Let’s face it, there are a lot of rumours flying around these days, and new consoles are at the centre of it. From Sony’s PS3 cross-breeding with a Magic 8 Ball to create the hideously named ‘Orbis’ to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 successor going all Big Brother on us and blocking the use of second hand games, the last few months have seen not so much a trickle as a thundering storm of speculation, prediction and outright guess work crashing down on the heads of dedicated gamers the world over.
Not so with Nintendo’s Wii U. Sure, there are some outlandish rumours doing the rounds – most started by Sony or Microsoft fanboys hoping to spoil the Wii U’s broth – but Nintendo’s steady drip-feed of information has kept the rumour mill from pounding into overdrive.
The console was officially unveiled at E3 2011 as around 90,000 Nintendo Wii’s gathered dust in living rooms across the world.
With sales figures that impressive it’s hardly surprising that Nintendo wants to capitalise on its huge success with another offering that will appeal to casual gamers while still offering something new.
And with this year’s E3 event just around the corner, we’ve rounded up all the new details on the new console.
Firstly, this isn’t just a rehash of the original Wii with shinier graphics – the Wii U wants to completely overhaul the way you experience gaming by introducing a second screen into the traditional gaming setup. A 6.2-inch resistive touchscreen has been mounted in the shell of a wireless dual analogue stick controller. It looks a bit like the pastey lovechild of a traditional controller and a tablet PC, but unlike a tablet the content is streamed directly to the screen from the Wii U itself.
Instead of replacing the traditional TV as many thought it would, this extra screen aims to supplement and support it. Need to scrutinise a map as you move through your game? The second screen lets you do just that – without having to keep opening and closing menus to access it on your TV screen. Someone else in the house needs the TV but you want to keep playing? No problem. Just issue the command to your Wii U and the game streams fluidly to your controller.
There’s also the potential for both screens to work in tandem, similar to how the two screens on the Nintendo DS compliment and support one another. With more and more games moving into the touchscreen, button-free world of mobile gaming, letting your Wii U and TV act as a giant DS seems like a logical step forward.
Similarly, inbuilt gyroscopes and accelerometers act as a third set of analogue control inputs, allowing gamers to physically move the device to adjust their aim or orientation on screen. The information and viewpoint displayed on the screen can change based on the orientation of the gyroscope and in multiplayer games, the player using the new controller can have a different experience than those looking at the TV, creating all-new potential for competitive and co-operative play.
The controller also features a rumble feature, an inward-facing camera, a microphone, speakers and the classic Nintendo controller button scheme – two analog Circle Pads, +Control Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons and ZL/ZR buttons.
Don’t go trading in your Wii back catalogue just yet, though – the Wii U is fully compatible with all former Wii games, software and hardware: the remote, nunchuck, balance board and classic controller.
How the Wii U will perform graphically is less clear.
We know the console has a 25 GB proprietary disc format and HDMI output supporting 1080p, but details on the base unit itself are scarce. An IMB Power-based multicore CPU and AMD Radeon GPU sit snugly within that creamy casing, but there’s little information out there to suggest that how this hardware will hold up against the PS3 and Xbox 360, let alone next generation consoles. Nintendo claim the Wii U will support full HD graphics, but that’s the biggest bone they’re prepared to throw right now.
Memory will be left to SD cards and USB HDDs, but there’s no word yet on what sizes will be supported.
Cost is a similarly murky issue, with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata hinting Wii U will be priced higher than 20,000 yen (around £156) when it goes on sale.
Even the release date remains ambiguous. Nintendo have said on multiple occasions that the Wii U will hit shelves by the end of 2012 – so expect it out in time for Christmas, kiddies – but don’t expect a solid release date just yet.
Of course there’s a good chance that we’ll have answers to most if not all of these questions by the end of E3 2012. But right now there’s still a lot we don’t know about Nintendo’s new baby.
Still, at least it’s not called Orbis…