Like thousands of others worldwide, I tuned into Nintendo’s E3 keynote to get a glimpse of its new console – the Wii U. But what I saw was a tablet-like controller with a built in screen – is that really what we want?
What did Nintendo show us last night during its E3 conference in Los Angeles? A motion sensitive controller with a 6.2 inch built in touchscreen, which you could use to play Wii U games directly on it.
Impressive, but by the end of the event I still had no idea what the actual console looked like or what it was capable of, outside of a pretty looking tech demo and promises of mature games.
If you were watching Nintendo’s conference, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the controller was the console itself.
More like pee-yew?
In the hope that it can recapture the buzz that the Wii’s innovative motion controllers created back in 2005, it seems Nintendo has again built its new console around this ‘unique’ controller. It certainly worked back then, with Microsoft and Sony falling in line with their own motion control answers.
But do we really need the extra screen? Motion controllers opened up gaming to casual gamers outside the usual hardcore audience – a very smart move by Nintendo. Can a screen on a controller have the same affect?
Maybe it will prove a step backwards for casual gamers who are just looking for a straight forward, streamlined experience. It’s hard to imagine all those weekly Wii Bowling tournaments in elderly care homes up and down the country being replaced with multi-screen gaming. ‘Fancy a Smash Bros death match, Ethel?’
Screens in controllers have a history
The idea of a second screen in home console gaming isn’t new. Sega’s Dreamcast controllers featured the VMU (Visual Memory Unit), which relayed information about the game to the player. And the Nintendo Gamecube let you connect a Gameboy Advance to act as a second screen for certain titles as well.
Even during this generation, Sony has experimented with using its PSP in conjunction with the PlayStation 3, either by streaming PS3 games to the handheld, or acting as a rear-view mirror in a Formula 1 racing game (the functionality was later dropped).
It would be a lie to claim that any of above implementations were hugely successful or in any way necessary.
Will you Wii U?
There are other questions posed by Nintendo’s Wii U. How much will a second controller cost? How long will the battery last? How comfortable will it be? Nintendo’s shares fell to their lowest in five years after last night’s Wii U announcement, so clearly not everyone is convinced.
Do you think multi-screen gaming has a future? Could it replace the traditional controller? Fresh from the announcement, I can’t help but feel a little sceptical. Then again, I said the same thing when the dual-screen DS was announced, and that seemed to do ok…