E3 Attendees: Somewhat Unimpressed with the Wii U

Guest post By James Grosch and Joe Hanson of BigFrame.   When Nintendo took the stage at E3 this year, most video game fans eagerly waited to be blown away. A year ago on the same stage, Nintendo unveiled their next console and gamers left the convention intrigued and ready to find out more about the Wii U. After Nintendo’s press conference on Tuesday morning, the consensus response among gamers and video game sites seemed to be a gigantic “That’s it?” While the Wii U definitely has some things going for it, Nintendo failed to give a compelling reason that anyone should spend their money to buy the console.   Maybe that reason is the high-definition graphics. With the Wii U, Nintendo is finally releasing a high-definition console, which is something that gamers have been lusting for since Microsoft and Sony made the jump to HD consoles in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Having seen it in person, I can vouch that the Wii U delivers visuals on-par with the Xbox and PS3. But that’s it. Nintendo is finally giving gamers a console that is as powerful as a machine that is six to seven years old. Both Sony and Microsoft are expected to release their consoles in the next 1-2 years, which gives Nintendo a narrow timeframe of technical parity with their competition. They are likely to be lapped by the other consoles as soon as Holiday 2013. If Nintendo is truly going after the core like they said they were a year ago at E3, then why release a console that’s technically just as good as something a core gamer already owns or could surely purchase for cheaper once the Wii U comes out later this year.    Maybe the reason is the Wii U’s tablet-controller hybrid: The GamePad. The GamePad features a 6.2 inch touchscreen, dual analogue sticks, and tradition game controller buttons. It also has a gyroscope, a camera, and NFC functionality. This complex device is nice to hold, but what does the second screen add to the experience of playing a video game? It’s a question Nintendo failed to clearly answer this E3. The controller can do anything and everything, according to Nintendo. It could be a map, it could be a bow and arrow, or it could provide you a different perspective of the game you’re playing. Solving a problem most people don’t have, the second screen could also prevent the “fight for the TV,” as one can continue playing the Wii U console game if another member of the household wants to use the TV for something else.    Does the GamePad add to the gaming experience? The answer to that isn’t clear. Some of the touchscreen menu or point of view features worked well in certain cases, but the dual screen nature seemed a bit distracting. When demoing the Wii U, it was hard to really know where to look. It’s difficult to pay attention to both screens at one time. In fact, most of the games I saw at E3, from Nintendo Land to Game & Wario, encouraged the player to look at one screen at a time. Which really begs the question: Why have two screens at all? Nintendo has been famous for their simple, yet deep gameplay experiences throughout the decades. The second screen adds complexity, but doesn’t necessarily add much depth. Even Nintendo doesn’t seem that confident in the GamePad, as the Wii U has three (three!) different types of controllers shipping at launch: the GamePad, the Wii Remote, and the Wii U Pro Controller, which is similar to a traditional dual-analogue stick controller. The result is a console that lacks a true identity.   Nintendo needed to show why the Wii U is worth our time, attention, and money this holiday season. The Wii U, like Nintendo as a company, is lacking a clear singular vision. When the Wii came out in 2006, Nintendo had a clear narrative: motion controls are a new and simple way to control games that can appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike. With the Wii U, nothing is clear. It’s a machine for casual core non-gamer gamers who like touch-based games but also need analogue precision.   Nintendo made a console that is kind of for everybody, and they ended up failing to give everybody a reason that they must own this.

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