A Challenger Approaches: Details Leak On Next-Gen Wii

Rumors regarding Nintendo's second-generation Wii have been circulating following news that the console would be demo'd at this year's E3. Unlike the Playstation or XBox 360, the Wii has never been significantly updated, which is part of why fans and gamers are curious to see what Nintendo has come up with. Although Nintendo has yet to formally announced anything, Kotaku has proven a reliable source of information in the past.

According to current info, the Wii's successor (Wii 2?) will contain:
  • 8GB of internal flash-based storage
  • 25GB optical discs (Nintendo has not stated what types of discs these are)
  • HD graphics support
The limited storage space suggests that Nintendo has no plans to offer modern games or major expansion packs for download, but would leave plenty of room for retro titles, standard definition movies, or similar fare. Storage will still be expandable via SD slot; official internal storage might increase as flash prices drop.

We'll take a Wii 2 but we're hoping for a different color.

Disc capacities, if true, suggest that new games will take advantage of HD graphics in a way the Wii heretofore hasn't; there's still no word on whether or not the next-generation system will top out at 720p/1080i, or go all the way up to 1080p. Regardless, Japanese executives have made it clear that graphics won't be the focus of the second Wii anymore than they were the focus of the first.

Current rumors suggest that the next Nintendo console's controllers will integrate a touch-sensitive display. Presumably this touchpad would function similarly to the second screen on the Nintendo DS. On a full-size console, the touchpad would likely be more versatile, and less likely to require players to look at it. On the DS, the gap between the screens is very small.  Gazing between a small device in your hands (say, an iPhone) and a TV ten feet away requires that your eyes refocus, which always requires a small amount of time. It also gets annoying pretty fast.

Other rumors being batted around include wireless Wii streaming, or being able to stream a game to the controller for remote playing anywhere. We're dubious on that last—it'd require quite a bit of Wiimote redesign, and would ruin the controller's ability to be used for much else.

Based on what we know now, the Wii 2 looks like an evolved, upgraded, and polished Wii. There's no sign that Nintendo intends to go the Kinect route or that the company is going to abandon its visual styling and game focus for more mature themes. If we're slow to criticize such tendencies, it's because the original Wii was mostly regarded as an also-ran until it hit market. While Wii sales have slowed in recent months, Nintendo has still managed to sell some 86 million of them—almost as many as the XBox 360 and Sony PS3 put together.

There's no word yet on hardware. Given the amount of time that's passed since the Wii was introduced, Nintendo could easily roll a faster Wii simply by adjusting clockspeeds on the CPU and GPU. Both the Broadway (CPU) and Hollywood (GPU) were originally built on 90nm technology. These same processors could be built on 40nm (or even 28nm) for a fraction of the power envelope, thus allowing greater speeds.

The better option would be to move away from the existing GPU, at least—Hollywood is a fixed-function GPU, meaning it lacks the programmable features that debuted with NV's G80 GPU. Nintendo, however, moves at its own pace where such things are concerned—we'll have to wait for E3 to get a glimpse of what the new console can do.