There’s no denying that Nintendo reigned supreme in the video game industry for a time, mainly throughout the bulk of the ’80s. They were preceded by the popular Atari systems and followed by the PlayStation, but for a good decade the NES, the Gameboy, and their follow-ups were the height of console and handheld gaming. These days Nintendo is not doing quite as well. Sure, the Nintendo DS could be considered the most popular handheld gaming device to this day (what with the PSP falling somewhat flat with consumers); that is until you factor smartphones and tablets into the equation. And while the Wii has appeal for a certain demographic (ahem, young children) the truth is that Nintendo hasn’t had a hit console in nearly two decades. Ouch. So the fact that they’re pushing a new device onto the market in time for the holidays is interesting. But will it be the hit they’ve been hoping for? Let’s review the facts.
The Wii U, set to be released on November 18th, appears sadly underwhelming. Although both Best Buy and Gamestop have allegedly reported selling out of the 32GB models during presales, the high price point and lack of technological advances could be a turnoff to the serious gaming crowd. Of course, Nintendo still enjoys a certain rabid fan base, as evidenced by presale numbers, and there are quite a few people that will try anything new at this point (what with a yawning gap in console gaming technology growing ever wider as industry leaders Microsoft and Sony fail to produce new console systems). But what are consumers really getting with the Wii U that they haven’t seen before?
Well, the physical setup is a little different than anything to date, pairing what basically appears to be a hard-wired hard drive with a handheld gaming device. In short, you can either play your game on your television monitor or you can play on the GamePad controller, which is, as the name implies, both a controller and a game pad (complete with a 6.2-inch LCD touch screen, a front-facing camera, and speakers in addition to the buttons, d-pad, and analog sticks you’re used to). And what is the point of all this, you may ask? The idea here is to expand the possibilities inherent in the gaming experience, ostensibly bringing the best aspects of touchscreen and handheld technologies to the console arena. Also, you can access Nintendo TiiV, which pairs your GamePad with television to enhance your multimedia experience.
Now, to the nitty gritty. Nintendo has packed a lot of functionality into this device, likely in the hopes of cracking the elusive universal entertainment system ceiling for this decade. And their prices are suitably precocious, ranging from $299.99 for the 8GB basic set to $349.99 for the 32GB deluxe set. While diehard fans of the Nintendo lineup of games may do anything to try their favorite gaming software on a new console, this addition to the marketplace appears overpriced and underpowered. For the crowd that’s seeking to fill some stockings with the latest tech, the Wii U at least provides for HD graphics capabilities (or so one would assume from the 16:9 aspect ratio on the GamePad and the included HDMI cable). But for anyone who is currently enjoying fantastic HD graphics and online gaming via PS3 or Xbox 360, the latest release by Nintendo probably isn’t even a blip on the radar.
Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for Download Haus, where you can find free gaming software and an assortment of other free software programs such as Filezilla.