Thursday, December 06, 2012

How About You Decide? (Gaming Post No.2)

Pic from
The launch of the WiiU has caused a lot of debate around the gaming community. As with the first Wii console, the 'hardcore' gamers have been scathing in criticising Nintendo for producing something that isn't an all powerful technical behemoth, even though they haven't done that for any machine in over a decade.

Nintendo have always been smart at making the very most from their machines, taking something that is technically less powerful, but utilising it in a way that produces great end results, and importantly, is profitable. Sony got every major technical decision on Playstation 3 wrong, Nintendo rarely do.

The key question though, is what exactly IS WiiU? It feels initially like a machine that has had tons of things chucked at it in the hope that some of them will stick, yet on closer inspection it feels far more clever.

A touch screen in the middle of a gamepad, compatibility with the Wii controllers, it feels a bit like trying to cash in on iPad mania, until you look more closely at the details.

The handheld screen shows two bits of possible thinking that are beyond what Microsoft or Sony have previously done. Firstly, sales of handheld consoles are dropping. Ownership of phones and smartphone gaming mean fewer people are buying, and those that do are far less likely to play them outdoors. So suddenly this screen gives you the option to play your game in bed without having to buy a separate handheld machine and a new catalogue of games. You could also use it to watch Netflix in bed.

Secondly, multiplayer gaming in the same room has always been spoiled by the need to use split screen. The new controller screen finally takes that away, allowing two player gaming with one TV and no splitting of the screen. It also means the usual four player limit on games can go up to five.

Cute pictures and game related chat.
Miiverse even adds a tick to let you know if the person
 writing actually owns the game they are talking about!
Even Miiverse and it's ability to draw players into a simple online community around each game they play, without the horrific over competitiveness and conflict you get on Xbox Live or PSN. Several early users have said the Miiverse has become like Facebook, something they check each morning.

When Apple launched the iPad, there was a lot of talk about where it would sit in the world. People have laptops and smartphones, why would they want a hybrid? Apple, instead of trying to define a position for the device, just showed all of the possibilities and let people and developers work out for themselves what they wanted it to be. Nintendo appear to follow the same strategy in recent years, DS, Wii and now WiiU all take cheap and clever technologies and compile them together into a bundle that can be used in many different ways.

For example: The streaming technology means that the console can process a controller action, send it to the console, update the game, compress the image, send it to the controller and display it with less lag than the average high quality LCD screen. This makes it remarkably responsive, even when used several metres from the machine. It also opens up the WiiU to be used with technologies like Onlive.

So while it looks a little bodged together, what Nintendo have actually delivered is something flexible. A machine that gives developers and gamers a huge scope of choice in the way they wish to play their games. This is why, no matter how weird their machines looks initially, I always trust Nintendo to deliver something worth owning, they think better and they plan better than the competition. Now if only their ads matched up to that thinking!

If you are interested in more games stuff, I've also been doing some writing for a new Gaming Site - Voxel Arcade.

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