E3, the biggest annual video game conference, is underway. This year, it’s starting off with a bang. Nintendo kicked off their press conference announcing new details about their upcoming Wii successor, the Wii U. What we already know about the Wii U is that the primary controller will replicate a tablet-like device, providing a second-screen experience with Wii U games. There is even rumors that there will be fully playable games available on the controllers themselves, giving you a mobile gaming experience without requiring the console.
All of this was beginning to sound fantastic. Nintendo was innovating once again, setting the stage for the next generation of console gaming. Well, that was until today, when Nintendo revealed a new set of details about the Wii U. Reality is beginning to set in that this console is not going to be quite what we had imagined.
1. The controller’s screen requires a stylus
The Wii U controller looks like a touchscreen tablet with buttons and a joystick around the outside. However, the screen itself cannot read human touch. Instead, it requires the use of their included stylus. Nintendo is no stranger to the stylus, as it is packaged with the Nintendo DS, DSi and 3DS portable gaming devices. We’re expecting this to be a real pain in the ass.
2. The controller senses motion.. so you can swing a tablet around
The Wii U tablet controller includes built-in motion sensing, similar to Playstation Move. This will allow realistic gaming experiences for games like golf and other sports. The issue, though, is that swinging around a tablet hardly provides a realistic sports experience.
3. Wii U will include a Kinect-like camera attachment that is actually.. just a camera
We can assume Nintendo is attempting to compete with Kinect with this device. But, it seems they got it completely wrong. The camera sits on top of your TV, but unlike Kinect, it doesn’t track motion at all. It just simply allows you to take pictures, and only 4 megapixels at that. The only use I see for this is taking pictures of your grandma trying to swing a tablet like a golf club.
4. All Wii U games will only be Mario themed
Nintendo isn’t a stranger to Mario-themed games. In the past, we’ve seen Mario and the crew in tennis, golf, racing, fighting and many other genres of games. Today, Nintendo announced that all Wii U games will be Mario themed. To help accomplish this, all 3rd party game developers are required to license the new Mario API, which provides access to all Mario characters and sounds (such as the famous “WA-HOO” and “Its-a-me, Mario!”), playful graphics and more. We’ll be waiting on the edge of our seats for a Grand Theft Auto / Mario mashup game.
5. Friend codes will be the “lifeblood of online multiplayer”
For many users, friend codes were seen as one of the biggest downsides of gaming with your friends on the Wii. In order to add a friend and play a game with them, you were required to type in their long and obnoxious friend code, rather than a simple invitation system like many of the other consoles offer. Apparently, Nintendo believes this is the right approach; so much so that they are implementing it across their entire online multiplayer network. When you play online, Miis will be labeled with friend codes, not names. It will be your entire online identification. This includes friending, socializing, etc.
Aside from these obvious flaws, Nintendo has a lot to prove, so we’re hoping to see some better news in the coming months. But with graphics likely on par with the current generation consoles, Nintendo is going all-in on experience once again. We’ll see if this is an experience worth experiencing.