The Wii U is expected to land on store shelves this holiday season, and attention is now turning to what Nintendo’s first high-definition console will have to offer. Their leap into the realms of 1080p will bring them on par with the best of this generation, however it is likely to set them behind when the successors to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 arrive. The popularity of the tablet controller, and the library of exclusive games, are what will ultimately determine if it sinks or swims.
Microsoft has taken notice of Nintendo’s new hardware and have ventured their opinions on the Wii U. In comparing it to the Xbox 360, they are taking a “same difference” stance. In an interview with Games Industry International, Microsoft vice president Phil Spencer commented on the approach Nintendo is taking with the Wii U hardware. Needless to say, he had some interesting comments. In bringing their hardware up to the current HD standard of it’s contemporaries, Spencer feels that the system will be on par with the Xbox 360, and as such, it is likely to be a solid venue for cross-platform games and ports of pre-existing ones.
Nintendo’s confirmed line-up of games somewhat confirms this, with currently-available titles like Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City scheduled to be released in (or around) the Wii U’s launch window. Likewise, the system will also carry cross-platform titles like Assassin’s Creed III, Darksiders II and Call of Duty: Black Ops II upon their respective releases. The implication that Nintendo is going to have to play catch-up may sound negative, however the unique tablet controller does open the door for enhancements to be made to games we’re all familiar with. Whether these will be worthwhile or not will depend on how drastic the changes are, and how well they are implemented.
Speaking of controllers, Spencer also discussed the “Pro Controller” and its uncanny resemblance to the Xbox 360 controller. Indeed, it is nearly impossible not to spot the similarities between the two, despite a few changes in button and analogue stick configuration. Spencer views this as a logical move, as many people playing the Wii U are likely to prefer the familiarity of a now-standard controllers we get on other consoles. Many gamers are also skeptical about the tablet controller, so offering the Pro Controller as an option is a smart move to try to win over both sides, including many of Nintendo’s previous detractors.
Microsoft is very likely correct in what they are saying. The gameplay footage we have seen and the technical specifications of the Wii U are a leap forward from Nintendo’s previous offerings. However, that brings them in line with what we have already been playing. As Nintendo has proven with the Wii, graphics and technical horsepower aren’t everything. How the games play, how the tablet controller functions and what exclusives titles we get are the likely to be the measuring stick for how well the system does. The extent in which the next generation of consoles from Microsoft an Sony will impact Nintendo is equally ponderous, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.