From Rumor to Reality
Think the Nintendo Project Cafe rumors are crazy? We take a look back at pre-Wii release chatter to find that some rumors are harder to believe than others.
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Nintendo has officially confirmed that its next system, code-named Project Cafe (or Stream, depending on whom you talk to), will not only be on display at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, but will also be playable in some form. Additionally, the company has seemingly ruled out 3D as a main attraction of the new console, since Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said that 3D televisions are not a mass-market item. He added that the company will be "offering something new to home game consoles." Unfortunately, those are the only official details we have on the next system, but the vacuum of information has left an opportunity for various rumors to surface (we have some of our own theories)--the most prominent of which is about the controller, which reportedly sports a 6.2-inch screen combined with a more traditional controller setup. Additionally, there are reports that the system's performance matches (or even surpasses) that of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
What's particularly interesting about these rumors is that they're far tamer than anything we've seen for previous Nintendo consoles. Before the release of the Wii, we were deluged with conceptual mock-ups of the system and rumors that ranged from plausible to just flat-out crazy talk.
The Original Rumor, January 21, 2005:
[The Revolution] will have dual processors, four controller ports, built-in broadband, and an Xbox-esque hard drive that can store downloaded and saved content. (Can you say, "Son of 64DD?") While the Revolution will be backward-compatible with GameCube games, it will not have Game Boy Advance or DS connectivity. Instead, it will link up to the vaunted Game Boy Evolution, the near-mythical successor to the GBA. Games in development include--shocker--a Mario game, a Zelda game, and a Super Smash Bros. game. But when the poster's source asked his inside source at Nintendo what "revolutionary" functionality the console would have, the mole balked. He would only say, "If you think too hard you'll never guess what it is. It's nothing 'new,' technically speaking. It's just something that hasn't really been applied to video games yet."
The Wii does have Wi-Fi, four controller ports, backward compatibility, and SD card support. And while the Game Boy Evolution portion sounds ridiculous, the GameCube and Game Boy Advance connectivity gave the rumor some weight, and if anything, this kind of rumor still persists with Project Cafe and its purported controller-tablet hybrid. As for the "revolutionary functionality" being what we know as the motion control, the rumor wasn't too far off, considering motion control technology had been around for quite some time.
Previously all but unheard of, 4 Color Rebellion became the center of a lot of attention this week when it published an account from someone who claimed to be present during a Nintendo shareholders meeting. At said meeting, officials from the House of Mario reportedly showed off the next-gen "Revolution" console. The witness said the final name of the console will be the "Nintendo 21," and it will hit the market at the end of this year. It will have a "Home Game function," codeveloped with Kyocera, that uses an IEEE protocol to wirelessly "locate and communicate with other Nintendo 21s in the vicinity," as well as unspecified handheld game devices. The 21 will also have a pressure-sensitive controller that allows for DS-style rubbing on either the buttons or the grip. For media, the console will use a two-sided 5.4GB disc with a UMD-esque shell case, and it will be inserted into the top of the GameCube-esque machine. The unit will also have digital A/V outputs and sport an N64-esque logo. The witness even drew a picture of what he recalled (pictured), with notations in Japanese.
If someone drew a picture of the new console, it must be true! Everything about this rumor was just horribly wrong. There was no IEEE communication with other systems. There was no weird pressure-sensitive controller, and there most certainly was no UMD-style casing for the discs. But really, what takes the cake is the name: Nintendo 21. While the implication is that the system was of proper age to indulge in the world of adult beverages, it just didn't make any sense from a marketing standpoint. Sure, 21 was more than the two or the three that would conceivably surround new consoles from Microsoft or Sony at the time, but why would Nintendo go backward from 64 to 21? Also of note: The sketch of the console looks like Master Chief's head.
GameCubers were double-fisting rumors this week, when a one-two shot of photographic "proof" of the console hit the Web. First up was the Engadget photo (pictured) of "what is supposed to be an in-house development system of Nintendo's next-gen game console," which the site claims came from the Nintendo.com forums. However, even by Engadget's often-loose standards, the machine pictured "could [be] (and probably is) totally, totally fake." Slightly more credible were the mock-ups that appeared on Gearlive, which showed a computer-generated model of an elegant, saucerlike console. But it, too, was discredited, with Gearlive editors branding it as "a very clever mock-up." However, re-posters of the images--which also surfaced on the GameSpot forums--were not so cautious, sparking off a round of speculation that will hopefully stop here.
Well, they got the four controller ports right, sort of. At the very least, the Roomba-inspired design is nice. Also, the knock against Engadget was completely unnecessary.
The Original Rumor, March 25, 2005:
According to the latest Game Informer, Nintendo is planning something very different for the controller for its next-generation console. "There is no analog stick or shoulder buttons. The touch screen on the face of the controller is designed to be fully customizable, so the developer can configure the buttons any way they see fit, or in other cases will not use buttons at all, instead opting for virtual levers and or other stylus-related inputs." The article goes on to cite sources that say that "Nintendo is actually requiring developers to take advantage of unique touch-screen aspects if it wants to get approval." It also says many publishers are "skeptical" of the concept. Sound insane? So did the DS--before it sold nearly 5 million units. Plus, the very name "Revolution" means Nintendo has something industry-shaking planned for the next generation. "It wouldn't surprise me if Nintendo was that crazy," said one source close to the company.
This particular rumor was completely off, but it's still interesting because, again, it introduced the idea of an integrated screen in the controller. Ultimately, it would seem that the introduction of the Nintendo DS and its touch screen technology left such a mark on us that all subsequent Nintendo console rumors would bring up this particular feature over and over.
The Original Rumor, April 25, 2005:
Ever since last week, the Web has been bubbling with conflicting rumors about whether or not Nintendo will unveil the Revolution at E3. GamesRadar cites sources that "suggest that nothing more than a few rolling videos of in-development titles will be available." Others say the only thing MIA will be the Revolution's controllers, which are rumored to feature everything from gyroscopes to touch screens. GameSpot's Japan correspondent gave that latter theory some ammunition, pointing to an article on Japanese fan site Nintendo Inside. "The [Japanese] article emphasizes only the part about the Revolution controller being a no-show, citing previous comments from [Nintendo president Satoru] Iwata, who said before that the Revolution has a unique controller he doesn't want copied by other companies," he said. However, the question remains exactly how much of the Revolution E3 attendees will actually see. In January, Iwata flatly said the console will be unveiled at E3. The following month, Nintendo publicity chief Ken Toyota backpedaled, saying, "E3 will be the starting point for the Revolution. [We haven't decided] whether we will show the real machine, videos, or unveil the concept. We want to receive some level of evaluation, but releasing too much information is also another issue."
This rumor was completely true. Nintendo showed only the system itself at its E3 2005 press conference and gave some details about its capabilities, including the Virtual Console downloads, but the Wii Remote was a no-show. What's interesting is that we're in a similar situation now with Project Cafe. Nintendo has officially said that the new system will be playable at E3, which ostensibly means that the new controller will be on display as well. However, this is a company known for holding information back to prevent competitors from copying its ideas, so how much of Project Cafe's capabilities will be shown at E3 2011 remains in question.
The Original Rumor, April 29, 2005:
This week saw some new rumors about Nintendo's next-generation console surface. The most interesting of these came from Burgess, who has long-standing ties to Nintendo. In his blog, he reflected on attending the ShoWest conference in March. There, he heard Sin City director Robert Rodriguez mention how he and other filmmakers that are eager to make 3D movies, including James Cameron and Peter Jackson, had become "aware of a game machine beating them to the mainstream 3D market." Burgess [creator of anime Broken Saints] then heard from an "industry pundit" that Nintendo had already shown off a stereoscopic peripheral capable of projecting 3D images at last year's E3 for the GameCube and was planning something even more advanced for the Revolution. A forum post on the same blog also claimed the Revolution will come "equipped with a short-range wireless mapping camera that will somehow make the software 'adapt' itself to [the player's] surroundings," presumably to customize the 3D projections. But since Nintendo is saying nothing, there's not enough information to call this one way or the other.
Nintendo absolutely loves 3D, so featuring the technology in some form wasn't a stretch, but the idea of 3D projection was a little odd. On some level, though, the camera technology mentioned in this rumor sounds a little bit like the Kinect, so that part wasn't completely absurd. It was just the wrong system.
The Original Rumor, May 6, 2005:
Hot on the heels of last week's rumor that the Revolution might include 3D technology is a rebuttal saying that it won't. It comes courtesy of an anonymous former Nintendo employee who is now developing games for his former employer's next-generation console. Besides trashing the 3D rumors, the ex-Nintendite reveals many features about the console. He or she says the Revolution will have wireless pressure-sensitive controllers that will add a new level of force feedback. "It will be sort of like controlling a game with one of those stress balls," said the source. "You squeeze it, and you go faster." The source also said the Revolution "will also include voice control more advanced than anything seen so far," and it will come with wireless headsets. He also said the Revolution will come with an online service superior to Xbox Live…but totally free. "The only way I can describe it is as an Internet service," said the poster. "Imagine turning it on and checking your mail on the system. You see previews and demos of DS and Revolution games that you can download. A magazine similar to Nintendo Power will be exclusive to the system, and you will be able to access it on the Revolution's home page." The source also said that besides Nintendo, which has at least seven next-gen titles in development, Capcom, Namco, EA, Sega, Zoonami, and Activision are all currently working on Revolution games. However, the poster remained coy about what the exact "Revolution" would be. "I'm not going to tell you the revolutionary aspect of the system. Nintendo has some cool pre-E3 plans for that."
If you're not a fan of motion control, just keep in mind that it could have been much, much worse--albeit stress relieving.
Over the weekend, many a Nintendophile found what they thought was next-gen gold: a video clip showing what appears to be Nintendo's next-generation console, currently code-named the "Revolution." The video shows a truly revolutionary device indeed--named the "Nintendo On"--one that senses movement Minority Report-style and has no controls whatsoever. It appears to demonstrate how the On will translate a user's movement into that of a game character, in this case Samus from Metroid. It also shows that the machine won't need a television either, since it will project the image into a set of goggles with built-in headphones. But not even Nintendo is crazy enough to repeat the Virtual Boy mistake. Today, forums were aflame with a rough translation of someone claiming to have created the video. But rather than being merely a prank, it appears that it was done as a protest against the short life span of consoles. "Commerciality forces companies to put out new consoles every 2 or 3 years with the only intent being to erase the limits (set by current consoles) for game developers. This does not allow game developers to let their imagination run wild and delight us (the gamers) with transcendent new games," said the Spain-based poster. But the video was no skin off Nintendo's collective behind. "Anyone is welcome to cover fan art, fan films, etc., so long as they report it as such," a rep told GameSpot.
What Happened :
This one was shot down pretty fast, but it has stuck around as being one of the more "out there" rumors for the Wii. If anything, it's representative of the amount of work fans are willing to put into their own concepts, and having a console shaped like a motorcycle helmet toaster wouldn't be all bad.Still, it at least got one thing right--motion controls without a physical controller became a reality with Kinect.
Patent 6,908,388 could show some technology that might appear in the Revolution's controller. Looking past all the legal doublespeak, the main feature of the patent is the tilt sensor, later identified as the "acceleration sensor," which can be inserted into a GBA via a cartridge (Figure 4). But before you start shouting "Yoshi Topsy-Turvy" or "WarioWare: Twisted!" the acceleration sensor described in the patent is also not for 2D games. The patent--which was first filed on May 19, 2003--describes the acceleration sensor as being different from any "conventional technique used for controlling a two-dimensional game image," since that technique "cannot be adapted to a three-dimensional game image which has become prevalent as a game image. … Therefore, an object of the present invention is to provide a game system and a game program allowing a player to feel as if a three-dimensional game space is tilted in accordance with a tilt of a game device."
Clearly, Patent 6,908,388 shows that players will be able to manipulate a three-dimensional in-game character by physical, real-world movement of a Nintendo handheld or Nintendo console controller either on a portable's LCD display or on a television screen. Since this has been seen only in two-dimensional games so far, it appears that even though the patent shows a GameCube and GBA, the acceleration sensor is something gamers haven't gotten their hands on--yet.
What Happened :
This is one of those rumors that are actually quite interesting from a technical perspective, and the fact that it's an official patent from Nintendo gave it more credibility. Of course, none of this technology was incorporated into the Wii (at least from what we can tell), but it's something that could potentially make its way into a future system, like Project Cafe.
Before the patent surpassed it, the hot Revolution controller rumor of the week stemmed from what appeared to be a Japanese-language sell sheet explaining the device--or, more accurately, devices. The supposed sell sheet shows not one but two vaguely egglike controllers, one for each hand. Each has a directional control on top, with a D pad on the right controller and a thumbstick on the left. On the bottom of both controllers are three raised buttons, presumably for various in-game functions. At the top of the sell sheet is the official Nintendo logo, while at the bottom is a picture of the Revolution itself. Given the semiprofessional layout, it would be easy to believe that the sell sheet is real…if you didn't speak Japanese. "It's totally fake," said GameSpot Tokyo correspondent Hirohiko Niizumi. "Whoever doctored it up apparently didn't have much understanding of Japanese."
Debunked out of the gate. Still, this rumor springs up just about every time Nintendo announces a new console. Apparently, people want a controller that separates, but to be fair, the Wii Nunchuk is somewhat similar.
The Original Rumor, September 30, 2005:
The latest Revolution spec leak got a lot of play on popular PC site Ars Technica, and later on the ubiquitous Gizmodo. But it all stems from a G4 forum poster who goes by the oh-so-original handle "Han Solo." […] So what did Solo say? He claims that the center of the console will be a dual-threaded IBM Custom PowerPC 2.5GHz with 256KB L1 cache and 1MB of L2 cache, 512MB of 700 MHz 1T-SRAM, 32MB RAM linked to the CPU and GPU, and a PPU (physical processing unit). The GPU will be an "ATI Custom-based RN520 core"--the R520 being the code name for ATI's soon-to-be-revealed new graphics processor and the "N" standing for Nintendo--which will run at 600MHz and support up to 2048x1268 resolution. It will have 32 parallel floating-point dynamically scheduled shader pipelines, a polygon performance of 500 million triangles per second, and be capable of around 50 billion shader operations per second.
How legitimate does all that sound? One hardware expert contacted by GameSpot harbored doubts. "Unless Nintendo hopes for a die shrink by the time of the launch, the Revolution would hardly have the air flow necessary to cool off that stuff," he said. "If it's anything like ATI's current-gen architecture, even their low-end parts have pretty beefy fan cooling." However, another hardware insider was more optimistic: "It looks very plausible. The PPU stuff is interesting. It'll be a hell of a lot easier on developers--that is, if the Nintendo tools don't suck."
The brand names were mostly right, but the specs were way off (particularly the amount of system memory) from what Nintendo eventually delivered with the Wii. Most technical rumors tend to go overboard, revealing that most people simply want a super-powerful system, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The days leading up to Satoru Iwata's keynote address at the 2006 Game Developers Conference saw many a game forum abuzz with speculation. The rumor du jour was that the Nintendo president would use the event to announce a new name for his company's next console, known best by its code name, "Revolution." Obviously, that didn't happen. Those rumors are still alive and well on the Internet, however, thanks to an Engadget post. The post shows what looks an awful lot like a surreptitious photo taken during a presentation slide show. The slide that was snapped shows a logo with the words "Nintendo GO" written underneath it.
It's reasonable to assume that none of us expected the name "Wii," but one thing that makes console rumors particularly exciting is the supposed official names. Project Cafe actually has another code name, "Stream" (neither of which has been officially confirmed by Nintendo), but surprisingly, people seem to be happy with those, because rumors haven't started pouring in about the platform's official name.
We're still in the early stages of the new Nintendo console rumor cycle, but these examples just go to show that we haven't really seen anything all that crazy just yet. But we suspect the rumor mill to pick up just before the official unveiling of Project Cafe at this year's E3.