September 17, 2012, 8:30 AM — It didn't take long for retailers to set up pre-orders for the November 18th launch of Nintendo's Wii U home gaming console. Both Gamestop and Best Buy had them listed and available for pre-order by Friday (probably others as well, but curiously not Amazon).
As a gamer I fall somewhere between "Core Gamer" and "Game Collector." I generally buy every new system just so I can check it out and speak knowledgeably about it; gaming is my main hobby and compared to a golf membership or a boat, consoles are pretty cheap. But I've decided to pass, for now at least, on the Wii U.
Initially I was interested in Nintendo TVii but I was really surprised to hear that Nintendo had made so much more progress with the cable companies than Microsoft or Google had managed to do. The more I thought about it, the more I mistrusted my understanding of the situation.
Well, it turns out I had it all wrong and TVii isn't quite as magical as Nintendo wants you to think it is. Yes, it provides a universal search across streaming services, your Tivo and live TV and that's very handy, but it isn't replacing your cable box in any way. When you're playing a game on your Wii U and then decide to watch some TV, you do your search on the tablet controller, pick a live show to watch, and the tablet controller just acts as a universal remote, changing the channel on your cable box and changing the inputs on your TV via IR signals. When you set up the Wii U you have to program in both your TV IR codes and your cable box settings. ShackNews confirmed this is what's going on. So aside from program listings, Nintendo didn't have to make any kinds of deals with cable companies.
As for the second screen features of Nintendo TVii, I can already do some of that with my iPad. The SyFy channel has been experimenting with this kind of thing, or you can go right to the source that Nintendo is using: i.TV. I say I could already do some of this...if it interested me. Maybe it's a sign of my advanced age that when I watch TV I actually watch the TV and I'm not really interested in bouncing my attention between the TV and a tablet. If I was a sports nut this all might be more interesting. Sports has both lots of down time and lots of statistics to show on that second screen. But I don't need to be consulting my Wii U tablet while I'm watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad.
So Nintendo TVii is no longer very interesting to me, but of course the Wii U is primarily a gaming system. Why wouldn't I want it for its intended purpose?
First, I have tablets. Very nice tablets. I don't like gaming on them. I don't know why I'd like gaming on the Wii U's tablet controller any more than I do on the iPad or the Nexus 7. Granted the tablet controller has physical controls but so do all my other consoles. And again, the idea of looking back and forth between TV screen and tablet screen isn't that appealing. Every time I see someone using that tablet controller it looks really awkward. I haven't tried it and maybe it feels great, but until I can pick one up in a store and try it myself, I'm going to assume it feels strange.
Second, Nintendo seems to be really pushing asymmetrical multiplayer (one player using the tablet controller for one experience and other players using traditional controllers for another). I'm primarily a solo (or online multiplayer) gamer, so asymmetrical multiplayer offers me nothing. Nintendo is offering the 'Wii U Pro Controller' for another $50 or so. It looks basically like an Xbox 360 controller and offers more traditional gaming; gaming that is more my style.
But after watching the video from the press event last week, I'm not seeing a reason to spend $300 on a new console in order to play the same kinds of games I'm playing on my current console. Nintendo isn't saying what's inside beyond that it has an "IBM Power®-based multi-core processor" and an "AMD Radeon™-based High Definition GPU" but based on the video they showed at the event, the Wii U doesn't seem that much more advanced than the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. There've been leaks of the actual internals but there seems to be so much argument around them that I'm not ready to believe anything yet, but assuming the leaks are correct they confirm my expectation that the Wii U will look rather dated once the PS4 and Xbox 720 arrive.
I'm also interested to learn what games, besides Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Brothers U will be out on launch day. Sure, there are 50 games coming in the "launch window" but that extends until March 2013, and there's not a lot on that list that I can't play on existing hardware.
So I'll be waiting for either a price drop or for the Wii U games library to broaden a bit. I'd love to see some of the more unusual IPs from the Wii come out in HD iterations for the Wii U. Stuff like Animal Crossing, Endless Ocean, Xenoblade Chronicles or Little King's Story. I'm sure they'll come eventually but after we saw the Nintendo 3DS price drop after just a few months, I'm less motivated to be an early adopter of Nintendo hardware. By the time Sony and/or Microsoft are rolling out their new hardware next year, the Wii U will be getting its second generation of games and Nintendo might be thinking price cut. That's when I'll buy. (My deal with myself is that when there are four games that I really want to play on the Wii U, I'll take the plunge.)
How about you? Did Nintendo wow you? Have you pre-ordered? Leave a comment!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.