Nintendo has become the first console manufacturer to come out of the shadows and reveal its challenger to the next-gen throne, and it still has a name that will cause 13-year-old boys to stifle their laughter.
The WiiU will launch across Europe on 30 November, before Japan, yet over a week after North American audiences can get their hands on the Wii’s successor.
No prices have been revealed – sellers will determine their own – but it is expected to cost in the region of £270 for the premium model, which nets you a pretty-much-necessary sensor bar and a subscription to Nintendo’s competitor to the trailblazing Xbox Live, the Nintendo Premium Network.
“The Dreamcast was full of remarkable ideas, just like the WiiU today.”
But is it all too soon? Microsoft and Sony, who manufacture the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 respectively, have made no secret that they are in the process of constructing their next generation consoles. Yet neither has plans to announce anything before the year is out, a move tantamount to a cat-and-mouse game between two heavyweights of the electric entertainment industry.
Come November, the UK will still be stuck in the mire of a miserable economic situation. Home entertainment is known for being resistant to such times – why go to the cinema, when a DVD offers just as much for a fraction of the price? But Nintendo is playing a dangerous game coming out of the gates so early, one which the industry has seen play out before.
It was Sega which preceded its rivals by launching the Dreamcast before Sony’s Playstation 2 hit the market. The plan was to steal a march on a brand that had been dominant in the previous generation (Sega’s Saturn was a catastrophe, while the original Playstation put both Sony and the video gaming culture on the map).
It nearly worked. The Dreamcast was full of remarkable ideas, just like the WiiU is today. The Dreamcast’s memory cards were embedded with screens which offered extra information in-game. The WiiU takes this idea and runs with it, packaged with a controller that is, essentially, a tablet. Sega was prescient in its prediction that the internet would offer a new platform for gamers to challenge each other across the globe; yet the installed modem offered cripplingly slow speeds.
The greatest feather in the Dreamcast’s cap was the games, still fondly remembered today. Original, fun and, most importantly, experiences gamers had never had before. Here is where concerns rise over the WiiU: Seven of its 10 launch games will be sequels.
The nature of sequel-itis is an affliction endemic within the whole gaming industry. Yet Nintendo, once known for its ability to create innovative gaming experiences, is risking a collective sense of déjà vu – the complete opposite to what you want from a new generation of hardware. Even Mario, the talisman of the company, must be growing weary of saving Princess Peach over and over again.
There’s no denying the WiiU is an imaginative piece of engineering. But Nintendo could be finding, like Sega did, that it takes more than inventive hardware to sell a console to the masses.