Wii-U! It's the sound of Nintendo shares falling
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Stock-market unconvinced after E3 showcase on new console...
When Nintendo launched the Wii back in December ‘06 it landed with a lot of scepticism. The ‘revolutionary’ controllers and poor hardware specs seemed like some very odd choices for what was now the oldest company still producing consoles. However, Wii-mania soon set in and Nintendo seemed justified with its decisions, with Wii sales blasting Sony and Microsoft right out of the water. In the first months just getting your hands on one of the tiny white boxes was an achievement in itself, and they were soon selling for double their value on Ebay.
But now that the honeymoon is over many serious gamers have abandoned the Wii in favour of its two bigger rivals, the PS3 and 360, due to its lack of power and high end releases. In the majority of households, the Wii sits alone and unused under the television, overshadowed both physically and technically by one of its two bigger brothers. Of course, the Wii still sells extremely well, but the majority of these sales are coming on the back of the casual games market and the Wii Fit, a corner of the market that Nintendo currently enjoys no real competition in.
But is this all about to change? At E3 Nintendo announced a new console, the Wii-U. While the fact that Nintendo had been developing a new console wasn’t anything close to a secret, the look of the thing was certainly surprising. The console itself is pretty unassuming, at around 2” tall and only 7” by 10” it certainly isn’t going to turn any heads, in fact, it looks like a Wii in a new box. But in what is becoming typical of Nintendo, the surprise is all in the controller.
First things first, it is massive. Like, properly massive. You are going to need two hands to hold it, two big, manly hands. In a fabulous display of overkill it features pretty much everything ever put onto a controller; the standard d-pad and 4 face buttons, 2 shoulder buttons and 2 trigger buttons, 2 analogue sticks, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a camera, speakers, a microphone, start, select and home buttons, and of course, a monstrous 6.2” touch screen display. It is also a rectangle, a shape not well known for its ergonomic appeal.
It may seem like this is a little harsh of a critique for controller that very few people have even held in their hands yet, but just imagine for a moment, holding a large white rectangle, merrily pressing buttons and using the sticks and stuff, then having to press something on the touch screen. If it is in the middle, you're going to be moving your thumb about 3 inches from where it was and back again, not to mention having to look down at your hands and away from the screen. Take into account that you also have the gyroscope in there, watching every tilt and wobble, and, well...remember those big hands I mentioned?
While we’re talking about the controller, there is one rather large point that needs to be mentioned. You can only use one of them. That’s right, in the new and exciting age of multiplayer gaming, Nintendo have designed a controller that you can only use one of. In an interview with News.com.au, Nintendo mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this simply by saying “Our basic premise is that you can use [just] one with a system.” Apparently there is support for the Wii-mote and the Nunchuck on the system, but with their totally different button layout and lack of screen, multiplayer games look set to be a rather one-sided affair on the Wii-U.
Moving away from the controller, the hardware itself seems to be bringing Nintendo a little more up to date in the console wars, with the Wii-U offering full 1080p display, something that the Wii was so badly lacking. But in terms of power the Wii-U seems to be only just catching up to its competitors, both of which will be bringing out their next generation in the not too distant future, probably leaving Nintendo far behind again.
Something that Nintendo does have going for it though is how it is dealing with its expandable memory. The console comes with basic internal flash memory, but you can improve on this with SD cards and external USB hard-drives - something that is sure to please gamers that are sick of paying the frankly ridiculous mark-ups on console storage.
In all, the Wii-U has not had the greatest of unveilings. The Nintendo die-hards love it, as they always would, and the announcement of a new Super Smash Bros has probably already secured them a million sales. But the majority of people are rightly sceptical, the console itself seems so early in development that you can’t really be sure of what it is going to be. At E3 Nintendo even had to show footage from PS3 and 360 games in its demos, because the Wii-U wasn’t ready to play them yet.
All in all, the Wii-U has got some potential, and a lot of people are going to buy it, but I think I’ll be waiting for my PS4 and Xbox 720 (or whatever they decide to call them). And that massive controller? My prediction is that it will be awful, and unforgivably expensive to boot. The name is also appalling.
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