So we’ve had a few days to digest Nintendo’s announcement of its new home console: the Wii U. Rotten names aside, the big focus of the console is, again, in the controller more than the processing machine. Instead of a motion sensing and IR tracking remote, this time the controller is more akin to a tablet PC with a 6.2″ WVGA touch screen, camera, accelerometer, and internal processing along with the usual cadre of buttons needed for interaction. There are TONS of questions that remain about the Wii U and chances are Nintendo won’t answer them until later next year. That’s a long way from now, so what can possibly tide us over until then? What about Nintendo’s current console, the Wii? Continue Reading
It’s a shame that I’m following this standard format in my titles for all the E3 press conferences because they lack a bit of creativity that I’d like to have in my titles. It’s even worse for this post in particular because I’m not able to convey my enthusiasm for the showing by Nintendo this afternoon. Nintendo has this great way of constantly kicking ass at E3. Even if later on we complain about the products they show, the is this weird aura of hype and wonder after a Nintendo press event. Last year it was the 3DS that stole the show and this year Nintendo dropped their next major console and great new games. Let’s run through what we saw.
First up, Nintendo’s master game design Shigeru Miyamoto came on stage to talk about the evolution of the Zelda series in its 25 years. A full orchestra accompanied Miyamoto and his translator as they announced a series of concerts based around Zelda music. I’m very excited for that. Miyamoto also announced that 3 Legend of Zelda titles will be released this year: Link’s Awakening as downloadable title on the 3DS’s new Virtual Console; the Ocarina of Time 3DS remake with upgraded graphics and new features; and Skyward Sword for the Wii. There were no further demonstrations of these games (in fact there were no game demos at all during the conference), which is a shame because I want to see how Skyward Sword is coming along. Skyward Sword was the only Wii game discussed at the conference. Face it folks, the Wii is dead. Continue Reading
IGN seems to be far more interested in Nintendo’s next home console – the Wii successor known as Project Cafe – than most other video game outlets. They seem to be putting this enthusiasm to good use though as the Nintendo team does some interesting experiments regarding the new console. One of these experiments includes a very interesting attempt to build a machine on the same level as Nintendo’s purported specifications. IGN seems to have some pretty trusted sources and so they are sticking by the specifications they have published, including a triple-core IBM CPU, AMD R700 derived GPU, and about 1GB of RAM.
IGN’s comparable machine was built from an AMD Athlon II X3, a triple core CPU running at 3.2Ghz but dropping the L3 cache of the Phenom II. Comparing an x86 AMD chip to a PowerPC IBM chip is kind of an apples to oranges comparison, but in the world of cross-platform game engines and easier development tools, differing ISAs may not be a huge difference. The larger difference will be in architectural advantages AMD has over IBM’s chip. Out-of-order processing is the big advantage of AMD’s chip over the PPE that we believe the Wii 2 is using, though IBM’s solution does have multithreading. Again, lots of architectural differences make any clear comparison very difficult. Still, kudos to IGN for trying to get the core count and clock speed right.
Graphics for IGN’s makeshift Wii 2 comes from an AMD HD4850, based on the R700 design. We can only hope that Nintendo will use something as powerful as the HD4850, since an “R700” GPU is pretty vague and while any model from that core generation would be more powerful than the Wii’s current GPU, only the top of the line from that series would be worthy of being “next generation.” RAM is 2GB, though IGN believes Project Cafe will only have around 1GB, so the additional memory takes into account the overhead from the Windows OS.
IGN’s findings seemed to show that this machine can play every game an Xbox 360 can at equal or higher settings. It even handles Crysis 2 on “very high” settings at 1080p will good frame rates. Some games look about the same and some look a little better but nothing looks any worse. Is this “next generation” worthy? Eh, not really, but it’s nice. And as IGN reminds us, games built for the actual system will be able to leverage its hardware to a much higher potential than PC hardware can. Game consoles have always had the advantage of more specialized SDKs and minimal OS overhead, which allows for games to use hardware with better efficiency and for better results.
But hey, don’t take my word for it, watch the video:
After my recent rant decrying the Wii as a failure, I’m sure I’ve pissed off many a Nintendo fan. Let me assure you that’s not my intention. I still love Nintendo as a fantastic game company that simply needs to step its hardware game up. Nintendo needs to compete in the modern electronics market and that requires them to be more accommodating to consumer expectations of the day. So with rumors erupting that Nintendo will soon launch a new console before or at E3, there’s no way I won’t join in on the speculation. Yes, this will be a specs post, but we’ll also weigh the culture of Nintendo’s next console as well.
So, what exactly is going to run this thing? Nintendo has established that it is perfectly fine with selling a low power, high margin machine. Regardless, most rumors state that the new console will support HD graphics and is either “as powerful as”, “slightly more powerfully than” or “significantly more powerful than” the 360 and PS3. Picking the first option would make economic sense for Nintendo, since the company could use commodity IBM parts and easily achieve parity with Microsoft and Sony. A “slightly more powerful” system could allow for increased efficiency or higher memory capacity in order to overcome some deficiencies in current systems. And of course there is the final option which could see Nintendo try to hit parity with today’s highest end machines (don’t hold your breath). Most chances are that we’ll see something in between “slight” and “significant” performance increases if Nintendo plays their cards right. No console in 2011 could be sold at an affordable price and still have equal specs to today’s strongest gaming rigs. Continue Reading
I can still remember the giddy nature with which I counted down the days to the release of the Nintendo Wii back in 2006. Sure, the name was stupid, but this was going to be the console that changed it all. Finally games could get back to focusing on gameplay and not graphics. Motion control would be the final frontier in-game control, allowing for unprecedented levels of interaction and immersion. It would be cheap, it would be awesome. And for over a year after launch, the glow of the Wii remained in effect. Stock was constantly depleted, whole new segments of gamers were arising as Nintendo pushed into the casual audience, the best iterations of Nintendo’s franchises launched full force on the console – dazzling us with Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. And Nintendo? Well they reaped the benefits. They demolished the competition in sales and profits, they became a media-darling in the US and Japan. Nintendo had by all intents and purposes, won this generation of the console war.
But I believe the Wii was ultimately a failure. As grand as the sales were and as strong as the hype was for a long time, here we stand in 2011 and the Wii has been largely irrelevant for the better part of 2 years. We’ve come to understand the Wii as “that console” while the 360 and PS3 are “this generation”. The Wii excluded itself from the console war but at the same time excluded itself from the mainstream. Third parties have been lack luster throughout the Wii’s lifespan, and “lazy” was an excuse that could only hold up for so long. What was the last non-Nintendo game on the Wii we really craved? Hell, what was the last Nintendo game that we really craved? I can’t think of much since Super Mario Galaxy 2 that has really captured my attention as a piece of software that I want. Continue Reading