Its that time of year, boys and girls! The time where the gifted among the video game journalism industry get to travel to the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California while the rest of us sit strategically placed between our air conditioners, our televisions, and our computers, waiting impatiently for news from the industry extravaganza. Without further ado, lets begin by turning our attention to the annual console wars.
The Wii has been a double-edged sword for Nintendo ever since its birth in 2006. On one hand, it was the first console to feature motion control, a huge innovation at the time. The games for it were interactive in a way unparalleled at the time, blowing Playstation’s luke-warm EyeToy out of the water. However, the innovative system had serious drawbacks that were exemplified in the much-anticipated Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The controls that we have come to dub ‘waggle’ only worked with certain games, and Twilight Princess was not one of them. The other glaring concern of the Wii was its lackluster graphics; while the Xbox 360 and PS3 debuted in 2005 and 2006 respectively with HD capability, the Wii did not, and the games for it were all either kindergarten-colored casual games or ten shades of brown. The other advantage of the Xbox 360 and the PS3 were their online and marketplace capabilities, something the Wii sorely lacked. With all of these flaws, gamers have been hoping and waiting for Nintendo to come to E3 with their plans for the next generation console. Last year, we were given the reveal of the 3DS.
This year, we have been given the Wii U. No, it is not the Nintendo University of Wii, you will not get credit for Waggle 101. It is not, as many would assume, an attachment for the Wii. It is Nintendo’s next console. The system itself looks very similar to the Wii, though it lays horizontally instead of vertically. It will not play Blu-Ray discs as other systems do but instead will sue its own optical media, reported to be capable of storing 25GB of data, in addition to playing Wii discs, though it is losing Gamecube support. The system is finally said to support displays of up to 1080p and, as AMD corporate vice president David Wang is proud to announce, utilizes a Radeon GPU. However, none of this is what took gamers at E3 by surprise. Just as the Wii ushered in a new type of controller, the Wii U does the same with the Wii U tablet. As the name implies, the Wii U tablet incorporates a 6.2-inch, 16:9 touch screen that can display either the same image as what is on the television screen or be utilized by a game to display something different from the television. The controller also features everything you would expect on a normal video game controller; two analog pads, a D-pad, Home and Power buttons, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R and ZL/ZR buttons. If that was not enough, the controller also includes features borrowed from both the Wii and the DSi; a built-in camera and microphone, stereo speakers, accelerometer and gyroscope, and rumble feature. The Wii U is also not just for gaming, but can be used to go online as well and browse the internet or check e-mail. If you do want to game online, they have made this simpler too, abandoning complicated friend codes for the gamer tag system that we have come to accept with other systems.
Despite how overwhelmingly impressive this all seems to be, there are still some drawbacks to the new system. The Wii U does have four USB inputs and the ability to handle multiple controllers, but as of what we know right now, it can only handle one Wii U controller, all the others must be standard Wii controllers. Current speculation is that the 3DS may be compatible with the Wii U as one of the additional controllers, but there is no confirmation of this. The other concern of such an impressive controller is the initial cost of the system and the potential cost of replacing such a sophisticated controller. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has stated that the system will be more than 20,000 yen, approximately US$200, but industry estimates put it between US$300-400. The uncertainty surrounding such an unusual device with an unknown price tag has proven too risky for some investors, with Nintendo’s shares dropping over 10% in the two days following the announcement of the Wii U. Iwata proves unhappy about it, but remains certain that as the 2012 release date draws nearer, everyone will see what the great next generation Nintendo system holds.
First it was called the PSP 2. Then it was called the NGP, or Next Generation Portable. Now, the name of Sony’s new handheld is the Vita, Latin for ‘life.’ (You are not the only one that thinks that name is stupid; even Gearbox president Randy Pitchford said it “sounds like a drink you’d buy at a hippy bar.”) Regardless of what you call it, Sony cleared up a lot of information regarding their newest system.
As we had previous heard, the Vita will have a 5-inch OLED touch screen on the front in addition to a rear touch panel, as well as cameras on both the front and the back of the device. It includes a gyroscope and accelerometer, so waggle games seem likely. The Vita can connect to the internet through WiFi or, for AT&T customers, an optional 3G connection. Players will have access to their existing PSN accounts and it is confirmed that they will be able to play PSP, minis, and PSone classic games downloaded through the PlayStation Store. As its predecessor, the Vita will not be region-locked.
From here on out, everything we know about the Vita is either bad news or inconclusive. First and unsurprisingly given the hacking that was done to original PSPs, the battery will not be removable, as makes sense given the rear touch panel. Second, the Vita will not have video output. Third, it will not have any internet memory; as with the PSP, users will have to buy storage media to be used in one of two slots, the second to be used with a new software medium. Obviously, that medium is not UMD and at this time, Sony has no intentions of creating a UMD reader, so current PSP game owners are left in the sea of “at a later date.” That was Sony’s answers for almost every other Vita question you could have: “we will announce details at a later date.” From internet support to peripherals to ability to utilize Flash or other programs, Sony has no answer for you. The only question they can answer for you is when and how much: for WiFi only, it will be around US $250, or $300 for the 3G-enabled version, both versions available in time for the 2011 holiday season.
Two down, one to go. If Nintendo and Sony both had big console news, Microsoft must have delivered something awesome too, right? Right? Well, not really. Microsoft jumped the new console shark completely, focusing on their games instead. There was nothing but Kinect. Kinect. Kinect. Kinect. Kinect. Kinect. Kinect. Kinect. K-I-N-E-C-T. Enjoy. Thanks, Microsoft.
Finally, Chris Privitere of beloved
CatFancy RPGamer was at E3 and rode a land speeder. There’s always that.