Nov. 18--It doesn't seem like it, but it's been six years since the Nintendo Wii stormed the entertainment scene and brought motion control and casual gaming to the masses.
Nintendo saw great success with the Wii, but the system is starting to show its age against HD-capable consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The Wii's stranglehold on the casual game market also has been under siege, as low-cost tablet and smartphone games take sales from their $50-plus console game counterparts.
Today, Nintendo will release the Wii U, a new system designed to bridge the core and casual markets. The Wii U is a new console, not an add-on for the existing Wii.
Here's a look:
The Wii U takes the casual sensibilities of the original Wii and merges them with the HD graphics capabilities of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Wii U is the first Nintendo system to support high-definition resolutions up to 1080p; previous Nintendos maxed out at 480p. The boost in resolution owes its thanks to the Wii U's upgraded processor and graphics card, which allows for graphics closer to the high-end consoles.
The biggest addition to the Wii U is the GamePad controller, a combination of a tablet and traditional controller. The controller is fairly big, sporting a 6.2-inch touch screen at its center with traditional controls and buttons on the sides, but doesn't feel too big or heavy. It has motion control technology, speakers and a microphone built-in.
Besides assisting in gameplay, the GamePad's biggest draw is that, in supporting games, it can be used as the sole device for gameplay. No longer will the TV be tied up while someone is playing a game; the player can turn the TV off and use the GamePad to play the game entirely from the couch.
At this time, the Wii U only supports the use of one GamePad controller, so other players can use Wii Remote Plus controllers from the original system, or try Nintendo's new Wii U Pro controller, which is styled similar to the Xbox 360's controller.
Pickings are usually slim during console launch days, but Nintendo has done a good job making sure Wii U owners have some variety the first day out.
The big first-party titles out at launch are "Nintendo Land" and "New Super Mario Bros U." Both are mainstream games that should appeal to a wide variety of players.
Other high-profile launch day titles include "Assassin's Creed III," "Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition," "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," "Ninja Gaiden 3," "Skylanders: Giants" and "ZombiU."
Top-quality Wii U games will retail for $59.99, a bump over the $49.99 cost of Wii games. Nintendo also will sell select games digitally, which can purchased directly through the Wii U system.
Both a Basic and Deluxe version of the Wii U will be sold at launch.
The Basic version costs $299.99 and comes with white hardware. It includes the console, one GamePad controller, GamePad stylus, sensor bar, HDMI cable and power cables.
The Deluxe version costs $349.99 and comes with black hardware. It includes everything in the Basic package, as well as the "Nintendo Land" game and stands for the GamePad and console packed in. It also comes with a promotion that allows Deluxe package owners to earn points on digital purchases, which can be redeemed for free games.
Wii U launch consoles and games are available beginning today. Console launches are difficult to predict, but early buzz is that the system will be limited at launch and could be difficult to find through the holiday season.
For information on the Wii U, view Nintendo's hub at www.nintendo.com/wiiu.
(c)2012 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.)
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