By James Brightman
Wii 2 rumours have been accelerating this past week and for all of the hints that the new console will be more powerful than Sony’s PS3 and feature controllers with touch screens in them, the one tidbit that we find particularly interesting is the new potential name for the console: Stream. The name supposedly is a reflection of the console’s ability to stream games to the touch screen controllers, but what else does Stream imply to you? We immediately thought of an online network and how digital content is accessed. Admittedly, console names or codenames don’t have to mean anything, but the online implications could be important.
After all, graphical capabilities aside, the one area that Nintendo has truly lagged (bad pun) behind Microsoft and Sony in is online gaming and the digital marketplace. As nice as WiiWare or the Virtual Console may be, they can’t compare to the robust offerings of Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, and online gaming has been really lacking.
The 3DS has taken some steps to improve Nintendo’s online approach, and hopefully the eShop really is a drastic difference, but a new console could give Nintendo an opportunity to finally close the online gap with the competition. It would be intriguing if Nintendo did provide some titles literally via a cloud gaming type stream (a la Onlive), but we’re not optimistic about the company going quite that far with it.
That said, we’d be very pleased to see Nintendo step up its online game in general. Look at it this way: If the machine is going to have the horsepower to play titles like Call of Duty or the incredibly gorgeous Battlefield 3, it absolutely has to offer the network infrastructure and online community support that competing machines have. Multiplayer has become a huge, huge draw for many gamers, especially in the shooter category. If Nintendo can’t adequately give fans the online functionality they desire, Nintendo will lose out.