What is the Wii U?
The Wii U is Nintendo's latest game console and is the successor to their Nintendo Wii. It is the first 8th generation game console (the Wii, PS3 and Xbox360 are all 7th generation consoles). Much more than just gaming, it offers the most complete infotainment choices from a single non-mobile device since the desktop computer, and is better suited to the living room than your PC is. The Wii U's unique feature is it's Gamepad, which has a capacitive touchscreen built in, making the Gamepad look like a tablet with the usual buttons and analog sticks expected on a video game controller. In this article, I will focus mainly on the non-gaming features of the Wii U to show you why I believe that more than just being a game console that is booted only for gaming, this may soon become as common in most living rooms as the TV already is.
In my own home for example, we got a PS3 as a replacement for our Blu-ray disc player, so we watch all our 3D movies (or pretty much any DVD or even CD media) through the PS3. Also, when my parents have lots of visitors over, they're more likely to display pictures through the PS3 than directly through the TV, because the PS3 reads a hard drive faster than the TV would. We have a second Wii upstairs which is where my brothers typically watch the anime we have on our external hard drive. If services like Netflix were available in Nigeria, I would be able to access it on both of these gaming machines. Now let's look at the Wii U, starting with its TVii feature.
In Nigeria, the most popular cable TV provider is DSTV so I will use that brand name in my examples in this article, because it's just more natural for me than typing, say, Sky as if I were in England. Now imagine you have a YouTube account, accounts on Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus and finally, a DSTV decoder in your house. With TVii, you can actually access all of them from your Wii U and search for content across all these services as if they were all from one source. And since the Wii U Gamepad is also a universal TV remote (it can control your TiVO or DVR too if you have those), that means once you hook them all up to your Wii U, you don't have to switch between remote controls anymore. You can control everything from your Gamepad and what's more, non of those other remote controls have a touch screen!
|This will search all your video services, not just one of them at a time|
|You should see my dad's Mii on our Wii!|
|Sports nuts will eat this up!|
Unfortunately, that feature is powered by i.TV so for regular shows or movies, you'll have to settle for info from IMDb and Wikipedia, but then again, you can't have live stats in a movie anyway. You might as well just read the Wikipedia page of the movie.
|Get additional info on the show you're watching, from your Universal Remote (Gamepad)|
|Tweeting during a match. Again, sports nuts will eat this up!|
Surf the Web, On your TV, from your Living Room Couch!
Again, it won't be the first time a game console has such a feature, but it's probably the first time you'll actually use it. After browsing on both my PS3 and Wii once, I never tried to do so again. They are only useful for browsing through the PlayStation Store and Nintendo eShop respectively. Though the Wii U's browser is still not as good as what you can get on a computer, it's the best you'll get if you and your friends are playing a game or watching a movie, and suddenly decide to pause that to check out a website without leaving the living room to go get a laptop or tablet.
Watch Shows, Play Games, Surf the Web, without the TV!
Every gamer will love this feature! If your parents want to watch the news and you're in the middle of an intense boss battle in Ninja Gaiden 3, just move the entire game to the Gamepad and let them use the TV. The Wii U is the first gaming console capable of operating entirely independent of the TV! The same thing applies to the non-gaming features. And if you watched the Wii U Concept video at the top of this page, you'll see that while I can browse through all my pictures and videos on the Gamepad, I can choose which ones to send to the TV for my visitors to see!
Finally, the Wii U offers features such as Video Chatting and a built-in drawing app. I can only imagine that Nintendo will add a few more apps over the years, and third parties (especially the hacking community) will add quite a few more. Hope you remember though that the Gamepad isn't a tablet, it is the controller for the console and so it can only be used within the house!
|That's the console behind the Gamepad|
What about games?
Yes, ultimately, the Wii U is still a game console. It is Nintendo's first High Definition system and while it is more powerful than the 7th generation HD consoles (PS3 and XBox360), it isn't as powerful as what people expect from the 8th generation machines. The PS4 and Nextbox will definitely be more powerful in terms of CPU specs, but they are very unlikely to present the unique gaming opportunities this one does. Apart from the ability to play totally without the TV, the Gamepad offers secondary views, information and menus while the main action of the game stays on the TV. Touch screen, accelerometer, built-in mic, NFC, built-in cameras, the gameplay possibilities will only be limited by the imagination of the game developers.
|The Legend of Zelda, Wii U demo. See the quick weapon selection via the touchscreen|
But what about Nintendo's track record of focusing only on family-friendly, colorful and happy games? What if I want to play games aimed at a mature audience? On previous Nintendo consoles, mature-themed games were few and far between but Nintendo seems to be making an effort to capture both the mature audience and their usual audience (those of us that don't mind family friendly games like the masterpieces that Mario games are). I mean, Nintendo published Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's edge for the Wii U and will publish Bayonetta 2 as well. In the past, even if mature games like that found their way to a Nintendo console, it would have been published by a third party, not Nintendo.
You can search the Web for more info if you're interested in learning about other Wii U features such as "Mii Verse", the specs or internal memory, but I think my article is long enough and should have gotten the message across. The Wii U shalt invade thine living room!
Check out this video for a peek at the games available for the Wii U within it's launch window (November 2012 - March 2013). Strongest launch window I've ever seen for a console. I counted 16 games I want on that list! I'll never have enough time to play all that! Click here for a written list if you can't watch the video.