This morning, Nintendo unveiled a slew of details about the WiiU, officially due out November 18th. Here’s the important stuff:
There will be two versions available. The base $300 model comes with the system, a GamePad, and HDMI cable, sensor bar and all the other goodies you need to get started. It’ll have an 8GB HDD, and it’ll play Wii games. This means no standard WiiMotes, which are necessary for multiplayer, and must be Wii Motion Plus controllers.
The $350 model upgrades to a 32GB SDD and tosses in a charge cradle for the GamePad and a console stand. The bundle will also come with Nintendo Land, the big launch title featuring your Mii, and a subscription to Digital Deluxe Plus through 2014. Currently, all we know is that it will discount your digital downloads, which will be available for all games.
The WiiU is going to have processing power similar to the PS3 and Xbox 360, which means its getting a ton of third-party titles shipped over including Assassin’s Creed III, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Black Ops II and Darksiders II among others.
Nintendo TVii is a new feature that will ship with all consoles and be free to use, giving users the ability to direct streaming services to the GamePad, even if someone else is using the main TV. This includes Hulu, Netflix and even your DVR.
There will also be a social network for WiiU users called MiiVerse, which will support real-time communication among other things and will be accessible through your PC or smartphone as well.
So where does that leave the skeptics?
Overall, we have to look at the fact that the WiiU is still just catching up to current-gen systems. What’s Nintendo’s plan when Sony and Microsoft roll out their next consoles in a year or two? Rumors currently have Sony utilizing 4K resolution for the next generation, and while those TVs are way too pricey now to be mainstream, it’ll be interesting to see what the next year or two brings.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is filing patents for projection-based gaming technology that may well take over your living room. Should either of these come to fruition, the WiiU will be right back where it started, and third-party developers will have to scale back their dreams if they want their titles to work on the WiiU.
Speaking of third-party devs, while it’s great that the WiiU is getting ports of solid titles at launch, there’s no guarantee they’ll do well. To start with, few other than the Nintendo faithful can pick up a WiiMote and go – it takes a little getting used to. While some titles will make unique use of the GamePad, there are bound to be some straight ports. Why would someone want to buy an entirely new console to play the games they can already get on the consoles they already have with controllers they already like?
Things like Arkham City: Armored Edition are also disheartening. Similar spin-off titles of AAA blockbusters, such as the Wii’s Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition, have proven watered-down and sub-par.
Additionally, we have very little information on how the WiiU’s online will work, which will significantly hamper many of these titles. Look at Mass Effect 3, a game with, what I consider, one of the best online multiplayer experiences to date. How well will this work on the WiiU? It’ll already be hurting since Wii players won’t have played the first two titles.
Another of these third-party titles that has been confirmed is Bayonetta 2 – a sequel to a combo-heavy button-masher from Ps3 and Xbox 360. This is an interesting move by Platinum Games, considering other hardcore third-party titles exclusive to Nintendo’s latest consoles haven’t done so well. MadWorld and Red Steel were generally well-received by critics, but didn’t sell nearly as well as even the most average Mario titles.
Nintendo TVii is a great idea, but not a make-or-break feature by any means. TV is universal enough that the whole room is usually content watching.
The memory available is paltry, especially considering the whole library is supposed to be downloadable. Not including any WiiMotes with launch bundles simply means that it’ll be tough to get newcomers to the Nintendo brand – they’ll only have to pay more.
Speaking of paying more, the low price-point of the original Wii was a big draw to the casual gamer. While $300 or more for the WiiU isn’t unreasonable for the hardware you’re getting, it’ll be a turnoff to casual gamers anyway as smartphones absorb more of that market share. Where the Wii had a defined audience that no one else was targeting, the WiiU looks as though it could appeal to a slim niche.
So good news for Wii owners looking for HD graphics – it’s going to get the job done. And they’ll get more of the Nintendo IP they love with a healthy dose of third-party tossed in – for now. But it’s not going to get people who currently own a PS3 or Xbox to make the switch – but has that ever been Nintendo’s goal? We’ll see if Nintendo can keep pace when the new consoles hit, and that goes without paying heed to new players on the scene including Valve’s console rumors and the Ouya.
Be sure to comment with your own thoughts and anything I missed!