While much has been written about the next-generation Xbox 720, we’ve not paid much attention to Nintendo’s next-gen console, the Wii U. Unlike Microsoft’s console, which is still vapourware till this point, the Wii U is going to come out by the end of this year, and has already demonstrated some impressive features, especially its GamePad controller.
For those who don’t know, the GamePad is Nintendo’s supposedly game-changing controller in which a 6-inch touchscreen is framed between regular control buttons like the standard 4-point navigation buttons, and ABXY action buttons.
View the video of the GamePad here:
But what will the touchscreen display? Here’s where things get interesting: according to Nintendo, it would serve as a “second screen” that would complement what’s displayed on the main screen. How would this work while playing a game? And what other hardware specs would it feature?
Here’s our rundown of what we know so far of the Wii U.
Nintendo is hoping the GamePad will be their homerun hitter in the same way the Wii Remote was in 2006. The GamePad’s second screen, if done right, can change the way we play games. How? Take, for instance, the upcoming ZombieU, in which the secondary screen could be used to access inventory, and scan for enemies or items, as opposed to pausing the game and accessing inventory items as you normally would.
“The game never pauses,” described one press preview of the upcoming game console. “While a player is looking down at that second screen, picking through found items, or switching out weapons, the zombies continue to amble toward you. This new, non-pausing form of gameplay suddenly makes the audience a very important part of the game.”
“I was saved from a fatal bite more than once by an attentive onlooker who spotted a zombie creeping up on me as I hunched over my second screen looking to see what I was carrying. (In the game, my character hunched over too, but they looked down at a backpack or broken crate rather than a second screen.)”
A more powerful machine
That’s a given, but how powerful it would be remained a mystery – until recently. Microsoft, for one, believes that the Wii U would be as powerful as the Xbox 360.
“I think their Pro Controller makes a lot of sense with the platform they’ve built. They are building a platform that is effectively a 360 when you think of graphical capability,” said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios in a story by GamesIndustry.
The new console would be powerful enough to run current-gen hit games like Arkham City and Mass Effect 3, which would be headliners for the Wii U when it comes out in December. Unfortunately for Nintendo, those current gaming consoles are already way past its due date.
A greater online space
Finally, Nintendo is expected to push for better online services in a way similar to Sony’s PSN, which offers a free basic subscription and a paid premium subscription model.
“We plan to expand various network services for the Wii U,” Nintendo boss Saturo Iwata reportedly said in a meeting. “The first thing to do is connect the Wii U to a common large network platform called the Nintendo Network.
“We cannot promise here that Nintendo will always provide you with online services free of charge no matter how deep the experiences are that it may provide, but at least we are not thinking of asking our consumers to pay money to just casually get access to our ordinary online services,” Iwata said.
Nintendo, it sure took you awhile. But we’re glad you’re finally onboard.