Wii HD set for 2011 launch?

Source: Parent-oriented gaming site What They Play. What we heard: Though Sony touts its consoles as having a 10-year life cycle, traditionally a new generation of machines is introduced every five or six years. With the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 and Wii a year...

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Source: Parent-oriented gaming site What They Play.

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What we heard: Though Sony touts its consoles as having a 10-year life cycle, traditionally a new generation of machines is introduced every five or six years. With the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 and Wii a year later, it only seems logical that the next console wave should arrive sometime around 2011 or 2012.

Given that precedent, What They Play's prediction that Nintendo's next console will arrive "by 2011" isn't exactly Earth-shattering. Nor is the site's citing of unnamed sources that the console will be a "true 'next generation'" machine with high-definition graphics and a built-in high-storage capacity to accommodate "greater emphasis on digitally distributed and backwardly compatible content."

The article correctly points out that Nintendo has downplayed the importance of the Wii's lack of hi-def and high-storage this generation, but the company has reversed itself before. While Nintendo similarly dismissed the role of online connectivity during the GameCube era, now the Wii's online capabilities are key to its business strategy. Besides offering online multiplayer, the company profits from digitally distributed WiiWare and Virtual Console releases, updates the console's firmware remotely, uses the console's blue light as a consumer alert, and provides news, weather, and Mii sharing over the Internet. The Wii even has its own browser, courtesy of Opera Software, and the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection joins DSes worldwide.

More shocking perhaps is What They Play's report that Nintendo is already showing off a prototype of its next console. Unlike the leak-prone Microsoft, Nintendo is known for its secrecy--present rumors of a new DS excluded--and kept a tight lid on the Wii back when it was known as the Revolution. At E3 2005, the company merely had a nonfunctional mockup of the console itself, and didn't even tout its innovative controller until the Tokyo Game Show one year before the Wii's launch.

The official story: "Nintendo doesn't comment on rumors in general."--Nintendo rep.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. Normally, it's easy to dismiss a random story on a random blog. Not this time. The article's author is John Davidson, a veteran game journalist and former staffer at Ziff Davis Media, publisher of the respected magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly and proprietor of widely read game site 1up.

If anyone were to have access to those in the know, it'd likely be Davidson. However, not content to merely cite unnamed sources, he backs up by running down how Nintendo's massive research and development budget tripled in 2007, the year after the Wii launched. In 2007, the Kyoto-based company spent a staggering $370 million on R+D, over 10 times what it did in 2003. If that money's not going to a new console, then where is it going?

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