Is Wii U Merely a Transitional System?

Is Wii U Merely a Transitional System?

The next generation of consoles is stealing up on us, but interestingly, we know very little about what’s coming. The only new console we’re intimate with in any regard is the Wii U, and even our relationship with Nintendo’s follow-up to the Wii is as tangible as autumn mist; we don’t know much about the games that are coming for the system, and we know even less about the system’s final specs.

We do know that the Wii U is at least as powerful as the current HD consoles on the market, and is likely more powerful than the PlayStation 3. What we don’t know is how powerful Microsoft’s follow-up to the Xbox 360 will be, and ditto for the PlayStation 4–but we can assume that, given the time it will take for Microsoft and Sony to follow the Wii U, their consoles will be more powerful than Nintendo’s system.

According to whom you ask, that’s going to be very bad news for Nintendo. Why, asks the gamer collective, should we run out and buy the Wii U if Sony and Microsoft are going to blow it out of the water by 2013 or so?

EA COO Peter Moore thinks the Wii U’s critics have it all wrong, and that the Wii U will end up being far more than a “transitional system.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be the case, and here’s why,” he told IndustryGamers. “I think the [tablet] controller [is huge]. This is not about specs anymore… This is about, as it was with the Wii, is the controller a unique way of enjoying a game experience, regardless of what the graphic fidelity is?”

To illustrate his point, Moore cites the console wars of ages past, when the jump in graphics from, say, the Sega Genesis to the N64 was an extremely big deal. “Look, you saw Battlefield – how much better could this stuff look at some point? There’s a point of diminishing returns… I don’t even know if there’s anything better than 1080p.

“Now it’s about interfaces. Now it’s about building a community in a rich, powerful,way. And now it’s about, ‘What is the way we can control the game?’ You’ve seen that with Move, you’ve seen it with Wii MotionPlus more recently, and you’ve certainly seen it with Kinect.”

Moore is very right, and a little bit wrong. It’s impossible not to notice the drop in graphic quality when you compare a PlayStation 3 game alongside a Wii game. However, that discrepancy is owed greatly to the fact the Wii is not an HD system, whereas the PlayStation 3 obviously is. All three next-gen offerings will offer HD support, so even if the Wii U is not as powerful as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Next, the gap in picture quality probably won’t yawn as wide between the systems.

More also neglects to mention that backing a system with lesser power can be a hardship for a traditional gamer. It’s heartbreaking when you only have the money to support the one system that’s not powerful enough to receive a port of Super Cool HD Game 7. Yes, motion controls matter, but not if they’re not attached to games you care about.

Where Moore is right, however, is his guess that neither the Wii U, PlayStation 4, or next Xbox will be “hanging on graphic fidelity.” These days, processing muscle doesn’t matter as much as community, innovation, and online functionality. After all, the PlayStation 3’s superior power wasn’t enough to vault its sales over the Xbox 360 or the Wii, which (we must not forget) sold tremendously and re-defined gaming by changing the way we interact with our games.

The Wii admittedly carries some deep flaws including a lack of traditional control options, which were sorely missed when we played the likes of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns. The Wii U already rectifies one of the Wii’s biggest issues by combining traditional analogue sticks and a d-pad with the tablet screen–and even though the amalgamation looks unwieldy, it’s surprisingly light and comfortable.

This upcoming console generation is certainly one of the most mysterious, as everyone seems to be keeping their cards close to their chests. But modern console engineering has definitely gone far beyond competing over who can make the prettiest picture. The Wii U might have a few problems that come automatically to any early starter, but it’s doubtful that whatever Sony and Microsoft produce in succession will instantly make the Wii U seem dated.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. Wow! Suggesting that an analogue stick is more traditional than a d-pad makes me feel old! We had a good 13 years of d-pads on consoles if you start with the Famicom – but I just realized that we’ve had 15 years of sticks. I guess they are more traditional…despite my love for the d-pad.

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