Friday, June 29, 2012

Funny, I thought the Wii U comes out in November.

The way people seem to be hounding the console, you'd think it was already out and on the shelves, and doing lackluster sales. 2012 seems to be the year we discovered time travel, because we have multiple people out there declaring that this is the end of consoles as we known it, and the worst Nintendo console ever made. Then again this is the same thing that was said about it's predecessor back in good old 2006.

This topic was brought on by a series of articles that seem to place the new console in a severe negative light based off of it's specs and perceived shortcomings. Let's cover those first.

 Now you're nitpicking with Power!!

This observation began with this particular article that I read on earlier. I'll post the article for the sake of discussion. As usual I'll be adding my usual commentary. You guys know the drill.

Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference left many unsatisfied with its content, with many people citing the software as a disappointment. However, to GamesBeat's Dean Takahashi, limitations with the tablet controller are the most disappointing aspect to him. 
XXSP:  I don't know about everyone else, but the biggest complaints I saw during the conference, were the lack of Nintendo's flagship titles. We had Pikmin 3, and Mario titles, but the complaints were about Zelda, Star Fox, and F Zero. At least that's what the sidebar comments stated. Now on a later facebook post I saw people showing genuine interest in the console and once it was known that you could still use your previous controllers and peripherals, the interest grew.  I know it's illogical for Nintendo to bring out their flagship titles right out of the gate (if you'll remember this is the mistake they made with the Wii and it lead to a rather dead 2008), and I know the games will come at the right intervals, so i'm not even going to bother to stress the statement.

 The conference wasn't the most fantastic, though it was actually far and away more game-centric and full of interesting things than the previous two conferences, and to and extent, I felt that people over hyped themselves and felt let down, when in reality we all know the presentation was going to be all about the Wii U, and what the system was capable of.  That's something that happens alot within the gaming community and industry.

"They have a major issue with the capability of the Wii U console where it has a single processor but it has to drive multiple displays," said Takahashi. "A single graphics chip inside the console has to drive the big screen, the main game screen, but it also has to provide the imagery for the tablet controller, the game pad. And yet the system itself isn't that powerful."
XXSP:  From the showings of the controller and console, one would assume that everything is running smoothly enough. We haven't seen a two tablet setup, so it's hard to say how graphically taxing this is going to be, but so far we're only hearing skepticism about how a console that is supposed to be as powerful as the current gen consoles, isn't as powerful as the theoretical consoles of the next generation.

After a bit of digging, I found some specs on the Wii u ( not sure if official ) and if Nintendo is going with the "IBM Power processor", it seems that they'll be able to accomplish a lot of things the system set out to do. There's no indication of what version of the Power chip they'll be using. The current chip is Power7 (at the time of the article, the Power8 is still in development ) which wikipedia has a slight blurb on.
"POWER7 was released in February 2010 and was a substantial evolution from the POWER6 design, focusing more on power efficiency through multiple cores and simultaneous multithreading.
While the POWER6 features a dual-core processor, each capable of two-way simultaneous multithreading (SMT), the IBM POWER7 processor has eight cores, and four threads per core, for a total capacity of 32 simultaneous threads. Its power consumption is similar to the preceding POWER6, while quadrupling the number of cores, with each core having higher performance."
 Why does this not surprise me that with journalism,  the people who are supposedly in the know about technology and gaming have no clue about what they're talking about? At least Kotaku's article seems somewhat reasonable about what the console might be capable of .
"Nintendo only showed games with one game pad controller and the TV," he noted. "Most games out there, if you're in a social setting, you want two controllers. Nintendo didn't show any games that do that. They admitted in a Q&A that the games are going to run slower if you have two game pads and playing on a main display. That's a fairly big issue for them."

XXSP:   We already covered the two pad thing, so as to not beat a dead horse, I'll let it slide for the moment.

Currently, Nintendo is trying to push the capabilities of the system in an "asymmetric" sense, but Takahashi isn't completely bullish on that. "They made a good case that you can play with one controller and multiple Wii controllers, what they call asymmetric gaming where one person is looking at the small tablet screen and trying to deploy zombies while the people playing with the controllers were all on the main screen," said Takahashi. "You come up with very creative, different kinds of games where it's one against four, or one person going online. They tried to justify and turn into an advantage this major weakness of the Wii U, but I think a lot of people saw this as a weakness."
XXSP: The question is how exactly is this a weakness? We've seen things like this with L4D's AI director, which creates an asymmetrical playfield between the computer and players, PS3 and 360 game Mindjack offered a feature where online players can "hack" into another player's game and alter the AI to be helpful or hindering to the overall gameplay (granted, the game is a pile of meh) , Duck Hunt's second controller created an asymmetrical situation where you could deviate from the predictable pattern to elude the light gun . Even in real life Asymmetric gameplay has been applied in games like Hasbro's Guess Who, D&D and other roleplaying games. While it's not a new terminology, it is something that has been and can continue to be beneficial to game development. Definitely not a "weakness" in my book.

Asymmetrical gaming since 1974
"The games themselves were creative. They tried to do something like Wii Sports with NintendoLand, which has mini-games in it that explore the capabilities of the tablet and the touch screen. But there wasn't an obvious blockbuster within those games. They may have had a good one in ZombieU, but in the demos it didn't necessarily play that well. Nintendo came up as a pretty big disappointment at E3," he concluded. 
 XXSP: Nintendoland from what i've seen looks like they're doing their usual thing, which is giving you insight into what the product can do. I'm not going to fault them on that, because they've only a few of the total games, and I would rather have the full product in my hands before I pass judgement. Zombie U, I'm still holding judgement on as well. On first look, though the game looks clearly unpolished and kind of lackluster, in terms of style and presentation. I'm hoping that gets cleared up the closer the game gets to release. I do think ZU seems promising, and I do so love a good zombie shooter. I just hope that by the time the game hits the shelves, that it's a lot more polished and presentable.

Speaking of Asymmetrical 

The other article I want to cover is from CVG, and has Scott Rhode, from Sony Worldwide studios making comparisons between the Wii U and the Vita (Interesting, considering the Vita's true rival is the 3DS, but of course the Vita can also move games from the PS3 to it as well). Here's the article on that.

Rhode has chosen the functionality of the Wii U's tablet controller with the console as his point of attack, noting that Nintendo's tablet controller doesn't have a processor. "That Wii U tablet doesn't have a processor in it, so it's got to be fueled by that box sitting under your TV," he told Gamesindustry International in an interview at E3.

According to Rhode, what the PS3 and Vita can do is "pretty special" promising that we can expect to see "more over the upcoming months about what you can do when you actually have a processor in the thing that's in your hand as well."

The Wii U tablet is very different from the Vita, as the Vita is a separate handheld console that can be linked with the PS3. The Vita is also still trailing in sales against the Nintendo 3DS.

When the topic of poor sales was brought up, Rhode was defensive, stating "it's only been three months though, just three months...there are a lot of games on that machine and I think what we have to hang our hat on... Every single person that actually picks that thing up absolutely loves it - if you're a gamer and you pick up a Vita, you're going to have fun. And you're going to use it over a device like this [points to an iPhone] if you really want a game."

It's possible the Vita could see a surge in sales as the Nintendo 3DS did, but it will remain a case of wait and see. As for the Nintendo Wii U, until consumers get their hands on the console, it's functionality and popularity will also remain to be seen.
It seems that the FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) attack is based more on the tablet aspect of the controller. There really isn't any interesting points being brought up, and Rhode seems to be throwing reactionary comments when asked about the lackluster nature of Vita's sales. I also want to point out that I have been on the Vita display a few times at work, and the only game that seems remotely interesting in the demo lineup in my opinion is Gravity Rush (Which, to me would of made a far better PS3 game).

Microsoft's Smart glass application is another competing idea which tries to take the same thunder from the Wii U, but it seems like it's a little closer to comparison than the Vita. while Smart glass has the ability to use your phone or tablet as a secondary device much like the Wii U pad, I don't really think this is going to be poised to usurp Nintendo from their mission. Tablets, while popular aren't in every household, and they're still rather pricey (Especially if you're buying an I pad just for the use of this feature - I doubt you would be, but still). The other issue I seem to have with this, is the lack of content that would utilize this feature. We heard of the ability to call plays in madden without the other players being able to see, but that's not really enough to push me into getting a 360, and a tablet and a live account to make this all happen. With the Eighth console generation upon us, this really isn't going to prompt me to do any of that, anyway.

With the way things are progressing, it makes me wonder if Nintendo could make lightning strike twice this November? All the preemptive strikes are happening on schedule, and it seems that even with all that, and the growing vocal disinterest shown from the vocal internet gaming community, the expanded community (at least via social networking) seem to be impressed, if not interested in the Wii U. In closing,  That seems to be the nature of things these days. In the end, the biggest tell of the success of this new console is going to be the sales numbers, as was the case with the Wii, the 3DS and the DS.

Game On!

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