Nintendo's handling of the Wii U has been shocking. The console, which will be their flagship product for the next five years at least, launches at most in four months, and people still know pretty much nothing about the system.
Since System Wars loves proliferating misinformation about the system, I decided to clear up some facts about the Wii U. It's not going to be the PS2 of the next generation like some of us might have hoped initially, and it will probably be the next Wii more than anything, but still, there are some things it is doing right.
- The Wii U uses a proprietary Blu Ray disc format for its games. Much like the Wii, which used a proprietary DVD format that Nintendo specifically developed for the console, the Wii U uses a modified Blu Ray format. A Wii U disc holds 25 GB of data per layer, which is the exact same as a Blu Ray disc. In spite of this, however, the Wii U will not play Blu Ray or DVD movies, a decision Nintendo probably made to avoid licensing fees.
- The Wii U will be the first console to have every single one of its games release at both retail, and digital, day one. The Wii U eShop will have every single game available on it digitally from day one itself, just in case you like digital better than retail. And for those of you worried about Nintendo's DRM that ties purchases to your system, and the lack of user accounts...
- The Wii U has user accounts. Only seven years late to the party, the Wii U is the first Nintendo system that supports user accounts. All purchases, achievements, and game play time tracking will be tied directly to your user account. More importantly, there will be support for multiple user accounts per system, unlike the Wii and 3DS.
- No more Friend Codes. This of course means that there will be no more friend codes on the Wii U. Your one user account can be used to add friends, access leaderboards, track achievements, and more.
- The first system ever to have a social network integrated at the OS level. Nintendo is creating an entirely new social network for the Wii U (which it promises will later come to the 3DS too) in the hopes to recreate that feel of community gaming that existed before the rise of the internet, on the internet. Miiverse has status messages, video and screenshot sharing, messaging, user tips and help, and more. The Wii U thus becomes the first system to integrate a social network at the OS level.
- The Wii U (probably) has 1.5 GB RAM on the final retail system... and 512 MB of this is saved for the OS. In what is unprecedented, Nintendo is reportedly dedicating 512MB of its system memory to just the OS. This is probably to enable full multitasking, Miiverse, streaming to the controller, and more, all at once, but it hints at a fully featured OS for Nintendo's new system. For context, 512MB is the total RAM that Xbox 360 and PS3 have available to them. Nintendo is apparently saving that much just for OS processes.
- Your WiiWare and Virtual Console purchases will carry over to the Wii U. Nintendo has announced that all of your WiiWare and Virtual Console purchases made on the Wii will carry over to the Wii U. The exact process that will enable this is as yet unknown - it might be similar to how Nintendo managed it on the DSi and 3DS, but they might retroactively enable user accounts on the Wii.
- The Wii U will play used games. Unlike both the next Xbox and the PS4, which are rumored to block used games, the Wii U will play used and borrowed games without any restrictions or limitations.
- Free online: The Wii U will offer free online play, and basic Miiverse access. Nintendo did, however, state that it was looking into offering a PS+ kind of tiered paid service for the system.
- 3D Compatible: The Wii U supports the HDMI 1.3 output standard, which means that if it is connected to a 3DTV, it can output 3D images, if the software supports it.
- The Wii U is open: It allows for any hard drive and any SD card to be plugged into the console and used for storage via its USB slots and SD card slot. You can use any hard drive you want to with the Wii U, like the PS3.
- Media functionality. Nintendo will not allow for DVDs and Blu Rays to play on the Wii U. However, they have expanded the media functionality of the Wii U, allowing for Amazon Instant, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Youtube. There is also allegedly an eBook marketplace in the works.
- Apparently, there will be an apps marketplace. This is one of the oldest and most persistent rumors about the system, and we haven't received confirmation about it either way, so just take it with a pinch of salt.
So yes, the Wii U might be doing a lot wrong, but there's a lot that is surprisingly progressive about it, even more so when one considers that this is all coming from Nintendo.