Hands on with Wii U: In reality it’s a bit of a gimmick

6 mins read

One of the most exciting features of the EB World Expo game recently held in Sydney was the opportunity to go hands on with the Nintendo Wii U.

Most of the launch games were playable at the event, and I got to run through a couple of the games at my time in the booth. To sum up my reaction: the Wii U is a nice console and I have high hopes that the games that will be released on it will justify buying one, but I do think people are going to be very disappointed with its central gimmick, the tablet controller.

That tablet is a nice bit of hardware to be sure. The controller fits comfortably in the hands, and though it’s a fairly heavy device, the weight is distributed expertly. The buttons are soft but responsive, and the control sticks are amongst the nicest I’ve ever played with.

The touch screen itself is noticeably lower in quality than an iPad or other high-end tablets, but it displays colours brightly and, when a game is displayed on both the TV screen and tablet screen simultaneously, it’s nice to see that the Wii U scales the action down perfectly.

And, in some games it is put to good use as a secondary screen. The New Super Mario Bros U touch screen controls allows a less experienced or younger player to join in the excellent multiplayer without feeling intimidated. By placing extra blocks on the playing field for the other four players to use, that person with the touch screen gets to feel like an integral part of the experience (by providing access to out-of-reach areas), without the stress of the often-difficult platforming. Zombie U meanwhile might not do anything new with the touch screen (Dark Souls did the whole ‘inventory management without pausing the game’ just as well), but by moving the inventory to the touch screen it’s possible for the occasional zombie to get the jump on you. It’s silly B-grade fun for that.

But here’s the overall reality of the Wii U – it’s impossible to have critical information running on both the touch screen and the TV screen at the same time. In the natural hold position for a controller it’s simply too uncomfortable and downright frustrating to keep looking back and forth to try and track everything going on.

This means that the touch screen is actually only good for a couple of purposes – either streaming the entire game content (so rendering the TV screen pointless), for minigames that are the touch-screen equivalent of waggle (and we’ve already seen some of those emerge), or for the purposes of displaying secondary information – inventory, menus, maps, keyboards and the like. Given that games have already had inventory, maps, and keyboards built in behind a single in-game button press, streaming it to a games tablet is more gimmicky than innovative.

And, considering the games aren’t visually much more appealing than the existing HD consoles (though Mario in HD is a sight to behold), there’s also not much of an initial “wow” factor when playing this console for the first time, which is somewhat disappointing. The Wii offered the promise of a new way to play. The PS3 and Xbox 360 offered HD visuals for the first time. The Vita brought the PS3 HD experience to a handheld for the first time, and the 3DS offered the excitement of glasses-free 3D.

These all made playing those consoles for the first time something spectacular. The Wii U by contrast feels a bit like a “nice to have” – that wow factor just isn’t there when you realise that you’re playing the same games as before, with a couple of minor functions thrown to the touch screen. Not a single game on display, with the exception of the Nintendo Land minigames (which are also too limited for any long-term appeal) did anything that blew me away by offering a genuinely new experience.

Local multiplayer is this console’s real strength to shine, and Nintendo Land did show this off nicely, but local multiplayer is a dying art and of minimal mass market interest. Of course, it’s the software that counts with console releases, and Nintendo does have a good launch line up. I’ve got great hopes that the Wii U will answer the critics of the Wii, that it failed to deliver on its promise; the Wii U has already delivered everything it is promising from the outset. And indeed despite coming away underwhelmed (especially compared to the raw excitement I felt after going hands on the 3DS for the first time), I did go and preorder a Wii U after the event. I just worry that anyone going in to the Wii U expecting the same joy and wonder they experienced with the original Wii may just find this console a little lacking in genuine innovation.

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  • "The touch screen itself is noticeably lower in quality than an Ipad or other high-end tablets"

    That is because it is not a TABLET or even meant to compete with a tablet or Ipad. Are you seriously that stupid Matt?

  • I love how people resort to calling other people "stupid" when they haven't got the ability to put forward a rational argument.

    No. I am not stupid. I was well aware going in that the Wii U tablet was going to be too limited to compete with the iPad and Androids of the world. This doesn't change the fact that the Wii U controller has an inferior screen, but similar size to those tablets now, does it?

    Why did I use the comparison? Easy. Most gamers have used a tablet or iPad before. It makes sense, then, as a journalist, to say "you know those devices? This screen is not as good as those."

    It's called "explanation by association." A useful tool.

  • Hey! I noticed your typo on the headline!

    Anyway, what sort of expectation did you have when trying out the Wii U? From what I remember from Wii U videos, Nintendo had positioned it as a social-oriented console. Did you play with other people? I'm dying to know :3

  • Now, when you mean lower quality, do you mean a lower resolution and probably a slight decrease in contrast?

  • I did play it with other people, and I really enjoy it as a local multiplayer device, it's a lot of fun and Nintendo has hit its targets there.

    Unfortunately, I don't get to play much local multiplayer these days, so it's also a feature that, while cool, is not going to be something that makes a great deal of difference to me.

  • *Who is jealous that somebody has played the Wii U on this site? THIS GUY!

    LOL, awesome that you got hands-on with it.

    One point you should clarify though, is that Nintendo (at least Reggie) is staying away from calling the GamePad a tablet. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/one-on-one-nintendo/?

    So, perhaps moving forward, you can use the tablet as a comparison example, but make sure to clarify that Nintendo has pretty much denied it is a tablet. "The Wii U is not a tablet."

    As for, "Local multiplayer is this console’s real strength to shine, and Nintendo Land did show this off nicely, but local multiplayer is a dying art and of minimal mass market interest."

    I think it's an "evolving art", not necessarily dying. Just in the last 3 days, we have started playing NSMBW with our oldest (almost 3.5). It is an absolute blast trying to make it through levels with him, trying to teach him new tricks in the game, and that's a big reason I think local multiplayer needs to stay around…that being said though, I'm all for games having both local and online.

    On the resistive screen comment you made, do you think they use the resistive screen because of Apple's copyright/patent stuff on it? That was/is one big issue with the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuits, the touchscreen stuff. I know they're cheap, and they hate licensing, and paying extra $$$ for certain features (they didn't want to pay the DVD licensing fee on the Wii, so they programmed the Wii to not run as a DVD player, though it can do that exact thing).

    By any chance, did you get to play Rabbids Land while you were there? I'm really, really, really interested in that game, because of how well Ubisoft did the original Wii Rayman Raving Rabbids games.

    "…I did go and preorder a Wii U after the event."
    I'm still planning on buying it day one, and hopefully Nintendo clarifies the Wii U online stuff and we can perhaps play some online together in games at some point (never know with the crazy schedule I keep).

    Being that you reserved it, did you get the Basic or Deluxe? And are you planning on getting any games day one, other than perhaps Nintendo Land if you did the Deluxe?

  • So you don't find it coincedental that Nintendo's monster competitors have announced their WiiU functionality? Why bother competing with and/or emulating a "gimmick"?

  • This is kind of what I suspected but I hope it turns out better than it seems right now. When Imfirst heard about the wii I really thought it was just a gimmick but having played it a bit I wanted one.

    As for local multiplayer – that's what we ended up using the Wii for most! For proper gaming I will always have the PC. For casual or party play it's usually the Wii. Looks like I'M getting HD for my casual and party gaming, nice!

  • Thank you Matt for calling it what it is: a tablet (with buttons). Political correctness can stay the heck out the gaming word.

    There's an old adage that we say in the country: "If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck. Well, it's probably a duck!"

    In all its simplicity, there's wisdom there that translates so well to nearly ever facet of life.

    I'm preordering a real gaming tablet instead of a Wii U — iPad Mini.

  • After seeing the iPad 3, I kinda figured that this was going to be the case. I've read all of the hype articles from the fan sites, but many of them are respecting Reggie's statement that it isn't a tablet and aren't comparing it to other tablets.

    As a consumer, it is what it is and I wanted to know how it stacks up, because I'm in between buying a Wii U, or a iPad Mini – the latter of which I think will be phenomenal for gaming. Also, the price range for the iPad Mini will likely be cheaper, with analyst predicting a price range between $249 to $349. Yes, the Mini won't make use of the Retina Display to keep its cost down, but it'll (likely) still make use of its brilliant liquid crystal display technology, which by all means, is still absolutely brilliant.

    I'm a consumer and to me, it is what it is. I'm only making one new console purchase over the holidays and for me, it's between a gaming tablet and the Wii U, which is a "gaming tablet" to me, because I'll never use the "TV" gimmick part of it.

  • "These all made playing those consoles for the first time something spectacular. "

    The vita bombed at launch
    the ps3 bombed at launch
    the 350 bombed at launch

    So maybe your focusing on the wrong thing huh?

    The wii u will do just fine

  • Matt never said that the Wii U wouldn't do "just fine" and if you read the article (which you clearly didn't), then you'd have seen that he went and preordered a Wii U after get hands-on time with it.

    Just because it's a gimmick, doesn't mean that it's what some people like to call "doomed." Instead, it means that it's that it's built around a gimmick – which is "a trick or device to attraction attention." So yes, it's a "gimmick." It doesn't mean that it isn't going to sell well. Stop and read his analysis of the Wii U and you'll understand why he feels that it's a gimmick.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • @coffeewithgames:disqus had wrote: "I think it's an 'evolving art', not necessarily dying. Just in the last 3
    days, we have started playing NSMBW with our oldest (almost 3.5). It is
    an absolute blast trying to make it through levels with him, trying to
    teach him new tricks in the game, and that's a big reason I think local
    multiplayer needs to stay around…that being said though, I'm all for
    games having both local and online."

    This one of the traits of console gaming Nintendo is trying to emphasize. This is theoretically one of the big features of the Wii U Gamepad, like you said. The console is striving to reach a broad demographic, whether it's the less-dedicated players (casual) or the more dedicated players. To do such a thing, the console has to be priced reasonably. If they pull it off well (I hope Nintendo learned from their mistakes of confusing people with MiiVerse), this should give game developers a good opportunity to make some profits and make the system more popular.

    However, Nintendo must make their platform hospitable for the developers. They'd have to polish their software developer's kit and make them very reliable (that'd be helpful for indie developers). That's not an easy thing to do, especially when they'd want to make their development tools flexible, which would require more spending for Nintendo. If that were the case, maybe they factored that instance in the console's cost.

  • I see you're still treating the gamepad like a tablet rather than a game controller. Would it really be a benefit if the gamepad screen was higher resolution?

    One of the big reasons why the iPad's display is gorgeous is because it's the primary interface of the device. You look at it every time you use the tablet; everything is displayed in the tablet. You will view pictures, graphics, text, etc. Not only do you look at it, but you interact with the device with fingers. Apple wants to make sure that it's a smooth experience; it's a necessity more than a luxury. Capacitor-based touchscreen is necessary. A high resolution display is necessary.

    I wouldn't think Nintendo would pull off a Sony and glorify the gamepad screen, because a television screen and the gamepad are the primary interface, like how consoles should be. A player acts upon a game by pressing buttons or interacting with the screen; they get feedback from the TV screen; they react upon that feedback; and so on. A capacitive touchscreen could have been a better method of acquiring input, but that'll only drive the cost up.

    Just pointing that out, even though you only made the comparisons in a sentence or two 😛

  • I'm really curious about Matt's comment that it's "impossible" to process two active screens worth of information simultaneously. The way I see it, no one can do it … yet. Technology innovations often push our brains into unfamiliar modes of operation. Then, after we acclimate, it's very difficult to "go back.". I wonder if regular Wii U players will end up finding other control methods insipid by comparison. To me, it's very much an open question.

  • A tablet can be brought out of your house, around the house, etc., without the reliance on a console. The GamePad is a game controller reliant on the console. When you pay either $300 or $350, you are getting the console and the GamePad. The GamePad is useless without the console. There is a difference, and I think it's fair that they specify it's not a tablet, so the general consumer doesn't think they can take the controller with them wherever they go.

  • "However, Nintendo must make their platform hospitable for the developers."

    I think the announcement with Unity a huge step in that right direction, and I hope they seal the deal for many before launch by addressing the online issues with the system.

  • I wish I could get some enthusiasm together for this thing.

    Zombie U looks cool and it's killing me that I won't get to play the new Mario, but I can't justify the purchase of a Wii U. It's just about the same as the 360 and the PS3 as far as graphics go and that tablet/controller just isn't doing it for me.

  • I love the way everyone keeps comparing wii u as a tablet but also what they forget to mention is that the games are a hell of alot better on wii u also that the wii u is new technology and that it is half the price of so called tablets.

  • Try playing a 3ds or ps vita or any handheld and watch tv at same time its quite tuff and im hoping thus isnt wii u's downfall as i am looking forward to playing all nintendos games in hd….

  • Howdy Coffee!

    Of course Nintendo's official line is that the Wii U gamepad is not a tablet. However, that's because it does Nintendo no favours to have it compared to the iPad.

    The reality is that if tablets had failed in the market, and if the iPad never saw a 2nd generation release, the Wii U would not have that gamepad. The Wii U is Nintendo's answer to the hot technology trend at the moment – the tablet.

    It makes sense, of course, to capitalise on something that is really popular and instantly familiar to consumers. But a spade is a spade the gamepad is really an tablet shrunk down a little bit and stuck together with some buttons.

    RE resistive screens – I do think that's a price issue. It felt downright outdated to be tapping around with a stylus on a device that looked and felt like a tablet in 2012 though 😛 I suspect it would have been prohibitively expensive to license a capacitive screen though, so I suspect Nintendo made the wise choice there.

    As for the version I preordered – I'll be getting the deluxe edition, because I want that black console. White looks out of place in my living room.

  • These are good points, Mr Ranger.

    I think, given that there are a number of games that stream to the Gamepad (and when they did, I noticed people tended to look at the gamepad, not the TV screen), an ultra-HD screen would have been a great benefit to the console, actually.

  • Here's an idea – if you don't want a defensive reaction, don't write an aggressive question. Given this is the first time you've come to this website and made a comment, it's a little hard to take you on face value when your first act is to criticise the legitimacy of my opinion on the basis of my intelligence.

    Beyond that, it's plain rude. We like debate here, but we do not appreciate the kind of insulting back-and-forth that's typical of the gaming community online. Please do hang around, but please refer to our comments policy – respect for the others here is a core tenant of that.

    And yes, I do maintain that the gamepad screen is a gimmick. You're right, rumble also was a gimmick. Sticking a tablet screen into controllers might become the standard of the future too, but for now it does nothing to enhance the experience of any of the games I played.

  • "The reality is that if tablets had failed in the market, and if the iPad never saw a 2nd generation release, the Wii U would not have that gamepad. The Wii U is Nintendo's answer to the hot technology trend at the moment – the tablet."

    Not necessarily. Remember the Sega Dreamcast with the VMU? I would say the GamePad is an adaptation of that. If it were trying to be a tablet, they would have even gone more with the VMU style though, and made it a detachable and portable screen option, but they didn't. So, calling it a tablet is actually not correct because of its dependence on the console, but comparing it to one might help some understand it.

    A tablet can be brought anywhere, and everywhere. The GamePad is 100% reliant on the Wii U console, and being within range of it. There is a BIG difference there.

    I think the market for this console (as seems to be Nintendo in general) will be marketed more at families. Which is why they brought up the "Alone Together" book in the pre-E3 video.

  • It's a good point, typop.

    We already saw that happen to an extent with the Wii. There are people that swear by motion controls for, say, FPSers and consider mouse-and-keyboard or controller controls now unworkable by comparison.

    It remains to be seen if this "multitasking" will be a similar feature!

  • I'm still not convinced on Nintendo's marketing line.

    Having played with the thing, it feels (to me, etc etc :P) more like a iPad-with-buttons than a expanded VMU. I don't see enough to differentiate this from an iPad, aside from the fact it does lack some of the functions of the iPad. If Nintendo were to release non-gaming applications that can be streamed to the pad (and it will happen, I'll bet my house on it) then I the difference will literally be no more than "Gamepad has buttons, but can't work outside of the house." That's not nearly as much of a difference as you might think.

  • Yes. I agree with you. And for Nintendo and Nintendo websites, I think they should stick with the terminology as well. But for everyone else, if they want to compare it to a tablet, then they have every right to do so.

    Yes, it's called a "GamePad," but no matter what anyone says, it's tablet-like and it's going to be in competition with the iPad Mini, which will be bought by a ton of people for the primary use of gaming.

  • Especially when the iPad Mini will work with consoles through Microsoft's SmartGlass feature, which will do a lot of the streaming/.Async features of the Wii U.

  • "I don't see enough to differentiate this from an iPad, aside from the fact it does lack some of the functions of the iPad."
    Well, if you play that game, you better play both sides to be fair.

    The iPad doesn't have features the GamePad has. Buttons. Mario. The Wii U is a game console, first. The controller is part of the console, and doesn't cost what an iPad does. $500 for the basic new iPad, versus $350 for the Deluxe. Cost is another difference.

    Again, one is a game console, and one is a "jack-of-all-trades".

    If you're wanting an iPad, you probably aren't getting it FIRST for gaming. Maybe it's an added benefit, but probably not the major reason it is purchased by the majority.

    Who will be buying the Wii U initially? People that want to play Nintendo games like Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros., Animal Crossing, etc. Gaming console first, apps second as benefit.

    Also, "the difference will literally be no more than "Gamepad has buttons, but can't work outside of the house." That's not nearly as much of a difference as you might think. That's not nearly as much of a difference as you might think."
    Cost. Games. Those two are huge in my book.

    Again, the GamePad isn't a tablet in the normal sense at all, because a tablet can be moved around without relying on a PC/Mac…even though many cost as much as/more than a basic PC/laptop these days.

    It really is apples to oranges here, because of the console reliance.

  • You make some excellent points!

    The only thing I'd have to (somewhat) disagree with, is that I have an iPad 2, 3DS XL, PS Vita, etc. — do you know where I play them the most? At home. Yes, I can indeed take them out of my house, but 98% of the time, I'm playing them at home. When I get a Wii U, I'll play it on the GamePad, instead of the TV, for the most part.

    I play games on my iPad 2 so that I can crash on the couch with my wife and get my gaming on.

    I play games on my PS Vita so that I can crash on the couch with my wife and get my gaming on.

    I play games on my 3DS XL so that I can crash on the couch with my wife and get my gaming on.

    I'll play games on my Wii U so that I can crash on the couch with my wife and get my gaming on.

    Is there really any difference?

  • Yep, I'm not disagreeing with you there. I'm not here claiming that the iPad is definitively better than the Wii U – The Wii U is a fine, premium gaming console. But remember, I'm talking about innovation with my original piece, and the iPad is the innovative one. The Wii U is trying to take advantage of the road Apple paved for these kinds of devices.

    I like to think of it like this – There are a few vendors out there that have made tablets for hardcore business use. As in, tablets that are dustproof, don't break if you drop them, and some that even comply to military specifications. Tablets that people can use down mine shafts or in war zones. The iPad can't do that, but these business tablets would not exist if the iPad didn't make people realise that tablets are cool.

    The Wii U Gamepad is essentially a gaming tablet. That's what it does, regardless of Nintendo's marketing line. It's better hardware for gaming than the iPad, I'm not denying that. But it's not innovative. The iPad already does what the Wii U can, especially with AirPlay thrown in.

    So it's not so much Apples to Oranges. It's Granny Smith Apples to Pink Lady Apples. Granny Smith Apples are sweeter and more versatile, but a little more expensive. Pink Lady Apples are more accessible and cheaper.

  • Dude, I absolutely can't wait to get Cytus on my iPad Mini! If you don't already have that on your iPad, absolutely have to do so… NOW!

    Then you can email and tell me how great it is! Haha

  • "But remember, I'm talking about innovation with my original piece, and the iPad is the innovative one. The Wii U is trying to take advantage of the road Apple paved for these kinds of devices."

    "It's better hardware for gaming than the iPad, I'm not denying that. But it's not innovative."
    If it's better for gaming than the iPad, that is innovative. No?
    I would say the Wii U GamePad is innovative, and I would be interested to see how early they had this drawn up…because the first iPad didn't release until 2010, and they said they were discussing this Wii U idea back in 2008.

    TV functionality in the remote via the TV button, what game controller with a console has done that before? What about the NFC reader? I believe just those two features alone make it innovative as a home console controller.

    Again, being that it is reliant on the game console, it is apples and oranges. If you want AirPlay on your tv, you pay for it with Apple TV ($99 I think), right? One streams to the TV, one streams FROM the TV (console). One is reliant on a separate device (console), one is not.

    Even by the definition of tablet, the GamePad is not one, because it does not have it's own OS to operate on by itself.

  • If you want to draw this back to the real roots of innovation, all the Gamepad is doing is acting as a thin client, receiving the information from an external source – in other words this is the kind of technology that has been used in really big banks and corporations for decades. Cloud streaming in those same environments predates the Wii U by at least five years, and the idea of large touch screens working in the hope was commercialised by Apple well before Nintendo announced the Wii U.

    Now, most Nintendo fans seem to believe that Sony (via Move) and Microsoft (via Kinect) "copied" motion controlling from the Wii. What they actually did was see that motion controls were popular, and ramped up their own investment in bringing their own (technologically different) motion controllers to market. The Move works very differently to the WiiMote, and Kinect even more obviously so.

    The Nintendo Wii U/ Apple tablet situation is no different. Apple made the tablet form factor popular. Now, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are looking for their own opportunities in that market. There's nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but if Move is a copy of WiiMote, then the Gamepad is certainly a "copy" of the iPad. If Move is original technology, it's still not innovative because Nintendo "did it" first, and the same also applies to the Gamepad and Apple Airplay.

    I'm not saying that the Gamepad doesn't work better than Airplay, or is less expensive, or easier to use – it's all of those things. But those are not innovations. They're evolutions.

    As for the other Wii U features, the TV remote is not innovative (again, Apple beat it to the punch there), and the NFC thing is something I couldn't test because no games so far support it. It's an exciting opportunity to be sure, and yes putting that in a games console is innovative, but it doesn't mean the rest of the Wii U experience is not gimmicky and lacking innovation (neither of which are even bad things, not sure why people are choosing to think that way).

    As for whether it's a tablet or not – to me what makes a tablet a tablet is the way you interact with it when you're using it. From the hour or two I spent with the Wii U controller across the seven or eight games I played I interacted with it just as I interact with my iPad. That qualifies it as a tablet in my book.

  • Great article. Developers will definitely have to be smart about what information they put on the GamePad. I predict missteps but I also think many developers already have experience with the DS so I can't see this being much different.

    As to whether or not the GamePad is a tablet: first I think it's just semantics and doesn't matter outside of the confusion it will cause the casual gaming public. I personally think it isn't. Or, if it is, then you would have to call the Vita a tablet too. In fact the Vita has far more in common with what is usually called a tablet: accesses the Internet through cell towers, ability to take it anywhere, and a high resolution capacitive touch screen.

  • Perhaps we should know what you mean by innovative? I go with this definition from Dictionary.com, you can let me know if you have another: "to introduce something new; make changes in anything established."
    Handspring/PALM, before Apple, commercialised touch screens. Microsoft did the large tablet thing in 2002 (I think announced in '99?). So, if anything, those were the innovators according to you, and Apple simply copied (like they always do…OHHH SNAP! waits for internets to implode), if you are basing it just off of the "introduce something new" part.

    "Now, most Nintendo fans seem to believe that Sony (via Move) and Microsoft (via Kinect) "copied" motion controlling from the Wii."
    I would say Sony adapted, and improved upon the motion controls in a few areas over the Wii controls, adding another layer to them…but it's problem was that it wasn't/isn't in every system sold, so the adoption rate and use by developers is lower. I don't mind Sony "copying", but if they didn't bring improvements it wouldn't be innovative. I think the Sony Move is innovative in some areas of motion control/interaction though, even though it may be a "copy" of sorts of the Wii, it is innovative.

    The Wii U GamePad as a home console controller, which is what it is, is innovative from what I can tell because it is the first home console controller bundled with the console that has:
    1) A TV button (Can you control your TV with your iPad, or have to buy the accessory for it?)
    2) A screen that can stream full colored games from the console
    3) A camera on it
    4) Microphone
    5) Speakers in it
    6) NFC reader
    7) Stylus included with it! (what other console controller has a stylus?! EPIC!)

    Has any other home console controller done this? I honestly can't think of any, though the only Sega console I owned was the Dreamcast.

    Again, you are trying to say it is a tablet, when the definition of tablet says otherwise, and Nintendo says it isn't themselves. You can say the earth is flat, but that doesn't mean it is based on the measures in science today. It may appear flat in a desert, but I don't think you could pass that answer off on a science test. If you take the Wii U GamePad outside, and it doesn't work and doesn't operate because it isn't communicating with the console, that makes it a controller, not a tablet. If the GamePad doesn't stream my games at the local coffee shop, it isn't a tablet, it is a controller.

    There is a big difference. For $300-350 (USD), you are buying a video game CONSOLE first, with a controller. Different markets. Do you compare the engine on a boat, to the engine in a car? Maybe for reference, but they are different markets; unless we get into those carboat things, then it's just muddy waters…. o_0

    Apples, and oranges.

    BTW, did you get a chance at Rabbids Land by any chance?

  • Apple's innovations were in commercialising something that was previously not commercial – tablets before the iPad were clunky, messy devices indeed.

    Just as Nintendo's innovation with the Wii was taking a preexisting technology – motion control – and applying it to a mass-market product for the first time.

    With the exception of NFC, there is nothing in the Wii U that hasn't been done in gaming at a wide scale before, and there are certainly no completely new technologies in there.

    The PSP and Vita can actually control your TV through the PS3. The iPad streams games from the device to the TV – the effect is the same as the Wii U, just the technology works in a different direction. Both Vita and iPad feature speakers, microphones and cameras. You can buy capacitive styluses for the iPad.

    Now the Wii U is taking these things, which are often inelegant for gaming applications, and throwing them into a console designed specifically around supplimentary features in other devices. This is not innovation. This is evolution, or a custom-tailored solution.

    None of that is to detract from the Wii U, but given that I have played it, and used the iPad extensively, I would have thought you would have given me enough respect to respect my analysis when I say "the experience is fundamentally no different to the iPad's experience."

    Now for the definition of tablet. If your only reason for disqualifying the Wii U gamepad as a tablet on the basis of it not having an OS of its own, then I think wherever you're pulling the definition of tablet from is wrong. Think of it this way – when you're using the Wii U gamepad, it does have an OS. It's just that the OS is streamed, rather than hosted locally. The effect and function is therefore materially the same.

    Tablets these days have "buttons" (keyboards/ mouses), the ability to control TVs and/ or media servers, gaming capabilities and everything else the Wii U gamepad can do.

    So once again: Having used the Wii U gamepad, the experience is no different to playing with the iPad on the TV via Airplay. Therefore, my comparison to tablets remains, especially since there is a lot of crossover between the markets that the iPad targets (those in the market for a device primarily used for entertainment, including games), and those the Wii U will target (those in the market for a games console primarily used for entertainment, mostly games).

    Granny Smith Apples to Pink Lady Apples.

    As for Rabbids, unfortunately that wasn't a game Ubi was showing off. I did play Rayman briefly though.

  • A tablet, by definition, is a simplified computing platform with a more humanistic interface compared to standard computer OS's, independent of any device. The Wii U game pad is a controller with a secondary display that is dependent on the Wii U console to operate. That is why Nintendo disregards the gamepad as a tablet. If they really wanted to compete with the iPad, they would have come up with something better than the 3DS and delay their release of a handheld.

    Now, I hypothesize from what you've informed us so far that you regard the Wii U gamepad as a tablet because you didn't witness anything that helps the console distinguish itself from other game devices. You only saw the screen as either a minimal assistant to the action screen (TV) that interacts through menus (i.e. item management), a primary screen, a medium of useless controls implemented for the sake of using the touchscreen (i.e. novelty controls that don't impact the game mechanics). You never witnessed any instance where any distinct game mechanics surrounding the touchscreen and the primary display mutually complement each other. Of course, Nintendo had to have incorporated a touchscreen for a reason, right?

    Well, I postulate that Nintendo incorporated the touchscreen because it factors into Nintendo's supposed goal of evolving (and perhaps revitalizing) social entertainment, like multiplayer gaming.

    Abstractly speaking, one of the Wii U's primary functions is to unite people, whether it be family members or friends. One of the best ways to enforce this objective is through local multiplayer. It is the best strength that transcends many game devices.

    "But wait! Local multiplayer has existed for several years now! How does it make it different from the competition??" a skeptic would ask. Well, for one thing, I can only guess that local multiplayer had severely decreased in the last few years. That isn't too surprising, as Western society grows dependent on independent devices like laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc. And don't get me started on the internet and how it has globalized communications and enables very niche groups and distant friends/families to unite. I'll just give you 3 words in hope that you figure out how much internet had impacted social culture: Facebook, gaming websites, and forums. I also wouldn't be surprised if society continually gets busy, as that probably has to justify the sudden consumption of portable devices. Perhaps Nintendo hopes to exploit this unique opportunity of waning interest in multiplayer and personal social gaming by making social-fun seem "innovative." As for the gameplay aspect, this is where the asymmetrical gameplay should shine, because if there are 2-5 people, 2 gamepads, and the game developer's canvas, I remain enthusiastic about the potential of asymmetric game mechanics. I can understand if you're not, seeing how Nintendo somewhat failed to popularize motion controls in due part to the weak hardware and shovelware, but I'm a dreamer. And let me toss in MiiVerse. While Nintendo seems to be keen on giving further details about it until near launch, I can say that it's supposed to unite players over the internet, as the interface from their presentations imply along with the trailer where we meet NSAF.

    Another one of the abstract functions of the device is what Nintendo had always seen game consoles as…a game console. It has increased specs, a fairly solid line-up of games, and even the option to play with buttons compared to both the Wii and iDevices (remember that many gamers are too naive to acknowledge it as a gaming device). While there isn't exactly any sort of innovation in the one-player department, at least it's a safe home for traditional game players.

    Those are the 2 primary functions that I can easily recall, I don't know what the 3rd would be though…a multimedia center?

    Eh. I have to stop now. I may write more later if I feel like it. Sorry for the extra long reply D:

  • Wow that is a long reply. I apologise that mine is not going to nearly do it justice.

    From what I've seen and experienced of the Wii U, the underlying technology really doesn't matter. It might be different once you drill down to the innards, and it might be enabled by different technology, but in application – in the player's hand – it's a tablet with buttons that's tied to the lounge room. The actual experience of using the Wii U tablet is simply not materially different to want the iPad offers.

    Consider Surface – the next generation Xbox is going to be able to "talk" seamlessly to the iPad. That will be just one application of both the iPad and Xbox, but it's there, and it'll do the same things as the Wii U. The difference being that the controller and iPad, though working together, are separate devices. The function is the same though.

    As for the social element of the console – from what I can tell this might be the easiest gaming-orientated social network to play with. If it delivers what it promises to then yes, Nintendo will have a point of differentiation there. I say "if," because Nintendo has yet to execute with any of its promises when it comes to online experiences.

  • I guess, in my opinion, I'd almost consider the GamePad to be innovative, but it'd be in about the same range as Move to Wii-mote.

    If you don't know, I've got extensive knowledge of PlayStation Move and it the technology behind Move is fantastic. The accuracy, speed and range of motion that Move is able to accurately calculate is beyond anything else on the gaming market. Is it innovative? Yes, it indeed is. But, to the consumer, it "feels" like a "better" Wii-mote. To the average consumer, it's entirely too hard to use — because of the speed/accuracy — and the end result is that either they use Move for casual gaming (games that lower the higher qualities of Move to cater to a less-skilled consumer). The end result, well, aside from the small populace that have taken the weeks of fine-tuning and learning how to use Move and see it for what it is, to everyone else it's just "another Wii-mote."

    My first reaction to Wii U was that it was an enlarged DS. That's how it was presented at E3 two years ago and that's how I still think the idea of it was put into motion. With that said though, tablet gaming was also ramping up and to Nintendo, it was the best of both worlds. Wii U is a natural fit on the market, but by the time it's finally hitting the market, tablet/mobile gaming is stripping so much money from the market and with iPad Mini's upcoming release, they're now in direct competition with them. It's just a fact of life and the risk one takes to stay competitive in an ever-changing world.

    Does Nintendo innovate over their DS with Wii U? Yes, they do. But, has there been controllers built into touchscreen devices before? Yes, and you to take them around with you. It's called the DS. In the terms of the market as a whole, I'm with Matt, I don't see it as an innovation.

    Still, it doesn't matter, it's going to sell and that's what really matters at the end of the day.

  • "The PSP and Vita can actually control your TV through the PS3. The iPad
    streams games from the device to the TV – the effect is the same as the
    Wii U, just the technology works in a different direction. Both Vita and
    iPad feature speakers, microphones and cameras. You can buy capacitive
    styluses for the iPad."

    They seem to operate the same and look identical up front, but you seem to not realize that their foundations differ.

    As I had stated earlier, the gamepad is part of Nintendo's efforts to evolve social gaming. You can use it in multiplayer games, simplify the interface for a more user-friendly environment so almost anyone could use it (theoretically to stay consistent with Nintendo's intentions), and provide group-based entertainment like watching a movie. The fact that this is a family-oriented entertainment device should show in Nintendo's marketing (I think they got the job done horribly). It's how they want the public to perceive it as.

    I really don't know about Sony, and I can only guess that they see it as a "feature" that's up to the developers to show that it exists. I like to think of Sony's goal of the Playstation to be the most flexible system for everyone's needs. It's like they said, "Well, it's there if you need it. Have fun now!"

    The iPad, on the other hand, is a indispensable tool for everyday life. I can only think that Steve Jobs wanted to making computing and technology more humanistic and approachable to everyday life, including games. Apple doesn't give the tablet the role of a family entertainment device like Nintendo does. Since Nintendo's foundation is video games, they want their Wii U gamepad to be used to unite families, especially for multiplayer and party games. AirPlay, on the other hand, doesn't seem to emphasize gaming. Rather, it is a general purpose tool that can function in so many ways. The reason why I say "general purpose" is because the iPad is a simplified computing experience. And computers are indispensable tools for modern society.

    Does this make sense?

  • I'm right there with you Jason. I don't feel like this is a huge step forward for me personally, and I haven't really latched onto the system yet as something I really want to play out of the gate.

  • Eureka! I just figured out why exactly I'm trying to argue my points in the first place!

    What I'm trying to do is get you to realize where you're essentially going. I get the feeling that Nintendo's mediocre marketing and your influence by Apple's iPad is leading you down the wrong path.

    The reason why I had pointed out the philosophies of the device is to look at the overall big picture. When comparing the philosophies with the other devices and the companies behind it, you should realize that they aren't the same. And, why is all of this important? If I had one thing to guess at, it's that the companies' business strategies and their important actions reflect upon the philosophies and the identities of the devices (especially from the companies' lenses).

    Now your argument that the gamepad can act as a tablet implies to me that you are setting your expectations of the Wii U (or at least the controller) as a tablet. If you are viewing the console, which is supposed to function as a "family computer" (Famicom), with the expectations of a tablet, the effects of the situation is unpredictable. For all I know, you could be be blinding yourself to what the Wii U really is and what Nintendo intends the device to function as.

    I fear that you, as a journalist, might be setting the wrong context and misinforming your readers about the Wii U as time goes by. However, I don't really think you should be held accountable for your current situation. As I have noted earlier, Nintendo had horribly marketed the device in my opinion, and you were influenced by the philosophies and success of Apple's iconic iDevices. It's almost like as though fate had driven the entire phenomenon.

    Now, if there is ever a time of the day where you are completely bored with nothing to do (unlikely), you could read this entire page once again.

  • I think that it's important at this stage to point out that the article (and my subsequent comments) are based not on my expectations of my Wii U, but my experience playing the Wii U.

    I saw a tablet-like device. I played games with a tablet-like device. The underlying technology is rather irrelevant, because what it does is provide a tablet-like gaming experience, comparable to the Vita/ PS3 or AirPlay interactions.

    The only expectations I had of the Wii U was that it was somehow innovative. That's the marketing line that Nintendo has been taking, and Nintendo's loyal fans continue to insist that there's innovation there. I was disappointed insomuch that it's not innovative at all, but other than that I am simply observing here – calling things as I see them. I'm sure you can agree that that information is far more reliable than some marketing catchphrases from Nintendo itself.

    Now, features I was not able to test included MiiVerse, and perhaps that those social interactions do bring a special X-factor to the experience. When I was playing Zombie U there was the occasional message that popped up to say "XXXX has killed XXXX's Zombie." That's likely to be a limited part of the MiiVerse experience, but again that's something I've seen elsewhere before.

    For now I am very guarded about any promises or claims Nintendo makes around online promises – it has yet to deliver an online experience that meets the bare minimum in my opinion – but I have my fingers crossed there.

  • I hope you decide to stick around here. I've really enjoyed your insightful discussions!

    For me and my opinion on what you've just stated, I see Wii U as a gaming console and nothing more. Yes, you can do other things with it, but most of those are commonplace for gaming consoles today. When I turn on a Nintendo system, it's 98% of the time in the intention to play a game.

    I completely see where you're coming from and what your stating, but I still feel that it's a gaming tablet, regardless of where the Operating System is located. But I also agree with you that Nintendo's marketing for Wii U has been very poor and that's where I see the issue here.

    Personally, I feel that Nintendo should have played the "gaming tablet" angle with Wii U. What's the most common complaint with gaming on tablets? Controls. Nintendo could've marketed Wii U as just this — "a tablet built with the gamers in mind." The hardcore would've eaten it up!

    But, "why can't I take it anywhere I want." Oh, that's an easy one: "We want Wii U to be affordable for families and this means allows us to produce Wii U at an affordable price." It's really rather simple.

    There's always two sides to every stone. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree, but in the process of doing so, we gain valuable insight into another's' mind, which is why we desire to have discussions on our site. 🙂

  • lol, enjoy playing games like Halo, Mario, Zelda, Uncharted, God of War, Call of Duty on your ipad then. Seriously, if you think an ipad is a gaming machine, you're clearly not a gamer.

  • Developers are not going to build games around the Smartglass / PS3 + Vita combos because not everyone has them to utilize. Why would a developer build a function so that 5% of the PS3 population can use their Vita with it. With the Wii U, 100% of the market has access to the gamepad, so you build your game experience around it and everyone gets to use it. You also use the word gimmick, but then you talk about Smartglass like it's innovative when it's trying to do exactly what the Wii U is doing. Plus can you imagine trying to use your tablet as a controller. Sure I can imagine holding an ipad up trying to do the same thing as a Wii U gamepad. Imitation is the best form of flattery. And Nintendo is flattered all the time.

  • "Does Nintendo innovate over their DS with Wii U? Yes, they do. But, has there been controllers built into touchscreen devices before? Yes, and you to take them around with you. It's called the DS. In the terms of the market as a whole, I'm with Matt, I don't see it as an innovation."

    Home console, versus portable. I specified throughout home console. BUT since you brought up the DS, I would agree with you that IT proves Nintendo has been involved in the TOUCH side of gaming for a long time, well before the iPad. Even before the iPhone (2.5 years before), so I don't think saying Nintendo is trying to "copy" Apple, when they were doing "touch" gaming with a home console is correct at all. If anything, this is probably Nintendo being Nintendo.

    Also though, you must remember that Nintendo has said they are working on an APP for Miiverse that will work the phones, etc. So there is a very big reason to differentiate that the GamePad is NOT a tablet, though it may be tablet like.


    "I would have thought you would have given me enough respect to respect my analysis when I say 'the experience is fundamentally no different to the iPad's experience.'"

    I can respect it, but I can respectfully disagree with it also. Calling it a tablet-like experience versus calling it a tablet is a big difference. You said in the piece, "but I do think people are going to be very disappointed with its central gimmick, the tablet controller.
    That tablet is a nice bit of hardware to be sure."

    Instead, perhaps go with GamePad instead of tablet, since that is what the official name of the controller is. For a balanced approach, instead of just comparing it to just a tablet screen, also mention how it compares to the 3DS' screen.

  • If you know how absolutely hysterical your comment is to me, you wouldn't have written it. Seriously, I appreciate it. I just burst out laughing when I read that. I was "gaming" before the NES released on the market!

    I do play every single one of those game and I play them on their respective machines. The games I play on my iPad/iPhone are built specifically for that system.

  • I think the line between home and portable consoles is beginning to blur. The majority of games on portables aren't designed to be played "on the go" any more. Sony even marketed Vita (at times) as a device that can be played while out and about, but primarily as a system that's to be played at home, which is why Sony's games haven't been very portable friendly on it. Nintendo dropping the 3DS XL on the market so quickly after the 3DS launch shows that even they realize that people are primarily playing these consoles at home more than anything as well.

    The tablet/mobile market has created a paradigm shift in the gaming industry; it's rapidly changing in a direction that nobody predicted, even just a few years ago. High production cost and bad business practices are straining the the development of home console video games and lower-end (indie) gaming is rushing to take its place.

    Where will it all end? I have no idea. A few guesses maybe, but wherever it stops, one thing is for certain — I'll still be gaming away on every device that's on the market!

    We'll have to respectfully agree to disagree here. Home consoles aren't just used for gaming any more and mobile devices aren't just used to do business and speak to faraway people any more. To me, it's one in the same these days and I feel that it will continue to rapidly blur itself together even further too.

  • Really real gamers don't care what they play their games on. They just play the best games on whatever platform suits those games the best. Real gamers have every gaming device and don't get sucked into silly console wars because they realise it's the content that matters, not what sticker is slapped on the hardware.

    You list some popular game franchises and act as though that qualifies you as a "real gamer." That's like watching The Avengers and the Transformers movies and calling yourself a "film buff." It's funny to the real film buffs who are watching movies from the 30's and foreign films in languages that the average Transformers movie fan has never heard of.

    Similarly, this "real gamer" attitude by pretend gamers is funny for those of us who have hundreds of games on each platform. Including the iOS, because there are games on iOS you just can't play anywhere else. You can't possibly understand the depth of experiences that games offer by sticking to Halo, Mario, Zelda, Uncharted, God of War and Call of Duty.

    And no, I'm not talking just about Bad Piggies (though that's awesome in itself)/

  • Before the iPhone 5 announcement I would have agreed with your iPad Mini pricing hopes…but after that event I'm not so sure.
    The reason? They announced a new iPod Touch w/ retina display and A5 processor and positioned the device at $299.
    After that happened and given the positioning of the iPad at $499 I am just stumped at the price positioning for a 7-inch Mini…$349-399 I suppose would be the most sensible but even here it is treading on the toes of an ipad2 itself still an excellent device.

  • James, I agree with your point (if not the cynical tone of your post) that many people are too quick to dismiss "gimmicks". It seems that technology that has not yet been broadly commoditized are often given the negative label of "gimmick". iPhone, in its original release, was dismissed with words like that once upon a time, as was Wii before it sold 90+ million and made a very good number of under-served customers (not the traditional gamer, perhaps) quite happy.
    I just read the discussion of the definition of "gimmick" in a post above, and it is very interesting that the word "gimmick" has nevertheless come to take on an often negative connotation. Matt, it would seem a lot of negative reaction to your article lies in that title mention…not sure if the rise was intentional hahah.

  • Andrew – actually, I also believe that the term "gimmick" doesn't necessarily need to have negative associations. I still believe the Wii and motion control is gimmicky. That doesn't mean for a moment that I dislike the Wii (or motion controls, except in FPSers, but that's a different story).

    As for the headline, I'm going to go and admit that it was probably a bit too sensationalised, though I say that in hindsight, because when I wrote it I had assumed that the "bit" in the title would mean people understood that I wasn't levelling a serious criticism at the console, just stating a reality about the console experience.

  • Golly jeez. I was struck with a fever and an exam for the last few days. I just wanted to say thanks for the compliments and reading my posts on this page.

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