Wii U: Unanswered Questions
Many questions still remain for Nintendo's successor to the Wii.
Nintendo revealed much about its new console, the Wii U, at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Not only did the company show the physical system itself, but it also revealed a new type of controller--one that integrates a large touch screen in the middle that lets users interact with games directly and allows them to stream Wii U games to that screen when the TV is in use by another person. Nintendo gave a glimpse of some possible in-game uses for the new controller during the Wii U trailer, and it even had a few playable demos at the show to demonstrate some of its key functionality. But for all of that information and the hands-on time, there are still many important questions left unanswered about Nintendo's new platform.
Will it support more than one Wii U controller at a time?
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently reiterated what famed-designer Shigeru Miyamoto told the press at E3 2011: The Wii U only supports one tablet-equipped controller at a time, at least for now. The company didn't rule out the possibility that there might be opportunities to use more than one in the future, but it doesn't want to force people to buy two controllers when the cost is so potentially high.
How much will the Wii U cost?
Nintendo has always been mindful of the cost of its console hardware, and with the Wii, it demonstrated that it's willing to use old tech (in new ways) to keep costs down. The Wii U console itself isn't any different in that regard, but the major question for price is the included controller. Its price in conjunction with the cost of the console hardware could put the price at anywhere from $250 to $350. The low end of that spectrum seems a little less likely as well, considering Nintendo hardly ever prices its consoles and handhelds at similar levels.
What will battery life be on the controllers?
Having a screen on a controller is great, but it also means that its battery is in danger of being depleted that much quicker. Additionally, its ability to stream a video signal from the system--as cool as the feature is--won't be doing the battery any favors. And, if most games support just one of these controllers then it's less likely that users will have an extra lying out for a charge and swap. Plus, we don't even know if it will have a built-in battery or if the company plans on taking the less preferred route of popping batteries in and out.
What's the range on the controller?
This is a crucial question for one of the system's key features: the ability to stream a video signal from the system to the new controller's screen. While we expect range to fall in line with most people's general couch-to-TV distance, we'd like to see it go beyond that so game sessions can occur in different rooms, which are still reasonably close to the source. We may or may not be talking about the bathroom.
What will its online functionality be like?
Thankfully, there was no mention of friend codes at E3, but that doesn't necessarily make them a no-go, especially because the 3DS still uses a unified friend code system. Still, Nintendo has mentioned that after talking to third-party developers, many of them requested a "more open" online system, but what that means exactly is anyone's guess. At the very least, we want something that makes it easy to find friends, see what they're playing, and be able to play hassle free with them. Achievements and the like would also be nice features, but they're secondary to what should be Nintendo's real focus.
What will the dashboard (user interface) look like?
The Wii's user interface made sense in that Nintendo knew people would instinctively understand the combination of using a Wii Remote to navigate monitors that offered different content (not unlike selecting channels on a TV), whether it was a game, the Wii Shop Channel, the Check Mii Out Channel, or others. The Wii U's controller changes things a little bit in that it gives Nintendo an opportunity to develop a user interface that's completely touch driven, making it easier than ever to get to the content you want. Still, we wouldn't mind seeing Nintendo try something new and develop something that exists outside the traditional thinking of how people access and consume content on a console.
What kind of visual horsepower will the Wii U really have?
The Twilight Princess Wii U demo at E3 2011 was designed to flex some of the Wii U's graphical capabilities, and we were pretty impressed. If anything, it showed that the system will be capable of producing visual quality that's in the realm of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but because we don't officially know the specific GPU it's using and don't have similar games to compare, there's no real way to compare. Based on Nintendo's previous hardware, it's safe to assume that it won't be cutting edge--to keep costs down--but it will be enough to finally take Nintendo's games into the HD realm.
How strong will third-party support be?
Nintendo is obviously trying to remedy some of the mistakes it made with the Wii and its third-party support, or lack thereof, by courting some marquee games for the Wii U that are also appearing on other platforms, like Batman: Arkham City, Ninja Gaiden III, and others. And because the hardware should be able to handle Xbox 360 or PS3 ports, Nintendo will probably have an easy shot at third-party multiplatform content for a decent amount of time. The real question is exclusive third-party content: Can Nintendo convince these companies to develop exclusively for the platform or, at the very least, convince them to utilize the hardware and controller in a way that makes the Wii U version of a game a suitably different experience?
There are plenty of other questions remaining. How much will Nintendo rely on Wii Remotes? How will it try to market the system and convince people that it's more than just a Wii with a different controller? Will Wii users be able to transfer their Virtual Console content over? Will the Wii U even have a Virtual Console-like shop? Will it have some kind of 3DS or DS integration? Hopefully, Nintendo will make answers available in the coming months, well before the system's scheduled 2012 release.
What questions do you need Nintendo to answer? Let us know in the comments below.