Nintendo doesn’t have it easy these days. Mobile phones and tablets continue to peck away at its handheld consoles while the Wii, now nearly six years old, struggles to find new buyers among fierce competition from Microsoft and Sony.
As if that weren’t enough, Nintendo is now paying for its negligence towards the gaming industry. The new controller has been met with skepticism, and the claims of better third-party support this time out have been met with shrugs. We’ve heard this song and dance before.
It’s all seems very doom and gloom. Yet, in spite of this, I’m going to line up to buy a Wii U at launch – and if “gamer” is a label you’re happy to claim, you should too. Here’s why.
The Internet’s popular opinion about the Wii U’s hardware is woefully miss-informed. I’ve read countless forum posts and website comments that firmly state the Wii U is just a minor upgrade to the Wii and no better than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. That’s nonsense.
We don’t know exactly what is in the Wii U yet, but we do know it’s a relatively new PowerPC processor paired with 2GB of RAM and a custom AMD Radeon GPU, most likely derived from the company’s Evergreen architecture. For comparison, the Xbox 360 uses a graphics chip similar to AMD’s Fudo architecture – which is five years older. Given the separation in architectures it would not be surprising if the raw power of the Wii U is three or four times that of an Xbox 360.
We don’t need to rely on speculation, however. Nintendo has constantly demonstrated games running at 1080p, something current consoles aren’t capable of (they render games at a lower resolution and up-scale to 1080p).
It’s likely that the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony will be quicker, but that’s okay. What’s important is that Nintendo will finally have hardware that can do justice to the beautiful art found in its first-party titles.
An Excellent Launch Lineup
The Wii U hits store shelves on November 18th with an impressive selection of games — 23 will be available on launch day, and 51 titles in total are planned for the “launch window” that runs through March. Several of these are brand-new games that are launching exclusively for the Wii U. I’m personally looking forward to New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU and even Epic Mickey 2 (which will be released on all systems, but offer Wii U-specific features on the GamePad). These titles alone put the launch line-ups of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to shame. I’m also looking forward to Rayman Legends, though it now looks like it may not make the November 18 release.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nintendo is also launching with a generous selection of third-party titles including Assassin’s Creed III, Darksiders II, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Mass Effect 3. Most of these have been released, or will be released for other platforms, but their inclusion on the Wii U helps to beef up the console’s appeal. And that goes double for me.
I haven’t played several new console games because my Xbox 360 went kaput (for the third time) and was no longer covered under warranty. I couldn’t find any reason why I should waste money replacing it when the Wii U was already announced and capable of playing the same games. My excitement might be less if Microsoft made reliable hardware.
Nintendo Can Take Over My Living Room
Nintendo TVii came out of nowhere. There was little to hint at its existence and then – boom! Nintendo drops the bomb just a few months before release.
TVii put the Wii U over the top for me. Since my Xbox 360 died, I’ve been using a Roku for my streaming needs. It works fine and I’d recommend it to anyone, but it’s terribly simple. Scrolling through Netflix titles can take some time, and there’s not much customization available. It works. And that’s all it does.
The new controller must have given the guys at Logitech a heart-attack. It’s taken them years to squeeze small touchscreens into their line of Harmony remotes. Then here comes Nintendo, tromping in with 6.2 touchscreen display that connects directly with streaming services (via the Wii U, of course), and can even be used to purchase new content.
Television via console is now Nintendo’s game to lose. As long as the processor isn’t too slow, as long as the touchscreen isn’t unresponsive, as long as the software works right – it’ll be great. And inexpensive, too, because there’s no need for an additional subscription to access content you’ve already paid for. That’s a lesson Microsoft should learn.
Buying a new console is often bitter-sweet. Yay, it’s a new console… but now I have to buy all new peripherals and games. Ah, hell.
The Wii U doesn’t ask so much from buyers. Most Wii accessories are compatible with it, as are most Wii games. Even software and save data downloaded to the Wii will be transferable to the Wii U. In a sense, the new console is more of an upgrade than an entirely new product. It adds new capabilities but also retains the functionality found in the old system.
Nintendo is not abandoning its family-friendly position. And that position is partially based on price. Asking a family to replace an old console with a new one – and three new controllers, plus any peripherals – is always a tall order. I’m happy I’m not going to have to re-purchase controllers when the next Mario Kart game comes out.
Yes, The Price Is Right
Nintendo’s premium Wii U, which is the one you want, retails for $349. There have been the usual complaints, but they’re only valid if you think coin is traded as freely in real life as it was in the last Mario game.
This entirely new console, which is more powerful than any other on the market today and comes with a 6.2” touchscreen controller, costs less at launch than either the Xbox 360 or PS3 did (by a huge margin in the case of the PS3). Even now it’s only $100 more (in premium guise) than the current mid-range Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 bundle. This seems like a damn good deal. I seriously doubt that Nintendo is making any per-unit profit at this price.
And let’s not forget that the Wii U is compatible with old controllers, which means current Wii owners don’t have to pay anything extra for additional peripherals. The new Pro controller, which is tailored towards third-party games, is the only exception — but hopefully it will be sold at a price similar to the current Classic controller, which is $20.
Will the new console reverse Nintendo’s fortunes? That’s impossible to know. Its competitors have yet to reveal themselves, and long-term success depends on far more than a console’s capabilities at launch.
Then again, speculation about profit margins won’t make the Wii U more or less enjoyable. It is a game console. It should play games well, and it should have good games to play. The Wii U promises better gaming than any other console, and Nintendo has thrown in a tasty bonus with TVii. That’s more than enough to get me in line. What about U?
Updated to fix a typo.