Wii U Jack Of All Trades

Published on June 8th, 2011

Yesterday, Nintendo finally unveiled the much-whispered-about Project Cafe, in the guise of oddly-named wonder . The sparking white presentation video was as confusing as it was beguiling, never quite explaining that this is indeed a new console, one that outputs in HD and will support major franchises that have been traditionally synonymous with 360 and PS3.

It’s a spectacularly interesting piece of tech, something that carries its own HD screen within the controller, that lets you continue you game when you don’t have access to the family TV and that can even be used as a bespoke tablet device, as long as you’re in range of the ‘console’, whatever it is that might be.

The Wii U is also compatible with Wii remotes, all manner of peripherals and even its own games built into the controller. Odd name aside, it looks incredible, capable of any type of gaming experience you can imagine, which is what Nintendo’s new ‘deeper and wider’ philosophy is all about.

Is this really the ideal, though? Just because you can do everything, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can do everything well. Certainly, the HD output and promised graphical grunt is welcome, but when games like Batman Arkham City and Battlefield 3 arrive some 12 months after their PS3 and 360 releases, they’re not quite as exciting as they might currently seem. Will that large controller actually be suited to the types of games we’ve been enjoying on the HD consoles, either? Will you truly be able to get a competitive edge on Call Of Duty with such a large hunk of plastic in your hands? Will the online systems match up with Xbox Live and PSN?

And on the other side of the mythical core/casual divide, will the Wii-buying masses want to invest in another, likely more expensive console? The evidence suggests not. The Wii’s old philosophies still stand true – that it’s a toy for everyone. These people are probably not looking to upgrade any time soon, especially to something that does the exact opposite of the Wii and completely confuses almost anyone who lays eyes on it. The games press don’t really understand what the hell it is, so how are the rest of the world going to manage?

Finally, will it work as a handheld? Ignoring the fact that it can’t be taken out and about for a minute because that’s a pointless issue to moan about, the Wii U will still have some way to go before it can oust the PSVita, DS or iPad/iPhone as the home’s thing-you-always-have-near-you device. As slick as it undoubtedly is, it won’t have the all-encompassing App store of the iPad or the diminutive size of a phone or PSP. Does the average household want another screen cluttering up the living room?

So far, so unsure then. The Wii U looks like a superb piece of technology, but one that’s currently muddled in its identity. Nintendo wants all the cake and a full stomach to boot, but without focus, they might just end up going hungry.

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