a_theistmonk (a_theistmonk) wrote,

Unfinished: My thoughts on the Wii U

Is the Wii U tablet the next biggest thing to happen to console gaming? 03/04/13

The rise and rise of tablet and smartphone gaming has been well-documented on an assortment of gaming websites.  We live in a world where Angry Birds, Candy Crush, 4 Pics 1 Word and Temple Run dominate the screens of children and adults alike. We also live in a world where children are playing games that feature microtransactions, and are running up huge bills for their parents on iPads.

Tablet and touchscreen-based gaming is very much a mainstream hobby; one might argue Nintendo foresaw this with the Nintendo DS.

With this in mind, I turn my attention to the Wii U's unique gamepad.  Having the ability on Nintendo's shiny-new console to leave the sofa and wander around the house playing the very same game you've just been enjoying on the big screen is something of a leap forward for the traditional living room based console.  Called "Off-TV Play", it means that squabbles over who gets to use the television at which particular time of day can be put to rest for couples, housemates and families.  For those families, it also means parents can have their children share their social space instead of putting them upstairs with a television and console, out of sight.

Thus far, there is no mention of anything remotely similar coming for the Playstation 4 or Xbox 720 (or whatever name it goes under upon release).  And one would immediately say: why would they? Yet one could easily ask: why Wouldn't they? The Wii's success led Microsoft to develop their own motion tracking device, Kinect, that promised players, boldly, "YOU ARE THE CONTROLLER" in 2010.  Sony reacted the same year with Playstation Move, a remote not unlike the Wii remote in shape and purpose.  Both have since been packaged in with their respective consoles - something Nintendo declined to do with the Wii remote, which was first developed as an add-on for the GameCube.

Neither have had the impact or sales success that the Wii has enjoyed, but the very fact both competing companies decided to have their consoles enjoy the same feature, particularly to chase mainstream or "casual" gaming audiences, was significant.  It showed, that, despite the innocence or arrogance whereupon Nintendo said it was not competing with Sony or Microsoft with the Wii, both opposing companies were indeed keeping a very close eye on Nintendo's hardware strategy and sales figures.

Microsoft, despite wild rumour and speculation, have shied away from the portable gaming arena despite success in the console market.  Their only portable devices released to date have been Zune, an MP3 player and Surface, a tablet computer.  Sony eventually entered the ring dominated by Nintendo with the PSP and its successor the PSVita.  Both Sony machines have struggled to have a real impact, and, not unlike some of Nintendo's revisions to their portable gaming machines, Sony's devices sometimes struggle with purpose.  Think the difficulty of getting UMDs off the ground, or the inclusion of a touch screen on the PSVita.

Where this flagship idea of Nintendo's falls short, however, is in its optional nature.  At time of writing, some __ games of __ released offer it as a feature.  This seems nonsensical.  I can only speak from a player's point of view, not a developers', but it seems like Nintendo have the opportunity to offer something no other console can, but are not making it a focal point of marketing or functionality.  It seems like a bit of a waste!

Therefore, it seems Nintendo are trying to offer a system that offers players the best of both worlds: a traditional console with the convenience of a tablet.  It has already been recorded that Nintendo are merging their home console and handheld console divisions together, so clearly they are building momentum and have a long term strategy.  Only time will tell whether it is successful enough to provide strong sales, and if the elephant in the room for Nintendo, namely, Apple's dominance of the portable gaming market, can be diminished.

But Shigeru Miyamoto's now-famous quotation: "upending the tea table" throughout the development process (http://www.industrygamers.com/news/zelda-producer-miyamotos-upending-the-tea-table-is-quite-necessary-for-development/)
Tags: videogames
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