Nintendo’s announcement of the Wii U was not entirely surprising as rumors of a new controller with a screen had already surfaced in the weeks leading up to this weeks E3 announcement. When announced the focus was entirely on the Wii U controller itself leaving the console details vague. After the press conference I was able to get some hands on time with the controller.
The Wii U controller does require two hands to hold. I saw at least two people almost drop the Wii U controller because they attempted to snap a photo with the Wii U controller in one hand and their camera in the other. It has a 6.2-inch, 16:9 touch screen. This touch screen is single touch only. While this older single touch technology is undoubtedly cheaper it will inevitably suck for iPhone and iPad users who are accustomed to using two fingers to zoom. Because of this the screen came across more like a giant sized Nintendo DS screens and less like new technology. particularly after seeing the PSVita screen that did have multi touch capabilities and an OLED screen with a better resolution.
While holding the controller my first thought was that Nintendo is going after some of Apple’s business as the Wii U and console will undoubtedly be priced cheaper than the iPad. Browsing the internet on the Wii U controller and the touch functionality (even though its single touch) will appeal to those without an iPad. Those customers will be able to purchase seemingly “iPad like” functionality and a game system for less than the price tag of an iPad.
The feel of the Wii U controller is much more akin to a toy and less like a serious weighty and solid device like the iPad. The plastic has the same feel that other Wii peripherals such as the Classic Controller, Nunchuck and Wii Zapper have when held. The feel is something that is more “Fisher Price” feeling and less solid than an Apple or Sony device would.
The controller is rechargeable and has a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, rumble feature, camera, microphone, stereo speakers, sensor strip and a stylus. There are also two analog sticks which felt fine as did all of the buttons though the triggers felt fine and more like buttons and not pressure sensitive. Not as good as the Dual Shock 3 or Xbox 360 controller triggers.
Admittedly after my time with the Wii U my excitement from the press conference was lowered as the device did not feel very high tech. In person the screen was smaller than I hoped it would be and single touch did not help garner excitement. The Wii U will sell when released but as an iPad owner and multiplayer game lover I am not sure its a device for me. I will most likely buy a Wii U for the inevitable HD Zelda game but I would bet the Wii U in my household will end up collecting as much dust as my Wii collected in the months following the release.
The demos they did show were not very impressive. I do not consider showing mini games and tech demos at the announcement of a new system anything to be excited about. New Super Mario Bros with Mii’s were not a big deal and it seemed like they thought it would be received as such. Much of the same augmented reality tech shown for Wii U was also being shown in Sony’s PSVita booth and that’s strictly a handheld device. In all the Wii U device is good but was not wow inducing at all.