Deciphering The Wii U

We’re quickly approaching E3. In fact, the convention is only a month and a couple weeks away. Nintendo has already confirmed that they will be blowing the lid off of the Wii U this year and unveiling what I’m sure will be a mind blowing amount of information. Since last year, a flood of rumors from analysts, not-so-subtle developers, and insiders have filled our minds with glorious and damning thoughts of what is in store for us from the Big N. Take everything that we’ve heard, I’ve come up with what I believe to be what is going to be revealed this June. The Wii U is in for some changes.

 

Going To Happen

Price and Date Reveal: We should definitely get this since the console is slated to release this year. There has been a lot of hearsay about how Nintendo is going to sell the next gen system at a loss and try to regain the losses with a abundance of software. We’ve been hearing a lot of high price doom talk but I don’t see Nintendo launching this thing for anything higher than $399. I don’t think it will be that high, either. Nintendo is going to set this thing on the shelves for a cool $299. Setting the price point there will make it an extremely attractive option even now with the 360 and PS3. If the 720 and PS4 don’t launch early next year, the Wii U will be able to tackle the current offerings even if they get a price cut at E3. We should see this drop near the middle to tail end of November and on a Sunday. I will bet on November 18th being a safe bet in order to capitalize on Black Friday. One has to wonder if the Wii U’s initial shipments would even last that long and if Nintendo would have enough stock to send out for the maddening retail holiday. If not, then look forward to November 25th.

Launch Titles: With rumors of Wii U versions for current and upcoming games, the launch window for the new console should be huge. This falls nicely in line with the rumor that 70+ games are in development and many of which will be out for the holiday to try and help Nintendo with the loss on the console itself. As for the launch itself, I expect 13 games to hit the shelves in November including one or two first party offerings. I bet that these titles are what we’ll have to pick from: New Super Mario Bros. 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, Ninja Gaiden 3, Raving Rabbids, Darksiders 2, Batman: Arkham City, Ghost Recon Online, Toki Tori 2, Project Cars, Killer Freaks from Outer Space, Aliens: Colonial Marines, F1: Formula One Racing, and Street Fighter x Tekken. This line-up seems a bit stale as we will have some of these games already bought and beaten by their new version’s release. Along with those titles, expect the second week of the launch to feature at least 3-7 more titles. It won’t be long until the Wii U has a stock of games as apparently the company is hopefully for a tidal wave of releases for Christmas.

Updated Specs: The grapevine is buzzing about the possibility that Nintendo has tweaked their hardware in order to support the upcoming Unreal Engine 4. I can’t see why they wouldn’t. Even with Big N recently committing to the experience of the games over tech sheets, doing this would be in their best interests. Even if the Wii U won’t match up to the power of Microsoft and Sony’s next gen systems, having the ability to use the same engine with close results will help. Having ports of big games will allow the Wii U to wield stronger weapons then the Wii did and not have a penchant for shovelware. Aside from this rumor, look for Nintendo to go more in detail with the hardware pieces. We should learn that the CPU is a customized quad-core IBM processor and the GPU is a high-end AMD Radeion 6000 series also with customized parts and architecture. This should stack up nicely with the other next gen offerings. The differences between a 720 or PS4 lead and a Wii U port wouldn’t be enough to completely derail someone from buying it with Nintendo this time around. The Wii U will also feature 8 gigs of internal memory. Don’t worry, though, as we know that you can attach an external drive for massive space.

Updated Controller: To offset the cost of the tablet controller and allow for a reasonable retail sale of $99, the Wii U controller will see a small shrink in size for its screen – going from 6.2″ to 5.7″. The difference shouldn’t be too alarming as 5.7″ is still pretty big. If you’ve ever held a Kindle Fire, you’d also know that a 6.2″ screen isn’t that large, either. The Fire has a 7″ screen and I’d hardly call that a gaming ready size. The tablet controller’s screen isn’t meant for 100% of play time. We’ll find out that the camera is capable of 3 megapixels and you’ll be able to upload the pictures to your Nintendo account, Flickr, or Facebook (more on those later). The controller will have 6-8 hours battery life and up to 9 if you aren’t playing a game that takes advantage of the controller screen too much. Finally, and with much rejoicing, we’ll find that Nintendo is allowing up to 4 tablet controllers per Wii U console. The aspect of one new controller and a need for old Wii accessories just will not do.

Nintendo Network: In a lovely move for Nintendo fans, the Wii U will usher in the modern online gaming experience gamers are used to with the Nintendo Network. You’ll have an account that you link with Nintendo.com and their sister sites to keep on the console and even move it onto the controller to bring it over a friend’s house (ala the Wii remote’s similar capability). You’ll be able to download retail games onto an SD card or external (not onto the internal memory). DLC will be featured prominently as Nintendo has confirmed that they will be supporting paid download content and has already begun to with the 3DS. You’ll also find an App Store-like counter-part that will house smaller game like WiiWare, Virtual Console (now including GameCube games), and even smaller titles that act like tablet games or mini-games that exploit the console and controller features.

Media Suite: To keep the users on the console, the Nintendo Network will offer “channel” apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, MLB.TV, HBO Go, and many more. Making the system more media and social friendly is a great way to allow it have a purpose in the living room.

Accessory Announcements: You’ll be able to buy additional tablet controllers for $99 each. In addition to that, at E3 we’ll also see Nintendo branded HDMI cables, stylus packs, travel cases (for the controllers, consoles, or even both), SD cards, and Wii U external hard drives made by Western Digital.

 

Soon.

 

Likely But Not Sure

Name Change: Apparently the high brass is thinking of changing the console’s name. I think this may be in their best interest. There was a lot of confusion regarding the 3DS and people thinking it was just another DS redesign. That can’t happen with a home console. The amount of money you sink into making something like this can’t have a problem of being mistaken as just a redesign. However, that close to launch may prove difficult for name changing and maintaining brand awareness.

Heavy Design Changes to Controller: Yeah, I think the screen is getting changed but it’s hard for me to see them switching anything else up. There’s talk that the circle pads may get changed to something almost like a hybrid of those and normal analog sticks. Looking for a bit of a lift, it seems. Aside from that, there may be more distance between the controllers and the screen itself. This would make the controller a bit more wider.

10+ Nintendo Network Games at Launch: This is likely but I’m not sure if it will be that many. Of course the downloadable titles will see a presence at launch but I’d expect the first two weeks to focus on retail sales rather than digital downloads.

Lack of First Party Software at Launch: I can’t see Super Smash Bros. or Pikmin being ready for launch. In fact, I see many anticipated Nintendo titles being shipped off to Q1 or Q2 2013. That would align them up with getting most titles out before E3 2013. Just in time to announce a huge line up of classic franchises coming to the Wii to combat the announcements of the 720 and PS4.

 

Unlikely

Too Low or Too High of a Price Point: Don’t expect prices like $199 or $499 for the Wii U. I can’t see this reaching anything higher than $399 and even that is pushing it. Nintendo seems adamant on releasing this thing with a loss on each sale.

Still Only One Controller Per Wii U: This just can’t happen. If they stick with the one tablet controller per console shtick, I can’t see the Wii U doing well. The new controller is what really separates this from the Wii aside from graphics. Nintendo wants the experience to matter more. That won’t happen if the Wii U is just fun for the one guy holding the fancy new controller while the rest adjust the wrist straps on their Wiimotes.

Grand Theft Auto V: I would be ecstatic to hear that is Wii U-bound. However, I can’t see it happening. I’m sure Rockstar has enough on their plate trying to get this ready for the platforms they have now. Adding the Wii U to that list and having to add special features would either push the projects back or delay the Nintendo development until after regular release. That being said, its a possibility but I can’t see it.

 

The Wii U is still mostly unknown. We haven’t seen anything yet. Nintendo’s conference at E3 this year will be extremely interesting and spark plenty of debate about the company’s future. There will be a ton of analysts and fat cats foaming from the mouth to hear the news from the Big N. Gamers will be doing the same thing but mainly because we want a new console that is fun and brings the games. The Wii U has a very promising future but only if Nintendo does the right thing: multiple tablet controller support, robust launch titles, steady stream of new content, and a full featured online network.



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