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Why Nintendo’s Next-Generation Wii is a Dud

Nintendo just announced the successor to the Wii – the Wii U.

And following the huge success of the original Wii, the pressure is on for the highly anticipated new version.

After all, since it launched the original Wii in 2006, Nintendo has sold 86 million consoles worldwide. So another winner here could put Nintendo back on track, following the dismal launch of the 3DS in March.

Needless to say, Nintendo has a lot riding on next year’s launch. But it’s off to a poor start.

When Nintendo launched the new console at the E3 Expo on Tuesday, investors didn’t waste any time telling the company what they thought of the technology. They sent shares plummeting by 7.6% – “the lowest in more than five years,” according to Bloomberg.

Think it’s a just a knee-jerk reaction? Think again.

Three Strikes, U’s Out

Here’s the problem: Nintendo didn’t just come out with a more powerful console. The company redesigned the one feature that made the Wii insanely popular in the first place: the controller.

Here are three reasons why its new controller could sink Nintendo…

~ Form Factor: The current Wii Remote is designed to act as an extension of your arm. Its slight form factor allows it to be manipulated effortlessly. So it’s easy to mimic the motions of chopping wood or playing tennis. Anyone can play it – from kids to grandparents alike.

But the new controller is bulky, measuring 6.8 inches wide and 10.5 inches long. So instead of being an extension of your arm, it’s more like trying to swing a golf club with a one pound bag of M&Ms. And from the videos I’ve seen of people testing the device, that’s about what it looks like, too.

~ The Touchscreen: What’s supposed to be the Wii U’s breakthrough feature – a touchscreen built into the controller – could ultimately be its biggest downfall. Nintendo played a video that showed a few ways in which the screen could be incorporated into gameplay. Most of the concepts – like catching a baseball or looking through a riflescope – resulted in putting the controller directly in front of the television.

Do I really need to spell this one out? While it’s supposed to enhance the gameplay, you have 6.2 inches of touchscreen, plus another 6.3 inches of controller real estate – not to mention your hands and wrists – all blocking the view of the main TV screen. No thanks.

~ Portability: According to one analyst, the Wii U “can do anything a tablet can do.” But the problem here is two-fold.

First, the screen is tiny. No one’s going to trade in a 10.1-inch device like Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad or the new Samsung Galaxy tablet for this gadget.

Second, while you can pack tablets with games and take them on the go, the Wii U controller depends fully on the console to operate. Sure, it allows you to play games strictly on the controller’s screen, no TV required. But you still need to be within the Wii’s range for the device to work.

So don’t put your iPad on eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) just yet.

Fear Not, Microsoft and Sony

Of course, Nintendo did get something right: It’s adding 1080p graphics functionality to the new console.

But despite this bonus, I have to disagree with Digital Trends’ assessment that the Wii U “takes aim at competitor consoles, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.”

Why? Because graphics aren’t the only thing hardcore gamers think about. As an avid gamer myself, I can tell you that taking your eyes off of the screen even for a second could be disastrous.

That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw how “The Legend of Zelda” worked on the device. Secondary items, like maps, were displayed on the controller screen, which “no longer cluttered up the TV screen and got in the way of the high-definition visuals,” according to Wired.

However, while this made the game “prettier,” short of holding the controller so the new display sits just below the television screen, it just didn’t fly from my perspective, as you have to keep taking your eyes away from the screen.

Heck, Nintendo doesn’t even know the best way to incorporate the new screen. As Nintendo EAD general manager, Shigeru Miyamoto, says, “We’re just trying to decide where to begin… It’s up to the designers to decide how to use this… As the third-party developers are thinking up all of their own new ideas, then our own vision of the future of the Wii console will include numerous ways to play.”

In that case, the developers had better get to work before the device hits shelves in 2012. Because from the way it looks now, the Wii U could end up following in 3DS’ footsteps.

Good investing,

Justin Fritz

Justin Fritz

, Executive Editor

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