Last Thursday I got to get hands-on Wii U for the second time since E3, this time around, the hardware was in final form. After essentially getting to play the same console you may or may not be going to pick up on November 18th one very important question remains: is Wii U a next-generation console? In addition: what defines a console as “next-gen”? If Nintendo wants to compete with Sony and Microsoft long term within the console market, how does the technical prowess of Wii U stack up against what is currently on the market (PS3 & Xbox 360)? In regards to what’s soon to come, whether it’s the next PlayStation or next Xbox, is Nintendo prepared to compete?
A part of me wants to believe that the magic of purchasing/anticipating a new console is something I’ve grown out of, but that just isn’t cutting it. The fact is, I am not jumping out of my seat, foaming at the mouth, and x-ing off days of my calender in anticipation of Wii U because Nintendo hasn’t given me a reason to. Typically, next generation consoles as we know them are cutting edge with graphics, titles, and the technical capacity that hasn’t been possible in previous generations before. Despite Nintendo’s strides to prove to us that they’re back in the race of “hardcore” gaming consoles, they’re just showing us that they are capable of providing experiences that are currently available and will be obsolete in 2 or less years.
It probably wouldn’t be responsible of me to not discuss what defines a next generation console while criticizing Wii U for not being one. For starters, let’s point out what it does offer. High definition output with a maximum resolution of 1080p, network connectivity, a tablet controller with touch screen (only one supported at a time), and well…Mario. With Wii U supporting up to 1080p resolution 3rd party titles that make an appearance on PS3 and Xbox 360 have a much better chance of supporting the same resolution on Wii U. However, simply supporting a higher visual resolution doesn’t by far guarantee the same visual fidelity offered on competing consoles. AMD’s R700, a 4-year old GPU embedded within Wii U, is capable of producing 1080p in game visuals, but will be fossil fuel in the next couple months. The CPU powering Wii U is said to be identical to the engine powering the original Wii but a triple-core processor with unconfirmed speeds clocked higher than before.
With all that has been said about the Wii U, I can’t feel but so disappointed. Nintendo’s track record always put them behind in regards to technology but never prohibited them from creating fun experiences and good games. I am not all at grief with Wii U because I believe there is potential in the console, especially due to the tablet controller. I’ve played over seven games for Wii U including Assassin’s Creed 3, New Super Mario Bros U, Mass Effect 3, Pikmin 3, Black Ops 2, and more; some utilizing the tablet controller as a showpiece for gimick features, others for convinence and new experiences. The PS3-PS VITA remote play esque tablet controller and Wii U connectivity worked well and offers some conveniency when the TV is occupied or if you’re reluctant to share your HDTV during a 2-player local multiplayer Black Ops 2 session. You won’t actually need your TV to play Wii U. There wasn’t any noticeable latency while playing Mass Effect 3, in particular, or others on the tablet controller. Other games supplement the primary gameplay of some titles using the tablet controller for cooperative collaboration i.e. New Super Mario Bros U and Pikmin 3.
Nintendo has been subject to scrutiny amongst the internet and development community for yet again launching a console with hardware that is either one of the three: slightly not as capable, only just as capable, or slightly more capable than current generation hardware. With a real next generation leap in consoles coming (in terms of technical prowess) with PS4 and Xbox 720 not too distant in the future we can’t be satisfied with just getting by again on Nintendo’s console. To add to the negativity Nintendo hasn’t said much (if anything) lately about Wii U’s Network Infrastructure; which hopefully is ridden of that ridiculous friend code system. In that regard, Nintendo TVii isn’t much of a network, more-so a hub for 3rd party services to use the Wii U as a remote/gateway in new consumer’s living room.
Wii U does not feel like a Wii 2. Wii U does not feel like, at very least, the console sequel that advances gaming regardless of the manufacturer. Nintendo has an extremely late current generation console which will likely struggle to stay afloat without killer app niche titles. The months after Wii U’s launch will be a test of fan/consumer loyalty after Nintendo distributed so many Wiis to livingrooms across the world.