Well, the big unveil of Wii U (nee Project Cafe) has arrived. A week or two earlier, I jotted down some musings about the specifications of the console, and aside from the chance to do some back-patting, I think it'll be interesting to see how close my predictions came to the actual reality. So, here goes:
- Prediction: yes, but only with the Wii, not the Gamecube
- Reality: Wii compatible only - and games which use Gamecube controllers will not be playable
[Interestingly, it looks as if some Wii U games will need a Wiimote in addition to the touchscreen controller...]
- Prediction: multi-core, PowerPC.
- Reality: multi-core, PowerPC CPU produced by IBM
- Prediction: AMD, 9th or 10th generation architecture, HMDI and component output
- Reality: AMD "custom" HD-capable Radeon GPU
- Prediction: 1GB RAM
- Reality: TBC
[Sadly, no-one seems to have found this out yet. Having seen some of the promo videos, I'm starting to wonder if Nintendo have opted to stick with 512mb...]
- Prediction: DVD drive, internal flash memory, SDHC card reader
- Reality: "custom" 25gb optical discs, internal flash memory, SDHC card reader
[Two out of three isn't too bad ;) It'll be interesting to see how the 25gb discs work - it sounds suspiciously like a single-layer blu-ray with some custom formatting, how the Dreamcast used a "custom" CD system which tweaked things to support 1gb per disc - the Gamecube also did similar, but utilised custom physical media]
- Prediction: as per the Wii
- Reality: TBC
[Given the Wii U is pretty much the same size and shape as the Wii, the odds of Nintendo including a Ethernet port seem slim. But still, we can hope ;) ]
- Prediction: backwards compatible with the Wiimote, but not the Gamecube controllers; new "touchscreen" controller to be "similar to a DS with the top screen removed"
- Reality: Compatible with Wii peripherals, not compatible with Gamecube controllers. New controller resembles a 3DS with the top screen removed, but features a 6.2" touchscreen.
[2.5 out of three - I really didn't expect Nintendo to go with such a big screen, given the cost and battery drain! And there's further ramifications, more on which below]
However, it's worth noting the things which I didn't quite predict:
- The console will only support a single touchscreen pad - and the promo video implies it's still a single-touch resistive system
- The Touchscreen pad is significantly bigger than Nintendo's previous touchscreen systems
- The system will support streaming the main display of the Wii U to the touchscreen, rather than just "secondary" data
- The promo videos indicate that some Wii U games will require the player(s) to use Wii peripherals - the Wiimote and Balance Board - in conjunction with the touchscreen
As for why I didn't predict these, it's fairly simple: the result of these decisions is that the touchscreen will be nigh-on useless for realtime local-multiplayer games - and only slightly better than the Wii for turn-based multiplayer games.
In other words, Nintendo seems to be moving away from the "casual multiplayer" experience which drove the Wii to the heady heights of world domination. But that's a topic for another blog post!
Oh, and there's also something else which I didn't particularly speculate on: the release date. Current indications are that the Wii U will be released "sometime in 2012". In other words, it's quite possibly not going to be released for another 18 months (if Nintendo opts to wait for the 2012 Christmas period); by then, there's a very real possibility that Sony and/or Microsoft will be bringing out their new - and probably more powerful - consoles at the same time...