Imminent to the E3 expo arriving the next few weeks, Nintendo has announced that they will be unveiling their latest home console, for now dubbed the "Wii 2," the "Wii HD," or "Project Cafe." Naturally, speculation is high, and likely in no small part to the faction of relatively disappointed gamers who felt that the Wii underdelivered on its promise. Nintendo hasn't said much on the subject, other than confirming that the new console will be "more powerful than the competition," and be capable of HD output.
While rumors swirl about things as far-fetched as onboard Blu-Ray devices and touch-capacitive remotes, I'm reminded of my own dissatisfaction with the Wii experience. I felt that given the device's similar release date with the 360 and PS3, the lack of HD output was fairly glaring, not to mention its inability to use its online capabilities in any meaningful way, or use its DVD drive to, you know, play DVDs.
As well, over time I became more and more annoyed that it seemed like the Wii entrenched itself solely as a first-party machine, and sales figures have come to support that assertion. The overwhelming majority of Wii game sales are attributed to franchises owned or licensed solely by Nintendo, such as Mario Bros, Zelda, Pokemon, and Metroid, or peripheral-specific titles also first-party in nature (like Wii Fit). It seems that these feelings were shared by many developers, who left the Wii console over complaints of difficult translative coding across the platform, as well as sluggish sales compared to ports on other consoles.
So Nintendo would have us believe that their new machine will outperform the competition, but is that something we should believe? Such a statement seems to belie the feeling that Nintendo still feels that Microsoft and Sony are their rivals in the field, but is that even true? And should Nintendo really be trying to go head-to-head with these companies after the abject failure of cross-platform titles on the Wii?
I feel that Nintendo needs to seriously take a moment to actualize its imperative. "What does Nintendo want to do?" That's the question that needs asked. Because if Nintendo wants to go up against Sony and X-Box, they're facing a steep uphill climb, and merely offering HD output won't be good enough. The competition already has things like HD output, as well as blu-ray capability, deep DLC homestores with streaming media options, and even 3D capability. If Nintendo's new console showed up tomorrow with all that in tow, they'd still be 5 years behind the curve.
Which is why I don't think whatever new product will be unveiled soon will be all that impressive. But I do think it will be cheap, and Nintendo has always keenly followed their bottom line. The Wii was little more than a gussied-up Gamecube with bluetooth remotes and marginal online ability; The Wii HD (or whatever) will probably be little more than a duded-up Wii with better performance and increased online support.
Or maybe it won't be that at all. Maybe Nintendo will surprise us by actually sacking up and taking the fight to the competition. Maybe they'll begin to appreciate their long-neglected 18-and-over market and position themselves, through technological power and innovation, to be the must-have console of the next generation, regaining the dominance they've slowly given up since they first failed to strongly respond to the PS1.
But I doubt it.