Coming up with truly clever incorporations of the second screen rather than just simple novelties that will eventually get tired is going to require game developers to invest significant time, ingenuity and resources specifically to the Wii U. Given that they largely didn’t do that for the Wii’s motion controls, it’s questionable as to whether things will be different this time. Nintendo managed to line up strong initial support for the Wii U, with 29 games available through retail at launch, but it remains to be seen whether that will continue over the long term.
Gamers and developers at least don’t have graphics to complain about anymore, at least for the time being. Many developers are saying the Wii U is comparable to the Xbox 360 and PS3, if not a little better. The console indeed does a smooth job of beaming graphics to the TV and GamePad at the same time, so it clearly packs decent horsepower under the hood. And while a game like Arkham City looks sharper on the competing consoles it was originally designed for, it certainly doesn’t look bad on the Wii U. Meanwhile, Mario – in his full high-definition glory – has never looked better.
However, this too is an area where the Wii U is likely to be challenged again, and soon. With Sony and Microsoft widely expected to announce their own next-generation consoles next year, both of which will see significant graphics boosts, Nintendo may find itself at the back of the pack again. Company executives have said they chose to load the Wii U with lower-cost components in order to keep its price down, but doing so may ultimately come at the cost of insulating it for the future.
Nintendo has also promised a host of video streaming services for the Wii U, including the ability to watch live television while chatting with friends on the GamePad. The new console is also supposed to be backwards compatible with older Wii games and have access to an online store where downloadable content can be purchased.
None of these functions were live as of the day before launch, with Nintendo announcing on Friday that many of the streaming functions won’t be available until December. A downloadable system update on launch day is supposed to enable backwards compatability, but obviously none of the features were available to be tested.
The Wii U and its second-screen proposition can ultimately be a lot of fun, with some of the launch games – primarily those from Nintendo itself – proving that. But this console hits stores with the big questions of whether that potential will be realized, whether game developers will support it in the long term and whether competitors will outpace it.
It’s great to finally get a new and innovative gaming experience, but the long-term questions combined with significant delayed functionality on launch means potential buyers are probably better off waiting to see how the new console is positioned in a few months time.