Schrodinger’s Cat: How the Wii U is, and is not, a next-gen console

6 mins read

Going forwards, if you ever want to demonstrate a real-life example of Schrodinger’s Cat, you need only refer back to the moment where the Wii U was released. This precise moment is greatly dividing the gaming community about what, exactly, is a next-gen console.

The Wii U has proved itself to be a rather curious console to say the least, but it has no doubt gained a noteworthy amount of acclaim early on for its eccentric design and in offering gamers some new ways to play games. Bottom line, the Wii U is indeed an evolution for us – not necessarily in the direction we were expecting, but progression nonetheless.

However, a persistent argument that is not going away with regards to the Wii U is that the console is supposedly not a “true” next-gen console. In spite of everything the console may have achieved already, a considerable number of people believe that there are conventional standards a next-gen console should attain to be considered a proper advancement over current-gen consoles – and the Wii U does not meet those criteria.

To be quite frank, there is no universal definition as to what a next-gen console is (fully discounting the “traditional” definition at this point), which is contrary to what may well be popular belief. Nonetheless, I think there can be a unified observation as to what a successful next-gen console can be determined as: if it changes the games industry – moreover, changes it well and for the better – it is a next-gen console.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size”; I would like to take some time to reflect on this, and substitute it as to how it relates to this particular discussion.

Take the Nintendo 64: back in its era, this was a console that, aside from bringing us many classic favourites, first taught us that it was possible to properly explore games in three-dimensional space. The Wii? Before 2005, if anyone had told us that motion control could be implemented with such success in gaming, we would probably have laughed them out the room – yet look at us and all our assortments now. As for the PS3 and Xbox 360? Pushing the phase of HD entertainment is essentially what has now enabled us to better appreciate the domestic visual artistry that is video-games.

These are but a few examples of consoles that used to be the next generation of gaming in their time. Retrospectively, these are introductions that left a significant mark in the industry, and in many cases, built the foundation that other consoles expanded or re-designed upon.

So, does the Wii U meet these principles? Well, it would be naïve of me to pass a final verdict at this stage; the console has only just seen its inauguration, and we need to see how well its intents are valued further down the line. Will it really bring about change? Will its philosophies be largely ignored (as is what happened with the Wii, aside from Nintendo’s own games)? Will its designs be appreciated by us?

It is impossible to say, but I will say one thing. At first glance, the Wii U seems to be a console that was designed rather scattershot; it reaches into many different directions at once, and does not seem to know what it is doing. On the other hand, this professed array of madness with the console may very well be its greatest asset – it gives developers the legroom to be resourceful and experiment from many different angles.

So, to round up this entire hubbub: what is a next generation console? As I expressed before, if it changes the playing field – again, changes it well and for the better – it is a successful next-gen console. Is the Wii U a next-gen console? Well, given what I have said throughout this whole piece, I would say the question “Will the Wii U be a next-gen console?” is more accurate – and unless you have had past experience as a fortune teller at some run-down carnival, to answer to this right now would be impossible.

But to end this on a credibly optimistic note, it has certainly displayed the potential to be proven as one.

– Farida Y
Follow me on Twitter: @FaridaKYusuf

This is the bio under which all legacy articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

  • Great piece Farida!

    I think Reggie's statement that "Wii U is a new generation of home consoles" is very accurate. Prior to the Wii and dating back to the Commodore 64 days, all home consoles have been proven "next generation" by the amount of power they have under the hood. Nintendo 64 was a big powerhouse when it released, yet it limited itself by using the expensive cartridge format and third parties left Nintendo in flocks to Sony's PlayStation, because it was cheaper and easier to develop for, not to mention they were excited about the audio/visual possibilities that the CD format offered.

    Wii didn't even try to compete in power, but in my mind, the Wii was the start of a "new generation of home consoles," not the Wii U – it's a continuation of the foundation that Wii built. By the traditional standards that have been around since the original home consoles – Wii U is definitely not a "next generation" console though.

    Honestly, I'm beginning to get a bit worried about the Wii U. It's sitting on store shelves only a few weeks after its release (even more so nowadays) and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of excitement behind it with developers (that don't already put a lot of support behind Nintendo's consoles). I'm hoping that this all turns around very quickly.

  • I think the point that we just can't tell if the Wii U is a new generation or not until it proves itself is a fair one.

    Virtual Boy was a massive step up over the previous generation for Nintendo handhelds, but no one considers it as a "generation" because it had next to no impact on the market.

    I like the idea that console generations should be assessed not on power, but on market impact. The Wii deserves to be considered a part of the same generation as the PS3 and Xbox 360 because, while it was no more powerful than a PS2, it competed successfully in the same generation.

    If the Wii U competes successfully with the PS4 and next Xbox it will be "next generation." If it doesn't, then it will be another Dreamcast or Virtual Boy.

    As for worrying about the Wii U. It's way too early for that, and your concerns can be largely answered by simple market dynamics. The early adopters have bought the thing, and it is now too late to sell in bulk for Christmas (retailers sell the bulk of their Christmas stock 2-4 weeks out). You'll likely see an uptick in sales come the post-Christmas shopping period.

    The console will start to generate mainstream interest (if it is going to at all) about mid next year. And that's about the point where the broader industry starts to get on board with it. For now the reason you haven't seen many announcements is because all the announcements have already been made. Bayonetta 2 is on the way, Tecmo Koei has a solid partnership with Nintendo, Ubisoft has already released its launch support and has Rayman on the way.

    To expect much else is to lump unfair expectations on a new hardware release.

  • See, personally, I don't see Wii as being in the same generation as the PS3/360. Wii is and always has been its own thing. It's a console that didn't even get the vast majority of major third party multiplatform titles, yet it outsold the others, with games that were for the most part exclusive to it alone – it didn't really compete with the other consoles, like all of Nintendo's console before it have.

    Wii was a really big deal for a few years and then the casual industry moved on to Kinect, and now it's in mobile. I know that the next year will show the future of Wii U and I've never been one to call "failure" (which is absurd when used pre-emptively, in my opinion), but I fear that Wii U has some really great aspects to it, but ones that are too similar to the highlights found with tablets, and that it has a real possibility of being overshadowed by the ever-growing libraries of the mobile marketplaces.

    In short, I have strong doubts that we will see Wii U gaining the mass market appeal that the Wii did before it. It's not because of what the Wii U is or isn't, instead my basis for this comes from where the industry has trended to over the past year, which is away from dedicated consoles as a whole.

    Depending on what the upcoming consoles from Sony/Microsoft look like, I think Wii U will follow its predecessor. If the whispers I've heard about the PS4 developer units are true, this will indeed be the case – even if it isn't the biggest upgrade in the visuals department. But, this could also speak ill for Sony, as it will come with a higher price tag, in an industry that's doesn't want to spend $250 for a highly advanced portable.

    I've got worries for both of these upcoming consoles. Well, let me revise that: I think Microsoft's upcoming consoles is going to be slightly more powerful than the PS3 and fully focus on a new version of Kinect, which will come with a $300-400 price tag – staying affordable and really applying pressure on the Wii U. Ironically, this would indeed redefine the generational gap if this come to fruition – wouldn't it.

    I enjoy the hypothetical. I called that the Wii U would be a new DS-styled home console that streamed the content from a base console about six months prior to its unveiling – I was dead on the money. I called the Wii's massive success prior to its release and the 3DS's weak launch. The only one that I've been off on it a good while is the Vita's terribly slow start. I knew it would be slow, but it's far, far less than I had predicted.

  • If MS intends to pack-in Kinect 2.0 AND provide significantly more powerful hardware, given that Nintendo is already taking a loss on similar projected volume, I don't see them matching Nintendo's pricing. Microsoft isn't in the same place to throw money at a loss-leader like they were in 2006…then again they do still have plenty of cash so technically they could hahah. Maybe justify the expense as the cost to establish their own Windows/XBox consumer cross-platform synergy?

  • "At first glance, the Wii U seems to be a console that was designed rather scattershot; it reaches into many different directions at once, and does not seem to know what it is doing."

    I consider the whole "not/next-gen" argument semantical since it does indeed depend on the individual's notion of progression. In the end it will still come down to good games and good marketing (even if word-of-mouth and "grassroots" will have to do the job that, at least, NOA seems incapable of doing).
    The quote above though I found the most fascinating. "Scattershot" is a nice way to phrase the idea that Nintendo themselves are unsure where their market is moving and who their consumers will/should be. They are openly making overtures to the "core" market while trying to see how much of their Wii market can be salvaged with titles like Sing and Wii Fit. Besides the GamePad itself, I find TVii the most interesting play. Waiting to see how they improve the UX of consuming TV content.

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