A powerful system cannot be the only crutch Nintendo can lean on. They need help, and they need to make people know they're still innovating. Sadly, their own innovation may be their own downfall, as others are quick on their heels, even before they get out the door...
Despite the lack of power, the Wii held its own while completely ignoring HDMI and (at the very least) 720p, two modern entertainment staples. Microsoft even caught itself in a fault, and added HDMI to the Xbox 360 mid-life-cycle, something fans and critics alike had hoped for in a revised Wii HD. Regardless, Nintendo skipped the revision and came full force with the Wii U (much like how they skipped on bringing the Wii Remote to the GameCube and made it less of an afterthought and more of the main attraction), including many missed opportunities the Wii left behind. It has been reported by third parties that the Wii U will be drastically underpowered compared to the Xbox Next and PS4/Orbis; Epic says that Unreal Engine 4-powered games won't find life on the Wii U past the first generation without being severely dumbed down.
|Best joke ever!|
Image credit: http://www.roboawesome.com/?p=16875
A recent report from BGR says that the Xbox Next (or Durango; what have you) will be running an eight-core CPU with 8 GB of RAM. Despite this sounding fairly powerful, this same report puts it at six times more powerful than the 360. If this report is true - which I'm taking it with the largest grain of salt known to man - then that means it's only marginally more powerful than the Wii U, which has been described as "definitely more powerful than Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3" by 5th Cell (the guys behind Scribblenauts). This puts the Wii U at about 2-4 times more powerful than the Xbox 360.
This becomes a contradiction with a recent statement from Sumo Digital's executive producer Steve Lycett (Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed) saying the Wii U "looks as good any of the HD platforms". He quickly brings our hopes back up with this number: "The Wii U has way more memory, so we can take advantage of that with less compression on elements and textures, so [Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed] will look all lovely and shiny."
Now, we all know that we shouldn't be asking "how many more times" is one system more powerful than another, but used as a general rule of thumb; despite the GameCube being regarded as an inferior system, it could still do things better than the PS2 and Xbox, something I'm hoping repeats itself with the Wii U.
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|"Here's my last two fucks,|
but I'm saving them for
a special occasion!"
Looking back, it was nowhere near the shit-storm they caused when they announced the 3DS with a $250 price tag slapped on it; reasons as to why the system was announced, detailed, and released way too early resulting in the high price is a story all in it's own. Just 5 months after the release, Nintendo drops the price by 80-fucking-dollars when StarFox64 3D launched with a new color, and that caused even more nerd-rage. Those who bought into the system at the original price point was awarded 20 downloadable NES and GBA games. Yes, the dollar value exceeds $80, but a good chunk of those games aren't worth the bandwidth.
If Nintendo did, in fact, release a more powerful system - we'll just put it just as powerful as Durango and Orbis - then we're looking at one of two things: Nintendo would enter the market with a low-priced system, making them little to no money (or even losing money), or they would throw on a high price tag with room for margin. Sadly, neither option bodes well with their business model (see above).
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The Nintendo Network may have roots in EA and Origin, if this IGN forum post is to be believed. If what is stated here is true, then the Nintendo Network owes a debt to EA's IT department for simply being structured, but came drastically close to being, essentially, Origin on Wii U; it would have to run Origin, and only Origin. Being smart, Nintendo gave one of those above fucks to EA to run home with, as they shut them down. This helps to ease the burn that is the gimped version of Madden 13 on the Wii U. This move by Nintendo to shun EA has, apparently, paved the way for major third-party developers to cross Nintendo's thresholds and develop for them; ever wonder why Nintendo and Ubisoft are becoming more and more friendly with each other, especially since Rayman Legends went from multiplatform to Wii U exclusive?
Sadly, Nintendo came out, saying they are still implementing Friend Codes - albeit, in a slightly less dickish way - with the Wii U and 3DS will share a universal account (finally allowing the Nintendo Points currency to carry over between systems, rather than having two separate wallets), and having a DLC marketplace. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be the most well implemented infrastructure; hell, this is Nintendo we're talking about.
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The biggest issue facing Nintendo as they gear up for Gen 8 is their own, self-created issue: they have no goddamned idea what Sony and Microsoft are doing. Last generation, Nintendo showed off the Wii, but left out one crucial piece of evidence: the controller. This was a false hand played by them, making Sony and Microsoft believe they were just making a regular system. Nintendo held this card very close to their chest, so close, in fact, that they didn't show it off until the Tokyo Game Show in 2005, just two months prior to Microsoft releasing the Xbox 360. Then, in July of the very next year (ten months after the Wii Remote unveilng), Sony filed a patent for what would eventually become the Move controller, released 4 years later.
Earlier that year, Microsoft showed off the Xbox 360 in high-profile fashion at MTV's The Next Generation Xbox Revealed. Microsoft threw a fuck-ton of money at the event, making it known to everyone who was a Killers fan that the Xbox 360 was coming. Sony, on the other hand, revealed everything but the price at E3 2005; the price came at E3 2006 at the Original-iPhone-like levels of $500-600. Sony had the luxury of knowing exactly what Nintendo was doing, which is held up by that controller patent they filed.
|"I'd like to take this time to thank Nintendo for letting us |
know ahead of time what they were doing with the GamePad,
so we can swoop in and fuck them. Royally."
Nintendo has been playing first dog here in the past 2 years, and it's been working to their (severe) disadvantage; they're letting their biggest competition know what they're doing, giving them ample time to revise their current plans and make something better. At E3 2010, Nintendo officially unveiled - not including a rush, one-page press release thanks to the Japanese press - the 3DS. Around the same time in 2011, Sony unveiled what would eventually be known as the Vita, as a much more powerful system, with the key feature of the DS (touch), with more. In the same year, Nintendo showed off the Wii U with its GamePad controller. Exactly one year later, Microsoft comes out with the SmartGlass platform that essentially does exactly what the GamePad does, but for the Xbox 360, as a free app, and made for any phone or tablet; they even admitted they began work on it "12 months prior" to its unveiling. One advantage the GamePad does have is physical buttons, which, from what I've heard, comes in handy when it comes to playing games.
Sony very well may be the smartest of the three, as they haven't said a goddamned word about the PS4/Orbis. Rather than fucking themselves over and letting Microsoft know what they're doing, they're keeping their secrets a secret until the same time Microsoft is unveiling theirs, making it too late to do any revisions, as they will have to hit the factories shortly after E3 2013.
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The Wii U's success relies on Nintendo's innovation. Despite being that key innovator, Nintendo is giving their secrets away far too early, allowing Sony and Microsoft to do what they're doing, but better. Nintendo needs to make the Nintendo Network something absolutely extravagant, easily accessible, offer services that neither Sony or Microsoft are currently offering, make it cheaper (or free), and do it better. Sadly, the Nintendo Network cannot be their saving grace, as the GamePad already has a hefty investment in it.
Exactly what can the GamePad do for the Wii U, Nintendo, and gaming as a whole? That's exactly what I'm talking about in my next installment.
Next time, we'll focus purely on Nintendo's new controller itself: the GamePad. How has the recent unveil of Microsoft's SmartGlass impacted the controller? What about turning the 3DS (XL or not) itself into a controller, avoiding the inevitable qualms amongst friends when playing multi-player? Regardless, the GamePad brings its own slew of issues and criticisms, which we'll discuss this Friday, the 31, in part 3.