Nintendo energizes games with WiiU at E3
It’s pretty easy to tell good technology from bad. The bad stuff usually leads to trying to imagine how the particular tech might make existing tasks better or easier. The good stuff, however, immediately sparks the imagination.
In that sense, Nintendo’s new video game console - the WiiU, unveiled Tuesday at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles - is a clear example of good technology. While just about every new product announcement at E3’s numerous press conferences elicited applause, a demonstration of the WiiU’s capabilities seemed to draw genuine cheers of wonder from the crowd assembled.
It features a 6.2-inch touch screen with thumbpads and buttons along the side and bottom, much like would be found on a traditional gaming controller. The device is about as thick as a book and has a sort of hump on its back so it can held comfortably in two hands. It’s also laden with sensors, including two cameras, an accelerometer and a gyroscope.
Nintendo’s demo video suggested possibilities at a fast-and-furious pace. If you’re playing a game on the television and somebody walks into the room and wants to watch a program, no problem - the game can be switched over and played on the controller’s screen instead.
Games can use two screens, so you can flick ninja stars from the controller’s screen onto targets on the larger TV display. Or the controller can be lain flat on the ground where a golf ball and tee are shown. Whacking the ball with the Wii controller sends it hurtling onto the TV.
It will also work with all Wii games and peripherals, so you could stand on the Wii board and weigh yourself by looking at the WiiU controller (although why you wouldn’t just use an old-fashioned scale is a good question). And oh yes, it will also do video phone calls.
Unlike the Wii, the WiiU will also boast high-definition graphics on both the TV and controller screen, which is a move seemingly aimed at luring hard-core gamers back to the Nintendo fold. While the Wii’s motion control opened up a larger non-core market, top-tier game developers tended to stay away from the console with their big titles because it wasn’t sophisticated enough to run the games they were making for the rival Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 systems.
Those third-party developers seem genuinely intrigued by Nintendo’s new hardware, with one calling it the Swiss Army Knife of controllers because it can do everything. Exactly what that will be remains to be seen.
WiiU does indeed come with some question marks. Nintendo stressed that while games can be played on the controller without involving a TV, it is not intended to be a portable system like its own 3DS. The company also didn’t say much about the actual console - the piece of hardware that will act as a bridge between the controller and the television.
Lastly, since the WiiU isn’t due until 2012, there was no talk of pricing. All of that tech would seem to suggest a steeper eventual price, which would be a U-turn from its strategy with the inexpensive Wii.
The questions will inevitably be answered but in the meantime, Nintendo has once again succeeded in energizing the video game market with possibilities.