In short, Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime, thinks that the new system “stands to revolutionize your living room.”
How? Well, we know that Wii U will support Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), Hulu, YouTube and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) video. And that it’s going to offer a unique experience with these streaming video platforms.
But we’re still waiting to hear exactly how. Because for now, the company has focused on how the small screen built-in to new GamePad controller will affect gaming. As Fils-Aime says, “We are going to play in the broader entertainment landscape, but we are going to talk about those details later… People need to understand how this integrated second screen brings new experiences to the games.”
In the end, Nintendo is hoping that the new console can “mirror what we did with the Wii.”
Well, if that means it’s trying to develop a gaming system that’s so intuitive it attracts people of all ages and abilities, then the company has another thing coming.
I’ll get to why that is in a second. But first, since I had nothing but bad things to say about the Wii U when it was first announced at the E3 conference last year, it’s only fair to start off with some of the promising features the new technology offers…
More Dynamic Gaming on the Way
The addition of the small screen allows for some interesting new gameplay scenarios compared to the original system alone. During a multiplayer game, a person controlling the GamePad can have a completely different view of the surroundings than players just using the standard Wii Remote. Something Nintendo is calling “asymmetrical multiplayer.” This can lead to more communication and strategizing between team members. Or it allows players to gang up on each other in novel ways.
Nintendo showed off some of the screen’s capabilities by allowing E3 attendees to play its new “Nintendo Land” Wii U game, which basically consists of several mini-games that help users see how the GamePad screen works. Much like “Wii Sports” did for the first system.
For instance, in the mini-game, “Luigi’s Ghost Mansion,” the invisible “ghost” player uses the GamePad screen to sneak up on other players that only have the original Wii Remote, which will vibrate only when the ghost is close by.
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Pretty cool. And there’s no doubt we’ll see developers come up with some exciting and dynamic gaming experiences using the GamePad in the coming months.
But useful or not, there’s little hope of Nintendo garnering the same popularity as the original console. Here’s why…
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My main gripe with the Wii U when it was first announced was the GamePad’s form factor.
As I said then, “The current Wii Remote is designed to act as an extension of your arm… 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… 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 one year later, it’s still just as awkward to manipulate…
Here’s one take on how cumbersome the controller can be from Ars Technica Senior Gaming Editor, Kyle Orland:
“In the ‘Takamaru’s Ninja Castle’ mini-game… you turn the GamePad perpendicular to the TV and hold it awkwardly in one palm, flicking the touchscreen to send out throwing stars with the other. The setup was uncomfortable and unwieldy, and the GamePad’s gyroscopic sensor kept making my aim drift slightly to the right as the demo progressed. It had me longing for the days where I could just point the Wii Remote at the screen to aim an on-screen reticle.”
The screen doesn’t always make gameplay better, either. While Nintendo claims that the close-up view of events on the GamePad’s screen can help with accuracy, Orland says that “tilting a Wii Remote would have been both more accurate and less tiring than manipulating the large GamePad.”
Not to mention that the added element of the screen also makes gameplay significantly more complex than the simple Wii games that all members of the family can play with the existing console.
Bottom line: While the dynamic experiences the new GamePad offers will undoubtedly attract attention from more experienced gamers, the Wii U certainly isn’t going to mirror the original system’s ubiquitous appeal.
The Wii U should launch this holiday season, but no word yet on how much it will cost.
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