Nintendo gave up doing things by the book a long time ago.
This goes for hardware, and it goes for hardware reveals.
Announcing the Wii’s successor a month before the games industry gathered in LA for E3 2011 gave its conference a real buzz: undercutting earlier Microsoft and Sony events with a murmur of speculative excitement.
The Wii U controller introduces a second screen into the traditional gaming setup. A 6.2-inch resistive touchscreen mounted in the shell of a wireless dual analogue stick controller. A hybrid of traditional pad and tablet PC. Unlike a tablet, however, content is streamed from the Wii U base unit.
For the gamer, it’s both TV supplement and replacement. A second screen for displaying maps, inventories and objectives or a place to continue the game, should the TV be needed by someone else. Make the call and the game streams to your hands, lag-free.
More interesting is the potential for the two screens to work in direct tandem, an extension of ideas tested on DS. A touchscreen interface enables play types that have escaped buttons and analogue sticks.
The spirit of Wii lives on in more than name. Wii U is compatible with all former Wii software and hardware: the remote, nunchuck, balance board and classic controller. Some are obvious fits: controlling a Wii Fit weigh-in session with a handy touchscreen makes more sense than the rigmarole of setting up the living room.
Others are more experimental. The potential for novel multiplayer experiences – four pals sharing a TV as a fifth creates mischief on the tablet screen – are explored on the games page of this review.
But if Nintendo is forthcoming about *how* we’ll play, it’s less open on *what*.
Bar a 25 GB proprietary disc format and HDMI output supporting 1080p, little is known of the base unit itself. An ambiguous IMB Power-based multicore CPU and AMD Radeon GPU continue Nintendo’s hardware relationship with the two companies, but neither suggests how Wii U stacks up against 360/ PS3.