We are few weeks from the launch of new hardware. As an adult with a modicum of disposable income it is extremely difficult for me to sate the inner child in me when it comes to new technology. I grew up in an age where money was not flowing and if it wasn’t for the existence of Santa Claus my desires never would have been fulfilled (thanks St Nick!).
I tend to buy most consoles for this reason. It is a ridiculous position I put myself in as there is no way I can play games on all the consoles. However, I love the new shiny and am afraid of missing out on the new hotness whether it be interface, control method or otherwise. My garage even contains a HD-DVD drive for my 360 for god’s sake!
Over the past few years there have definitely been diminishing returns on my investments. Hardware manufacturers wow us with the promise of real innovation but the reality is that either the tech is at too infant a stage to be brought to market successfully or concerns over price neuter the product in some aspect. The Kinect is the obvious recent example. It promised real time tracking of your body in order to control the character on-screen. It seemed that the dream of a holodeck future was within reach. I would be able to walk and look around 3D worlds and interact with objects like never before. The reality was very different. These fantastical ideas were defeated by the simple act of laying a hand on the radiator. All dreams were shattered.
I bought a Wii feverishly at the height of the shortage from Ebay. I was rabid in my pursuit of that technology after I experienced 15 minutes of hands-on time with Wii Sports. Yet within 2 months of that purchase I told myself to remember the famous George Bush quote ”One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.” Oops, not that one. This one, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me ….You can’t get fooled again.”
That is to say, that I should remember the next time Nintendo tried to release a new hardware system with a gimmick I should avoid it. Yet here I am with a finger on the buy button as the Wii U sits in my basket taunting me. So what is it about the new system that warrants discussion?
A touchscreen is hardly a selling point in a modern system especially when the screen is a resistive screen (a la the DS) rather than the more responsive capacitive screens found in modern smartphones and tablets. This is a real worry and the first major concession to enable the console to hit a certain price point. The nature of the touchscreen is something new though. It is not necessary to connect the console to a TV or monitor in order to play certain games.
This is a game-changer. Being able to play proper console quality games on the go in the house without interrupting the X-Factor has wives up and down the country celebrating in their tighty whiteys. I know a few gamers who will be quite happy about it as well. Hold your horses. It is limited in range. As one hand gives the other takes away it seems. It does work through walls but not well enough that you will be able to slink to the furthest corner of the house – Huckleberry Finn style – and get lost for a few hours at a time.
The main gamepad will also allow for control of your TV; not the crappy way your new Sky box works (by connecting both boxes to your wireless network). Rather it uses HDMI to control the volume, source et al. This is obviously technology that will permeate from everything in the coming years but for now it is peerless in its ease of setup and application.
Many uncertainties remain. Games will use the Wii mote as the control method. I think most of us are weary of that mode of operation. Will this still hinder the development of outstanding games? How about the question of how long the battery life is for the gamepad? When advertising how portable the console is, this is not an inconsequential concern. The biggest question for me is this. The Wii U will have 3 accepted methods of input at launch – the gamepad, wii mote and pro controller – all being pushed as much as the other by Nintendo. How can this lead to a stable and coherent message to the developer or consumer? It creates confusion in trying to conform while innovate at the same time. It is a difficult position Nintendo have found themselves in and one which Microsoft and Sony will find themselves in at this time next year.
On the whole I’m still undecided on whether to purchase or not. While I like some of the games line-up, it is missing the new IP or game that is unlike anything I have ever seen before. New hardware is exciting and energises our minds. Then again, I’m a PC gamer. I get new hardware every couple of months. Can any new console system get that hold over me again anytime soon?