A steady stream of rumors and announcements have been flowing regarding Nintendo's new console, including leaked box art, major title announcements and developer comments on the power of the system. We take a closer look at what to expect as the Wii U release draws nearer.
Rumors and speculation
The box art for Nintendo's upcoming console was leaked when Amazon.ca listed a number of pre-order titles including Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed III and Avengers: Battle for Earth. These listings feature previously unseen box art which Nintendo has subsequently confirmed as the final design.
Rumors have also surfaced regarding the planned release date of the new console. It was previously thought that Nintendo was on track for a November launch, thus getting the system on shelves in time for the start of the holiday season. However, Computer and Video Games (CVG) has reported that due to manufacturing difficulties, the console may not see a European release until early December. The report suggests that the complex new controller is the root of the issue.
The controller features a 6.2 inch touch-screen display, motion sensing and near field communication (NFC) technology, as well as a front-facing camera. The complex nature of the device has reportedly led to difficulties in mass production. Despite this, it’s believed that the console is set to meet the November window for its U.S. launch, with Nintendo keen to get the system on shelves prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Nintendo has been notably quiet about just how powerful its new system is. The Wii U spec list released following the company's E3 appearance left out key details, stating only that the CPU will be a multi-core IBM processor and GPU will feature AMD Radeon HD tech.
Though Nintendo is understandably making us hold our breath on details of the system's internals, developers have been a little more vocal, with somewhat mixed responses. Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada told Digital Spy that while the system's graphical power is comparable to that of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, the console's CPU is actually slightly slower than the competition. Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli said that the system is at “minimum on par with current generation” and that the company’s CryEngine 3 runs “beautifully” on the system. However, despite this praise, Crytek announced on twitter last week that Crysis 3 isn’t in development for the Wii U.
EA has recently made some announcements regarding its commitment to the platform. During its Summer Showcase event, the company announced that the latest edition of its popular American Football franchise will be released on Nintendo’s new console. The Wii U version of Madden NFL 13 will utilize the touch screen on the new tablet controller, allowing users to change player assignments on the fly during defense, and create custom hot routes by drawing paths on the new controller during offensive play. EA also took the opportunity to demo the extra functionality available in the Wii U version of FIFA 13.
A more general look at developer support for the new platform paints a fairly positive picture. The company has set out to recapture hardcore gamers with the Wii U, and the launch lineup seems a step towards to this goal. A number of major publishers have announced titles for the console, with flagship games such as Bioware’s Mass Effect 3 and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III present. There is a strong notion that Nintendo’s launch lineup features too many re-releases of titles that are already available on other systems. Games such as Batman: Arkham City will have been out for a significant amount of time by the time the Wii U version hits shelves.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any Wii U exclusives. Major Nintendo franchises such as the hotly anticipated Pikmin 3 are present and third party exclusives such as Ubisoft’s ZombiU are receiving a lot of positive press. The mini-game orientated Nintendo Land and Wii Fit U are likely to please the casual gaming market that the company pursued with its blue ocean strategy on the current Wii console. However, the focus on the former of these titles during the E3 presentation has added to the skepticism felt towards the system by hardcore gamers.
Recapturing hardcore gamers
The manifestation of Nintendo’s desire to recapture hardcore gamers isn’t confined to the system’s full HD output and its lineup of more adult-orientated titles. The announcement of the Wii U Pro controller was an olive branch to the less-casual gamer. The new controller looks a lot like the Xbox 360 hardware and should help gamers who aren’t keen on the tablet controller to feel a little more at home.
The online connectivity is also a huge issue for gamers, and it's something that the company is yet to provide a great deal of detail on. A rare mention of the console's online component was discussed by Nintendo's president and CEO Satoru Iwata, when he stated to shareholders that Wii U users won't have to pay an Xbox 360-like subscription in order to take advantage of online features. This is good news for gamers, and the fact that the company is willingly comparing its online service to Microsoft's is a good sign in itself.
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