Missing The Mark: Nintendo Wii U Review

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Introduction and Specifications

History has a funny way of repeating itself, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nearly six years ago to the day, Nintendo completely changed the way the world viewed console gaming. The Wii remote (affectionately dubbed Wiimote by most) was a brand new paradigm in gaming control, and it ushered in a wave of motion-based gaming that forced Sony to follow suit with the Move, and Microsoft to do likewise with Kinect.

Pundits seemed certain that Nintendo's risk taking would be its undoing. They seemed certain that motion-based gaming could never be a success in a world long dominated by joystick or push-button controllers. But Nintendo pulled it off. For nearly a year after its release, the Wii was practically impossible to find in stock. Sure, those fixated on first-person shooters continued to lean on the Xbox 360 and PS3, but an entire segment of "casual gamers" flocked to the Wii and made motion gaming a living room staple.

A lot can change in six years, though. Between the release of the Wii and the new Wii U, the entire smartphone universe was reinvented. iOS and Android were born, and gaming moved into an entirely new platform on the mobile front. In terms of input, the Kinect and more recently Windows 8 ushered in very real use cases for touch-based control, urging users to rely less on the conventional mouse / keyboard / gamepad and more on touch panels, gestures and waves.

Before we venture any further down the rabbit hole, let's take a look at the hardware we're working with.

Nintendo Wii U
Specifications & Features
Launch Date (U.S.)
November 18, 2012
Models / Colors
8GB Wii U Basic Kit (White) / 32GB Wii U Deluxe Kit (Black)
~550MHz AMD Radeon-based High Definition GPU
GamePad Display
6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD touch screen (854 x 480 resolution)
1.24GHz IBM Power-based multi-core processor
2 GB of DDR3 RAM (1GB allocated for system functions + 1GB allocated for games)
8GB or 32GB internal memory (~4GB allocated for system software)
SD expansion slot

4 USB 2.0 ports for external HDD connections
Up to 1080p output via HDMI (cable included) / component (not included)
Six-channel linear PCM audio output via HDMI
Sensor Bar (included)
Approximately 1.8 inches high, 10.6 inches deep and 6.75 inches long
3.5 pounds (1.5kg)
Wii U and Wii game discs (no support for DVD, Blu-ray, etc.)
802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Ethernet via option USB adapter, NFC (on GamePad)
Backwards compatible with Wii games and Wiimote controllers
$299.99 (Basic Kit) / $349.99 (Deluxe Kit with Nintendo Land game + GamePad charging cradle)

The Wii U has arrived at a time when there's a notable shift going on in the way consumers view and use technology. We're undergoing a transition away from the input devices of yesteryear, and we're teaching an entire generation that interacting with technology can be done in a multitude of ways. Just as the Wii ushered in the Wiimote, the Wii U is ushering in yet another new control mechanism. It's the first major console to ship with a primary controller that not only has an LCD in the middle of it, but a touch panel that acts as the centerpiece of control.

Calling the Wii U a "gaming console" may be doing it a disservice, or at the very least, understating reality. The Wii U is not only capable of being more than a gaming machine, it's built with entertainment as a pillar of its functionality. Is Nintendo's next-gen Wii deserving of a slot in your home entertainment center? Join us in the pages ahead as we seek to answer precisely that.

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