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The Wii U is a stopgap at best

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

Last week, Nintendo unveiled a slew of details about its upcoming Wii U console. Here’s the important stuff:

There will be two versions available: The base $300 model (which comes with the system, a GamePad, and a few other things you need to get started), and the deluxe $350 model. The more expensive option tosses in a copy of Nintendo Land, a bigger hard drive, and a few more goodies.

The Wii U is going to have processing power similar to the PS3 and Xbox 360, which means it’s getting a ton of third-party titles including Assassin’s Creed III, Batman: Arkham City — Armored Edition, Black Ops II, and Darksiders II.

Nintendo TVii is a new feature that will ship with all consoles and be free to use, giving you the ability to direct streaming services to the GamePad, even if someone else is using the main TV. This includes Hulu, Netflix, and even your DVR.

So where does that leave the skeptics?

 

Overall, we have to look at the fact that the Wii U is still just catching up to current-gen systems. What’s Nintendo’s plan when Sony and Microsoft roll out their next consoles in a year or two? Rumors currently have Sony utilizing 4K resolution for the next generation, and while those TVs are way too pricey now to be mainstream, it’ll be interesting to see what the future brings.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is filing patents for projection-based gaming technology that may take over your living room. Should either of these come to fruition, the Wii U will be right back where it started, and third-party developers will have to scale back their dreams if they want their titles to work on the system.

Speaking of third-party devs, while it’s great that the Wii U is getting ports of solid titles at launch, there’s no guarantee they’ll do well. While some titles will make unique use of the GamePad, there are bound to be some straight ports. Why would someone want to buy an entirely new console to play the games they can already get on the consoles they already have with controllers they already like?

Things like Arkham City: Armored Edition are also disheartening. Similar spin-off titles of triple-A blockbusters, such as the Wii’s Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition, have proven watered-down and sub-par.

Additionally, we have very little information on how the Wii U’s online will work, which will significantly hamper many of these titles. Look at Mass Effect 3, a game with what I consider one of the best online multiplayer experiences to date. How well will this work on the Wii U? It’ll already be hurting since Wii players won’t necessarily have played the first two titles.

Another title that has been confirmed is Bayonetta 2, a sequel to a combo-heavy button-masher for Ps3 and Xbox 360. This is an interesting move by the developers at Platinum Games, considering other hardcore third-party titles exclusive to Nintendo’s last console didn’t do so well. MadWorld and Red Steel 2 were generally well-received by critics, but didn’t sell nearly as well as even the most average Mario title.

Nintendo TVii is a great idea, but not a make-or-break feature by any means. TV is universal enough that the whole room is usually content to watch it together.

The memory available is paltry, especially considering the whole library is supposed to be downloadable. Not including any Wii Remotes with launch bundles simply means that it’ll be tough to get newcomers to the Nintendo brand … unless they want to pay more.

Speaking of paying more, the low price-point of the original Wii was a big draw to the casual gamer. While $300 or more for the Wii U isn’t unreasonable for the hardware you’re getting, it’ll be a turnoff to casual gamers as smartphones absorb more of that market share. Where the Wii had a defined audience that no one else was targeting, the Wii U looks as though it could appeal to a slim niche.

So, good news for Wii owners looking for HD graphics: it’s going to get that job done, and they’ll get more of the Nintendo games they love with a healthy dose of third-party tossed in … for now. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to get people who currently own a PS3 or Xbox to make the switch … but has that ever been Nintendo’s goal? We’ll see if Nintendo can keep pace when the new consoles hit.

Be sure to comment with your own thoughts and anything I missed!


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