Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wii U is as much a successor to DS as to Wii


The Wii has been a huge commercial success for Nintendo, by far outselling its competitors. But its appeal was still largely limited to devoted Nintendo fans and the new casual market, with more hard core gamers shunning the system. This stands it contrast to its handheld sibling the DS which has been embraced by casual players and hard core gamers alike. Nintendo made no secret of their goal to appeal to both these markets with their new Wii U system. They want to recreate the success of the DS in the console arena. How are they doing this? Basically they have adopted the DS to the living room. The DS brought two innovations to the hand held market, its two screens and the touch screen, both found on the Wii U.

With the tablet like design of the Wii U it recreates the two screen setup of the DS. Your TV serves as the primary screen with the controller adding a second screen to your lap. The DS showed how useful a second screen could be, sometimes being used for new clever forms of gameplay but more often used to display data that would otherwise clutter up the primary screen or be delegated to the pause screen, like the map. At the very least the second screen should offer a more immersive experience by moving all forms of clutter off the primary screen, at best it could be used in clever ways to enhance the experience. My previous suggestion of moving the notebook in LA Noire from the TV to the controller is one possible way.

The second innovative DS feature was its touch screen, also found on the Wii U controller. In some ways this is an improvement over the DS with the screen being much larger. The iPad is a great example of how much more a touch screen can used for simply by increasing the screen size. In other ways it would seems to be less useful then on the DS, on which both screen are the same size and quality making it easy to simply use the touch screen as the primary screen in touch heavy games. This setup would be much less appealing on the Wii U since gamers would likely prefer to have their HDTVs acting as the primary screen, making it harder to use touch controls as the main control mechanism. Arguably this is already a problem with the 3DS on which only the upper screen has 3D support and widescreen.

Possibly the critical design choice that made the DS unlike the Wii appeal to the hard core crowd was not one of its innovations but the fact that it retained the traditional button setup, making all this new functionality optional. Something that was not the case with the Wii where the design of its controller more or less forced developers to implement motion controls. In this aspect the Wii U is more like the DS with its dual stick and traditional button setup.

For big Nintendo fans such as myself, we can purchase the system secure in the knowledge that there will always be high quality first party software there for us to enjoy no matter who else choses to embrace the system.

8 comments:

JJS said...

It's definitely a step in the DS direction, though it can't work as well. On DS, even though things were split among two screens, they were only inches apart, parallel, and you could still be looking at them at the same time. With WiiU we'll need to actively switch from one view to the other. Or, I guess, sit a foot in front of a 6" TV and hold the controller underneath.

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