Nintendo finally gave some clarity to its Wii U plans at E3 2012, but ultimately what do we actually know about The Big N's next-gen solution? Sure, we've seen the previews, pored over the pics, and even gone a few rounds with early prototypes, but there's so much we're not entirely certain about.
Luckily, the video game community is packed with opinions and predictions concerning Nintendo's next move, and since Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata and his team are staying pretty silent until their big reveal, it can't hurt to review the latest rumors...
It will continue being called the Wii U
In spite of all the pre-E3 2012 rumors seen on sites like CVG (opens in new tab) Nintendo stuck to its guns and the Wii U remained the Wii U this year. Though many had voiced concern over the name and its ability to confuse consumers who may not realize it was new system, the name remains unchanged. You better get used to explaining the difference to your grandma.
Probability: 00.01%. Nintendo had a dozen chances to back down from the name and call it the "Nintendo Explosion" or whatever, but the publisher stayed true. Despite concerns of market confusion, Nintendo probably decide to stick with the name due to it being publicized for the last year. Unlike the price or release date, the name is one of the few things Nintendo has been quite clear on.
It will cost around $300
The total the sum of Wii U's parts is being pegged at $180, according to one insider close to Nintendo's manufacturing process, who told the Canadian blog Forget the Box (opens in new tab) that Nintendo is attempting make a little coin on the sale of each console by pricing it somewhere in the neighborhood of $300.
The $180 tally includes the components required to assemble the Wii U controller, which themselves are estimated to cost roughly $50 in total. The remaining $130 is presumably the cost of producing the base machine itself, which is reported to include HD components (allowing for 1080p resolution, no less), 802.11n Wi-Fi, four USB ports, an expandable internal storage, numerous outputs, and other standard features.
The source suggested Nintendo is controlling manufacturing prices by favoring cost-effective tech, stating, Nintendo chose an economical GPU and CPU that could keep up with the performance of todays current consoles, but keep hardware costs down to maximize profits. Nintendo got a bargain price on the custom GPU and CPU that the Wii U uses.
Probability: 70%. A $300 price range would win favor with both Nintendo investors and consumers alike; earning a little dough for the former, and offering an attractively priced next-gen console for the latter. That said, the report fails to account for other costs associated with manufacturing the Wii, including package contents, software, shipping fees, and other production bills.
It will launch this November
Sunday November 18, 2012, is said to be the day Nintendo will release its Wii successor into the wilds. The projected date first appeared in an internal email to Media Land employees in Japan. Shortly thereafter, it cropped up in a leaked GameStop email (above) between store management, which read: Sunday, November 18 seems to be the Wii U release date!. You can relive the entire saga in our report, Wii U will be in stores this November, claim retailers (opens in new tab)
Probability: 80%. Nintendo head Satoru Iwata has been pitching a holiday 2012 release window for the Wii U for months (read one of many such instances in: Nintendo reaffirms Wii U's 2012 release; Street Fighter X Tekken producer teases hardware changes (opens in new tab)). Include the fact that Nintendo's GameCube arrived in North America on November 18, 2001, and the Wii followed five years later on November 19, 2006, and it's easy to see Nintendo has an affinity for mid-November launches. The company also has a thing for Sundays, and November 18, 2012, fits the bill. With all that said, it may be a while before we know for sure. This April, Nintendo confirmed the Wii U's release date won't be revealed at E3 (opens in new tab).
It will compete with today's tech
Nintendo's refusal to talk system specs has opened the floor to a number of conflicting rumors regarding the Wii U's hardware. They range from the Wii U being twice as powerful as Xbox 360 (opens in new tab) to it being weaker than Sony and Microsoft's current consoles (opens in new tab). We've put a handy feature together compiling the most notable industry quotes regarding Wii U's hardware in So how powerful is the Wii U exactly? Let's look at all the evidence (opens in new tab), but the short story is developers are expecting Nintendo's next machine to give the current crop of consoles a run for their money, but fall short when the next generation begins.
So what is The Big N packing under the Wii U's hood? Again, it depends who you ask. According to the source at Forget the Box, Nintendo wants to power its console without breaking the bank: Cutting production costs to maximize profits is Nintendos main concern with the Wii U....Nintendo chose an economical GPU and CPU that could keep up with the performance of todays current consoles, but keep hardware costs down to maximize profits.
For now, the consensus (opens in new tab) is that Wii U's CPU will be a IBM 3-GHz 45nm chip with embedded DRAM, similar to the Power 7 variant used to power the Watson supercomputer. As for the GPU, the going theory is that the console will run on last gen Radeon technology; specifically something similar to the R770 chip featured in AMD's last generation of cards.
Probability: 99.9%. We're fairly certain Nintendo won't show up to the party with anything less than what the competitors are offering. According to comments made by Gearbox's Brian Martel, one of the people working on the Wii U version of Aliens: Colonial Marines, in Wii U improves on current gen, says Gearbox, but system isn't next generation (opens in new tab), the Wii U will feature textures and resolutions that you haven't seen on [the current] generation, but that it will ultimately be a really cool stop-gap in between this generation and the next.
That's not all that encouraging, but it's still one of the more positive pieces of feedback we've run across.
It will support multiple Wii U tablets (but not at launch)
Shortly after the Wii U was first announced, Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata stated the system could technically support two Wii U tablets, but that Nintendo is opting to limit the experience to one tablet per system to reduce costs, explaining, In the future, we may look at what other opportunities there are for gameplay and, how having two of those controllers might create fun or interesting new styles of play, but of course in doing that, it would require a consumer to purchase an additional controller. Therefore, we would need to carefully consider how we could create such an experience and, potentially, how we could ensure that there would be enough value within that experience for the consumer to accept that cost and make that purchase.
What a difference a year makes. Perhaps in response to consumer reaction, Reggie announced on stage at E3 2012 that the system will use two GamePads simultaneously after all. Nintendo reps later admitted that the feature does hurt the system's output, but they're learning to adapt. That adaptation will take time however, as the company also confirmed that no launch games will have the feature.
Probability: 90%. We like that Nintendo changed its stance on this, but it seems to have happened too late for us to see the benefits of it this year. We'll only know how successful this hardware shift can be on a technical level once the first compatible games are shown, and who knows when that will be. Ultimately we bet it will be used as moderately as most Nintendo add-ons
The tablet will be a multitasking wonder machine
From what we gathered during our session with Nintendo's tablet interface in Wii U: hands-on with Nintendo's new touch-screen controller (opens in new tab), the core function of the tablet will be to act as a multi-purpose input device for the Wii U console, moving seamlessly from being an interactive inventory screen for games like Zelda to a personal monitor for multiplayer titles, or a customized input device for MMOs. As for the physical controller itself, the version we test drove featured a 6.2-inch touchscreen, 420p resolution, front and rear cameras, a motion sensing accelerometer and gyroscope, dual analogue sticks, rumble features, and a built-in microphone.
No doubt, Nintendo is positioning the tablet as the Wii U's key feature. But while we were impressed with our initial testing, Nintendo has indicated the controller will ship with even more functionality that what the press has already seen. For example, Nintendo has stated the Wii U tablet will be able to play games independently from the TV, with the caveat that it is constantly tethered to the base unit. Early rumblings also indicate the tablet will be capable of high quality video chatting, and that it will moonlight as a platform for Wii U apps (more on that later).
Probability: 90%. There are very few rumors left regarding the Wii U tablet, but from what we've seen ourselves, the controller will most definitely be more than a gimmick. With Nintendo slated to show off a final version at E3 2012, we wouldn't be surprised if there are a few more killer features waiting in the wings.
The tablet will speak to toys
Among the Wii U tablet's many alleged talents is its ability to scan real-world objects and recreate them as in-game objects. This feature was most recently demonstrated in a leaked video for the Wii U version of Rayman Legends, wherein shiny happy actors gave Rayman a health boost by placing a heart-shaped figurine on the tablet's display. The theory is the tablet will be equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) components allowing it to scan and interpret toys and figurines with embedded NFC identifiers. The technology is thought to be similar to the Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) wizardry used in the Skylanders line of video game toys. Watch the process in action in Leaked Rayman Legends trailer reveals Wii U features (opens in new tab).
Probability: 99%. Back in January 2012, Nintendo slipped in news of Wii U's NFC technology in its third quarter financial report (opens in new tab). Unless its strategy has changed in the few months since (which is very possible), it's likely Wii U games will ship with their own merchandise line.
It will be ideal for MMOs
Consoles have never been a haven for MMOs, but many in the industry believe Wii U could be the system that bucks the trend. In a recent interview with UK's Official Nintendo Magazine, Funcom developer Joel Bylos spoke emphatically about the Wii U tablet's ability to handle PC-esque MMO inputs, stating, Wii U could be the first real console on which running an MMORPG without compromise is plausible...The controller is perfect for lining up those rows of hotbars that are essential in most MMOs. A customizable touchscreen interface combined with the 3D spatial movement of a console controller could be a winner.
Other studios have apparently taken note of Wii U's MMO-friendly design. Ubisoft was spotted hiring for a Wii U MMORPG (opens in new tab), while LucasArts has booked space at E3 2012 to show off its own Wii U MMO (opens in new tab). Meanwhile, Square Enix revealed Dragon Quest X: The Five Awakening Races Online for Wii and Wii U (opens in new tab) last September (confirmed only for Japan so far), and there's been suggestions Blizzard's World of Warcraft and Sega's Phantasy Star Online 2 could also be making the trip.
Probability: 80%. Wii U's tablet looks custom-made for MMO controls, and the early interest from major developers bodes well for its future as a PC-to-console bridge.
It will have a strong(ish) starting lineup
Nintendo has vowed to learn from its 3DS launch mistakes by supporting the Wii U with a solid - and more importantly, diverse - lineup right from day one (or close thereafter). "We expect to have great first party titles but also great software support in general for Wii U when it comes out later this year, confirmed Nintendo of America's VP of sales and marketing Scott Moffitt, in a January 2012 interview with Industry Gamers (opens in new tab). "I think with Wii U we want to make sure we have great software right at launch."
At E3 this year we finally got some more concrete details on the collection of launch games and it was looking mostly good. Nintendo officially revealed Pikmin 3 (opens in new tab) and announced New Super Mario Bros U (opens in new tab) which just might be the first new Mario launch game a Nintendo console has seen in sometime. The company also has the minigame collection/virtual theme park Nintendo Land (opens in new tab), but we remain a little skeptical of that one.
What are the third party publishers bringing to Ninty's table? Here's a sample of the Wii U games we've seen so far:
Aliens Colonial Marines (Sega): Nintendo hasn't lied to you about the Wii U's future game library, but it has let you assume A LOT... (opens in new tab)
Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft): Assassin's Creed 3 confirmed for Nintendo Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3. (opens in new tab)
Darksiders II (Vigil Games): Darksiders II: Vigil Games confirms Wii U launch title will feature added abilities (opens in new tab)
ZombiU (Ubisoft): Watch our recent gameplay demo (opens in new tab)
Project P-100 (Platinum Games): Watch us play the unique title (opens in new tab)
Ninja Gaiden 3 (Tecmo Koei): Ninja Gaiden 3 will be Wii U launch title, PS3/360 get the game February (opens in new tab)
Rayman Legends: Our E3 hands-on (opens in new tab)
Skylanders Giants: Our E3 hands-on (opens in new tab)
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition: Our E3 hands-on (opens in new tab)
Super Smash Bros. Wii (Nintendo): Super Smash Bros Wii U - Characters that must join the next game's roster (opens in new tab)
Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Wii Fit U, and Mass Effect 3 were just a few more of the seemingly launch titles on show. Though we'll only know once we played them, in theory this list of games looks way stronger than what the 3DS launched with.
Probability: N/A. Adding Wii U next to a rundown of compatible systems seems to be the trendy thing to do for game developers right now. Until we have working copies in our hand, however, it's difficult to tell which studios are actually on board, and which will really be ready for launch.
It will download GameCube games
Nintendo confirmed last year that the Wii U will be backwards compatible with Wii games and peripherals, but will not be able to play GameCube games. Worry not, Cubers, because in addition to expanding its online offerings, Nintendo is said to be making GameCube games available to download over the so-called Nintendo Network.
GameCube discs will not be compatible with Wii U, but a number of the games that were playable on GameCube can be downloaded from WiiWare, confirmed Nintendo rep Amber McCollum in an mid-2011 interview (read: Rumor: Wii U to offer downloadable GameCube games? (opens in new tab)).
Probability: 99%. Nintendo hasn't divulged its full digital plans yet, but it would be a big shock if it didn't makes its at least some of its library of GameCube games available on the Wii U.
The Wii U will support full retail downloads, possible app store
This January, Satoru Iwata revealed Nintendo's intentions to support the Wii U and 3DS with a new online platform, called the Nintendo Network (see: Nintendo developing Nintendo Network for Wii U and 3DS (opens in new tab)). According to his presentation, and the accompanying fiscal reports (opens in new tab), the service will assign Wii U owners with personal accounts which can be shared by multiple family members to access the service and enjoy the digital treats therein. Then, this April, the company confirmed plans to offer same-day-as-retail downloads of its first party titles for the Wii and 3DS, beginning in August 2012 with the release of the New Super Mario Bros 2 for the latter handheld (read: Wii U release date won't be revealed at E3, retail games will be downloadable on Wii U and 3DS (opens in new tab))
This alone is enough to make us excited for Nintendo's digital future, however reports indicate (opens in new tab) Nintendo is also planning a Wii U App Store for its next console, offering iPad-esque apps such as MLB.TV that will run independently on the Wii U tablet. Tommy Refenes, Team Meat co-founder and creator of Super Meat Boy, told CVG (opens in new tab) he anticipates Nintendo will open up its Wii U stores to basement developers, explaining, "So you can develop on Nintendo App Store, you can develop on Wii U eShop, and you can develop on Wii U physical media. That's what I anticipate."
Probability: 90%. Nintendo's already confirmed the full digital downloads, and an App Store seems all but sewn up.
Weve heard multiple times that the version of the Wii U shown at last years E3 wasnt the final version. Though we dont know for sure the extent of the hardware redesign, it sure looks like the tablet-style controller has been marginally updated. In our news post Revised Wii U controller image leaks to Twitter - actual analog sticks, other minor changes shown (opens in new tab) someone tweeted an image of a revised version of the Wii U controller that replaces the slider-style pads with analogue sticks. Additionally some buttons and other UI elements were moved around. Could this be the final controller?
Probability: 95%. Based on what weve heard so far about the system, these kind of alterations are fitting. And then theres a source, allegedly a tester for a developer that would surely have the final dev hardware. Add to that the tweet being deleted later that day only makes it seem more true.
Proprietary discs and other bits and pieces
We've covered the rumors, semi-rumors, outlandish-rumors, and 99%-confirmed rumors, but what else do we actual know? Well for one, we've been told the Wii U console will run off a proprietary game discs reported to carry 25G of data. Unfortunately, this will make the system incompatible with Blu-Ray and DVDs, but the other rumors regarding Nintendo's online stores are true, there will be more than enough content to fill the gap.
So... did we miss anything? To be fair, tracking all the hearsay about Nintendo's next console is a daunting task. Let us know if you've come across any extra tidbits, and we'll keep you updated on the rumors as they pop up. Deal?