There are certain and somewhat important characteristics about the Wii U that are currently up in the air, and might not be settled until the last moments before the console’s 2012 release. We don’t know an exact release date. We don’t know a price, or much about the system’s launch lineup.
We do know that the Wii U will bring some interesting innovations to the console market. Even if the Wii U doesn’t revolutionize games as dramatically as its predecessor, it might bridge the gap between developer and inspired fan, and maybe we’ll even see a marriage between traditional and motion controls that will help the latter be implemented more naturally into games.
To go into more detail about the possible changes the Wii U will bring to the games industry:
A combination of tablet and console gaming — Apple’s tablets, the iPad and iPad 2 are popular gaming platforms, but generally, the folks who own them prefer to hang on to them for work-related purposes. But the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle Fire and GameStop’s own game-packed tablet marks the beginnings of a race between cheap and available tablets, and the subsequent rise of tablet-based gaming.
That doesn’t mean console games will be left out in the cold. The Wii U’s combination of touch-screen controls with traditional games might usher in an age where the strengths of both are fully realized. That should prove a nice change of pace in an industry that’s becoming more and more fragmented.
Game consoles as a creative platform — Game consoles have gradually gained more diversity thanks to added functions over the years. In fact, consoles have become more like PC’s in this regard, and the Wii U is set to bring consoles one step closer to PC’s in another way: it’ll be a platform for creative expression as well as gaming.
The Wii U’s built-in tablet will allow for sketching and doodling, a fact that was demonstrated even in the Wii U’s earliest preview trailers. It should be a compelling piece of hardware for expert visual artists–or for people who remember messing around with Mario Paint, a Super Nintendo-based title that encouraged users to draw, animate, and create music, but was severely limited in what it could do.
Easier user input into games — A certain percentage of us who play games also like to tinker around with game-making ourselves. That includes programming from scratch, but some creation-based games, like the RPG Maker franchise, have endured over the years, too. The Wii U’s tablet will make it easier than ever to create in-game sprites, animation, and music, and no doubt some third-party developer (or even Nintendo itself) will jump on the opportunity to let Wii U owners create user generated content.
And that’s only thinking on the “official” plane. Homebrewers will have a great time tapping into the Wii U’s tablet (and will earn a headache while trying to bypass Nintendo’s constant security upgrades).
Mapping games in-depth — The Nintendo DS and 3DS are ideal platforms for deep and complex role-playing games thanks to the systems’ touch screens: with them, players can map their progress, mark treasure chests and notable enemy encounters, etc. The Wii U’s tablet will allow for the same kind of heavy exploration and mapping.
An agreeable combination of traditional and motion controls — Maybe labeling the Wii U’s hybrid tablet/traditional controller as “agreeable” is jumping the gun, but when you hold it, you discover that it’s a surprisingly light and comfortable arrangement. At any rate, the Wii U’s controller shouldn’t fence off developers as completely as the original Wii’s controller did: there won’t be any reason to substitute a controller “shake” where a button press will do.