Nintendo’s new console is officially out there, and I still feel nothing. That actually makes me kind of sad, because I use to get excited about things I am not even buying. This leads me to two possible conclusions: either there might be something wrong with the Wii U, or there’s something wrong with me.
“I’m sure is the Wii U, honey!”
Because I don’t pretend to own the truth, I’m going to say I honestly don’t know. Maybe Nintendo is really screwing things up, or perhaps I’m the one that’s off and can’t see things clearly. One thing is certain, though, the console’s most attractive feature is the Wii U GamePad; or at least that’s what Reggie has been trying to convince us to believe these last few months.
So when I think of it that way, when I think about the GamePad and how many “exclusive” advantages it might have, I can’t stop imagining how the whole idea could fail, too. Mainly, because of what other companies have been making. And in a matter of months, I might add, because technology’s like that. Here’s three ways the Wii U might meet its match:
The Microsoft Way
When Microsoft announced Xbox SmartGlass this past E3, I liked the idea. It was interesting, simple, and zero invasive. It seemed like more of a companion to your whole Xbox experience rather than a mandatory feature. It was also, obviously, a response to the Wii U’s announcement a year before. But then I thought about something: it was considerably better than the whole GamePad thing.
The idea here seems to be this: have a companion device connected to your console that assists you through a number of tasks, either watching a movie on Netflix or preparing your formation on Madden NFL 13. I thought SmartGlass had already a huge advantage over the Wii U because you could install the thing as an app on any available smartphone or tablet, whereas on Nintendo’s console you’re stuck with the GamePad.
“Man, I’m still trying to sync it with iTunes; but it just won’t work”
Think of it this way: Microsoft has achieved something very similar to what Nintendo has done. The difference is that, whereas the japanese said: “Hi, we are releasing this awesome thing in this new console”, the americans responded: “OK, so, we’re releasing kind of the same awesome thing. It works if you have an Xbox and a smartphone or tablet. Also, it’s free”. Wait, an Xbox? I think a lot of people have that, yeah. Smartphone or tablet? I believe everyone has at least one of those.
But then there’s a hole in all of this. The GamePad is also a gaming controller, a smartphone or a tablet can’t certainly match that…
That’s the Wikipad, a soon-to be released gaming tablet that runs Android. That controller you see there is detachable, so the thing basically works as a regular tablet and a portable console at the same time. Should devices like the Wikipad start to gather popularity, Xbox SmartGlass could take advantage of the controller features and they could basically do all the things the Wii U GamePad does too. But hey, Nintendo still has the upper hand at something: the fact that the GamePad is its own, and well; you can’t match that kind of compatibility between devices.
Only that, apparently, Microsoft still has something up its sleeve. We've all heard about that Xbox Surface tablet, right? Well, in that case, full compatibility between console and device might just be a few months away for the company. Now, imagine that tablet with a controller like the Wikipad’s. Considering the Surface tablet already has its additional piece of hardware, we wouldn't be crazy to think that the company plans to do the same thing with its gaming counterpart. And presto, we have Microsoft’s full version of the Wii U GamePad. Only that this one is potentially way cooler.
We have to be fair, though. We obviously disposed of the whole “free” thing when we started talking about the Wikipad and the Xbox Surface. Besides, almost all of this is based in pure conjectures. Because unlike the Xbox guys, what Nintendo is offering is already here. Still, the prospect does look good. SmartGlass was already released a few weeks back; it’s all in motion now. Not only could Microsoft put the Wii U to shame, it could actually make its own completely new portable console in the process.
The Sony way
In this tablet/console war thing, Sony has, in my opinion, the best possible weapon available: the beautiful piece of hardware that is the Playstation Vita.
Just look at that sexy bastard.
We don’t have to think much about it. The Vita already has it all: controls, a touch screen, Wi-fi and generally good specs. Besides, it’s Sony’s own creation, so the full compatibility part is taken care off. The handled has features like Cross-Play (in a selection of PS3 games), Remote Play and Cross-Save. There are basically a lot ways for Sony’s two consoles to interact between each other. From picking up a PS3 game later on your Vita, to simply buying some games on the portable to later play them on the home console.
There’s also Cross Controller, where “[you] find brand new ways to interact with compatible PS3
games by using the PS Vita system's unique features to control gameplay”. That sounds a lot like what the GamePad does. All of this is probably how Sony has responded to the Wii U. Only that this time, like Microsoft, the whole thing just looks cooler than what Nintendo is doing.
OK, Reggie, calm down. I know, I know. We have to be fair: not all is perfect in Sony’s plan. For example, we have to admit that the Vita is kind of pricey, and the fact that it’s still missing a decent library of quality games worsens everything. Because paying $250 (Wi-fi only model) just to get some nice compatibility features doesn’t seem like a good deal. In that way, Microsoft might have some points with SmartGlass. There’s also the fact that most of these nice features only work with a handful of PS3 titles; whereas, with the Wii U, we can almost expect all games to take advantage of the GamePad.
Happy, Reggie? Because now I have to admit something: Sony’s plan is probably my favorite. Mainly because I still feel that the Playstation Vita is a really powerful system that can take on a lot of challenges. It all depends from Sony, I guess. If they play their cards well, we’ll see. Maybe sooner than most of you think, because I’m thinking now of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale as the game that will finally prove to us just how good this PS3/PS Vita thing can be.
The tablets in general way
If you’re still reading at this point (thank you, by the way) you’re probably wondering what else could threaten Nintendo, if not Microsoft or Sony.
My answer is this: technology.
Ha, no; but seriously, think about it. In this whole smartphone and tablet era we’re living in, companies like Apple and Google have become big names in gaming with their App Store and Google Play, respectively. The popularity that games like Angry Birds have gotten is really serious stuff, and everyone has taken notice of that. Every day we see more and more releases, and every time developers are more interested in general. What I’m trying to say here is: mobile gaming is big now.
OK, not THAT big.
Now, we have to know that Nintendo is not targeting hardcore gamers with its GamePad features and all of that. No, I think they’re aiming at kind of the same public that goes crazy about these games like Angry Birds. And how could Google or Apple (or any other company, I might add) give Nintendo a considerable headache? The possibilities are endless, if you’re creative; but I’ll start by naming the Ouya, for example.
You’ve probably heard of it already, but the Ouya is an upcoming video game console that will run a modified version of Android’s Jelly Bean software. By itself, this new console doesn’t represent much of a threat to the Wii U, mainly because it will have an exclusive store with games specifically designed for the thing. But the sole fact of the Ouya’s conception could’ve opened a door to a lot of ideas.
I think the guy who did this had to open a very large door. On drugs.
With tablets like the Wikipad we saw before and consoles like the Ouya, a very interesting ecosystem of devices with Android, for example, could be originating. Therefore, we could start seeing new consoles that run Google Play and support Cross-Play with any android tablet or smartphone. Hell, we even have Smart TVs now, so maybe we could see some of those get some kind of compatibility. Let’s dream some more: a Nexus TV that runs Android. See the possibilities?
Then there’s Apple. A lot of rumors have been around now saying that the company is cooking something big for the gaming industry, because it wants in. Besides that, rumors of a TV have been pretty strong too, lately. I can easily imagine one that runs the App Store and every game in it. Then, your iPhone, iPad or even iPod Touch can join in to completely change your gaming experience, in kind of the same way the Wii U is hoping to.
The good news for Nintendo in this one? Well, 90% of this is probably just in my head, for starters. There just doesn’t seem to be a straight plan, or anything solid for the moment. However, it’s there. And though it may seem a weak argument for most of you, I’ll say it just as I said it before: technology’s like that.
Whether you might believe it or not, I’m a big fan of Nintendo. That’s probably the reason why I’m being so critic about them, but I just simply can’t see the Wii U as a strong case. There are just too many good things happening out there. That being said, I honestly hope I just talked a lot of nonsense (I think I just did), because I really want Nintendo to succeed.