore. So they finally let the young bucks like Spielberg and Lucas do their things (not without a lot of protest) and it ended up re-invigorating the industry. Now we seem to be mired in that with games, too--the publishers are stuck doing the "sure thing" and churning out big budget FPS titles.

I'd have to check the author's facts, but he claimed that when you adjust for inflation and the like, we're actually seeing a decrease in movie and game revenues. So people are starting to get tired of the same-old same-old and not as excited about games as they were in the 90s. I think all we really need is a situation where the big publishers produce a string of bombs and flops; or, at least, people just don't go out and buy the latest COD because they're tired of it. We basically need publishers to be saying, "Okay, this isn't working anymore. We've got to take some risks on some of these new ideas coming at us from the young guys."

If I were a games publisher, I'd just look for the guys with the most passion. I can't believe anyone working on the latest Halo or COD really has the passion. It's been done, it's been done again, it's been done to death.

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clok1966
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I hope your right. I I try to

I hope your right. I I try to think of truely new games and dont see much at all, not even indie wise. I look at games form the last 5 years and try to pick out some new ideas.. and dont come up with alot. katamari... Boom Blox, EEts, Mount & Blade (now this one is iffy, but it seems to have enough to make it a new style of game to me). I'm sure there asre some Im missing...

Any others people thing are NEW? I know some games Beyond Good & evil, Psyconauts and such get that tag, im not sure I agree... great under loved games.. but simple action platformeres really, so waht if one is inside your mind, its still a platformer.

Bill Loguidice
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Actually, Clok, I could argue

Actually, Clok, I could argue that by the mid-1980's, it was no longer possible to come up with something truly new. Any sufficiently mature industry will start to repeat itself out of necessity because there's a relatively small window of opportunity to do something truly original. As always, it all comes down to how one defines things like "innovative", "new", "fresh", "thoughtful", "artful", etc. I'm firmly in the camp that gaming is better in all ways than ever overall, including for "innovation". We literally have "easy" access to almost every videogame made in the past 50+ years and loads of new product is being released on a wide range of platforms and form factors every day.

As for there being little innovation in the AAA titles, this is mostly true, but it's also nothing unique to our industry. Take movies for instance. The blockbuster summer films with $150 million budgets aren't exactly high art, but people still enjoy them a great deal and you occasionally get a gem. If you want something deeper, unusual or unexpected, you probably have to look elsewhere than the biggest releases. Same thing with videogames.

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clok1966
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I must admit alot of this

I must admit alot of this feeling of nothing new does steem from being around since thefirst video games. I will always say my love for certian games is 90% memory and 10% great game (by todays standards)... ok that didnt come out quite like I wanted..

Everquest- this was "THE" game for me.. it was the first wide open WORLD with other people, sure UO, Meridan59, Drakken, gemstone (and muds) all had it before.. but to me, this was the one that got it ALL right (at least at that time). I loved alot of games before, but I ate, slept and breathed EQ for like 5 years... I couldnt get enough of it. When expansion packs came out I took off work. It never dawned on me how much time I was putting it.. To be 100% honest it was the thing that weened me of network TV.. I never watcehd alot of it, but I had a few shows I watched weekly.. not after EQ (and never since). I had 3 accounts (and sometimes 4 if a friend let me use one) my computer desk was a nightmare.. and i was a MACRO fool, i ahd um all going all th time if I wasnt in a RAID. then you started hearing the storis of people dying, or worse, not feedin there kids and the kids dying.. a freind of mine was getting dvorced as he played to much, etc... its made me think..I logged into 1 (of the 3) accounts and tallied up the hours, it wasnt an acurate nuber but a fair one as I multi boxed many times several characters where on at the same time.. My main account (from day one) had just short of 1 year (yes YEAR!!!!!!!) playtime in a 5 year time frame. 1/5th of my life for 5 years was in that game.. you factor in eating/sleeping/working... I didnt do anything else.. it was a HUGE wake up call.. err.. all this is to establish how much I loved that game..

nowdays, i load it and play it.. I cant.. its the same exact game, but its not fun. There are just better games, but none since that held my attention like that one. I doubt any will ever again ( and not becuase I learned some valuble life lesson) i was at the right age, it was the right game, the stars alligned.. I think my aged eyes will never see a game with such "newness". I keep trying to achive that feeling again ( alot fo times by dregging up old games) but it never works.

but I gotta look at all the younger gamers.. HALO was that game to them. While i see it as a very average shooter, they see it as the first playable console FPS.. it was the oen that started it all.

clok1966
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From reading the first Wii U

From reading the first Wii U dev kits are going out and the people who are looking at them are saying " games at least as good as the 360"............. wow...... Nintendo really must be banking on that controler. I have also read they are UNDERCLOCKING the dev kits... this one baffles me, some strange way to make the devs get the most out of it right away? heat? what crazy whacky things does BIG N have up its sleave...

um just to clearify, the comments on 'at least as good as 360" are not from actual developers but COMPANY heads.. you know, the guys who dont actually know waht the hardware does, just how much money it makes.

Nous
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Interesting
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Nous
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Richard Leadbetter - Director, Digital Foundry - says ...

The Wii U's controller is both technologically innovative and at the same time rather unsophisticated. On the one hand, the notion of a zero latency link between the controller and the screen is a hugely compelling proposition that has only just begun to be explored on PC, but on the other hand, the screen is bigger than PlayStation Vita's but seemingly runs with a lower native resolution. The touchscreen itself lacks multi-touch functionality; it's also resistive in nature compared to the capacitive spec of the iPad and most modern smartphones, requiring the use of a stylus for precision interaction.

In common with many of the more controversial elements of the Wii U spec, even the screen resolution has not been officially confirmed. However, a resistive 6.2-inch widescreen display sounds very much like the kinds of LCD screen utilised on satnav systems, so an 800x480 resolution with slightly rectangular pixels giving a 16:9 aspect ratio seems plausible and would tie-in with Nintendo's known modus operandi in sourcing off-the-shelf components and repurposing them in innovative ways.

Bearing in mind that the controller is the centrepiece of the Wii U offering, the overall spec of the screen does seem a little underwhelming, particularly when the demonstration video shown to E3 delegates even included a spot of web-browsing - a job ideally suited to a capacitive screen. A touchscreen-based keyboard is also going to be quite uncomfortable based on resistive technology - another factor counting against it as a browsing device.

There are other drawbacks too. If you look at the way the Windows 8 interface operates (or indeed a whole host of iOS games) with the emphasis on gestures and interaction with objects via multi-touch, it's clear that there are a great many gameplay opportunities here that Wii U will not be able to emulate. In this sense, Nintendo will be relying on the traditional joypad-style controls to make the difference.

Looking at the positives, Nintendo has always made excellent game controllers with great ergonomics, and in terms of the size and shape of the Wii U tablet/pad, it's remarkably light and easy to use. Regardless of the provenance or resolution of the 6.2-inch display, picture quality looks good and while there is a clear resolution deficit up against the iOS Retina Display amongst others, the image is bright and sharp.

Whatever the reservations about the limits of the controller's technology, there's no doubt that in hand, the pad feels new and different, and while not quite as revolutionary as the Wii Remote was in its day, there's a feeling that the raw tools are there to create gameplay opportunities that are fresh and different, backed up by the same level of visuals we see on the current generation of HD consoles. And there's something extremely cool about the concept of disengaging from the lounge display and gaming remotely - let's just hope that there's a useful amount of range and decent battery life.

There's been plenty of speculation of late about the raw processing capabilities of the Wii U, with the 50 per cent processing boost claim from the pre-E3 rumours once again getting an airing courtesy of Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia. Aside from the odd mention of 1080p (not reflected in the demos), Nintendo has made no effort to distance itself from the 3D capabilities of the current generation consoles to the point where it was happy to showcase PS3 and 360 footage of upcoming cross-platform titles to illustrate forthcoming Wii U releases.

Perhaps more telling are the recent comments from id software technical mastermind John Carmack. He pegs Wii U at the same level as the PS3 and 360, and believes there's plenty of mileage left in the current platforms.

"The technology level... brings it up to parity with the other consoles, which is nice for us," he told Gamespot.

"The current platforms are so powerful and so sophisticated. I don't think there's any person anywhere that can really honestly say they know everything about one of these platforms."

Overall impressions of Wii U are positive if not spectacularly overwhelming once you've had the controller in your hands and you've got some idea of the approach Nintendo is going for with its new design. Rendering performance on a par with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is absolutely fine so long as the concepts behind the games produce new and fresh experiences. That's the key challenge going forward, as John Carmack realises.

"I'm kind of excited about the touch-screen aspect on there," he says.

"I think that probably has broader general utility for games than most of the motion control stuff, where you really have to design a game around motion control and you can't just tack it onto a finely crafted FPS. But I think the DS has really shown what the extra little touchscreen can do - almost any game can do something useful with that."

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Matt Barton
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Yeah, the possibilities for

Yeah, the possibilities for FPS are unlimited. Imagine using your stylus to swivel a chair, for instance. One small tap for gamers, one giant leap for gaming.

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Nous
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"Told you so"

Veteran Nintendo designer and EAD general manager Shigeru Miyamoto says the recently announced Wii U may not "necessarily dramatically outperform the systems that are out now," partially out of deference to price concerns.

In an interview with GameSpot, Miyamoto said including the new touchscreen controller with the system "maybe to a certain degree somewhat reckless" from a cost standpoint, and that the company is trying hard to find the right balance between advanced technology and family-friendly pricing.

"We're very sensitive to pricing because people have generally only a certain amount of their spending that they'll devote to entertainment," Miyamoto said. "And if you're talking about parents buying something for kids, there are certain price points where parents may be willing to or not willing to purchase a certain product."

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