Gaming update: Nintendo Wii U launches this weekend; here's a few things you should know

It's been a long, long time since we enjoyed the excitement of a home console launch, so even though I don't have a Wii U pre-ordered I've been enjoying all the buzz around Sunday's release date. I'm even feeling a bit of remorse over not putting money down on one, though I know I've already got more games than time and don't really need a new console.

There's been a lot of last minute news about the Wii U so let's get started. Bad news first. It turns out that the Wii U system reserves an awful lot of space for OS use. Bottom line is that the basic 8 GB Wii U only has 3 GB of free space to hold your stuff. If that's what you have pre-ordered I suggest grabbing a USB hard drive while you're at the store picking up your Wii U. Alternatively you should be able to use a USB thumbdrive. So, bad news: not a lot of on-board storage space; good news: any USB device can be used to expand that storage space.

Up until very recently, Nintendo has kept a lot of the network features of the Wii U close to its chest, but with launch imminent they're finally talking. In this 14 minute video Nintendo's Bill Trinen talks about setting up users, creating a Mii and a Nintendo Network ID, using the ID with other services and lots of other features of the Nintendo Network and Miiverse:

Wii users who want to port their data over to the Wii U may want to check out this post at Shacknews to make sure they have everything they need on hand. Specifically you're going to need two Wii Remotes and an SD card with 512 MB of room on it.

When Nintendo first launched the Wii, supplies were short for a long, long time. I remember waiting in line to get mine a good six months after launch. It seems as though the Wii U won't be quite as hard to find. Nintendo says that some stores might have extras on launch day (though you should get there early and stand in line) but if not, there will be more frequent, larger, shipments throughout the holiday buying season than the ones we saw after the original Wii launched. They're not promising everyone who wants a Wii U will be able to get one; they're just saying the situation will be better than it was with the Wii launch. Of course that's not saying much.

Anyway enough of the Wii U. If you've pre-ordered, I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of your new system!

Xbox Live celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday, and Microsoft is holding a party. Head over to the Xbox Live Anniversary page and download the Anniversary gamerpic to be entered into a sweepstakes to win a custom-themed Xbox 360. While you're there you can snag a free copy of Wreckateer, although that offer ends today.

A few lucky long-time Xbox Live members are apparently getting free Xbox 360s as a reward for their loyalty. The story is you have to have been a member for 10 years to be considered; it's not clear how many of these machines are being given out but it seems to be a pretty small number. I know I didn't get one (Xbox Live member since the beta days).

Sony has announced that Playstation Plus comes to the Playstation Vita next week, launching with 6 free games. It's a decent selection, too, including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipeOut 2048, Jet Set Radio HD, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!, Gravity Rush and PSP title Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. You also get the other benefits of Playstation Plus: online storage for game saves, trophy syncing, automatic update and discounts in the PSN store. If you're a PS3 owner who is already a Playstation Plus member, you get all this for free. Otherwise Playstation Plus costs about $50/year.

The Vita is also getting a software update to version 2.0, which brings an email client, wireless transfers between the Vita and a PC, and 1080P video playback. The browser has been 'significantly improved' as well. Here's a Sony hipster to tell you more about it:

We received some sad news this week. The quirky, fun 2D MMO Glitch is shutting down on December 9th. Developer Tiny Speck says there just wasn't enough of an audience to support the game. If you've ever loved milking a butterfly (that's an inside joke) then you'd better revisit the world of Glitch today, because soon it'll be gone forever.

I really enjoyed Glitch for a while, then they un-launched it last fall. I've been kind of waiting for it to re-launch before I went back but I guess that was a bad plan. I'm depressed now. What I need is a pick-me-up. I know! How about a new Grand Theft Auto 5 trailer?

That's enough news for this week, I suppose. My game of the week this week is Don't Starve, a single player survival game with a quirky and unique aesthetic. I think technically this one is still in alpha but I've spent a good number of evenings playing it and it feels like a complete game (though one with no real ending).

The basic theme of the game is in the name. You're lost somewhere and have to forage for food and build a fire for shelter from the creatures that inhabit the night (getting caught in the dark is more or less sure death). You start by collecting branches and flint to make simple weapons which in turn will help you chop wood, mine rock and dig things up. Eventually you can build a "Science Machine" that you can use to research new tools and weapons.

If and when you die you're dead for good, but your next character 'inherits' the research that your prior ones have carried out. You can also opt to play again in the same world so you'll know the lay of the land (where the rock fields are, where you can find berry bushes, and things of that nature).

You can get Don't Starve from Steam or you can play it in in Chrome. There's a time-limited demo of the Chrome version, otherwise the game currently costs $11.99. I've had a lot of fun with this one but of course you have to like the 'man vs wild' gameplay. You won't be fragging any noobs in this one and it's strictly single player.

For my readers in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving next Thursday!

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.

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