For those of us in the UK, we’re going to be stung for £250 for the basic Wii U model and £299 for the premium model.  Substitute the £ for $ which is what the Americans will be paying and once again you’ll be wondering why we’re being shafted.                  

Is that going to set the tone of the post?  We’ll see… 

As anticipated, the basic Wii U model will have an 8GB hard drive (contrast with the current Wii which is a pathetic 512MB of flash memory) whilst the advanced version will be 32GB – comparable to a mid-level iPhone or iPad.  Whether this will get clogged up with software and game saves or not is yet to be determined.  The premium model also comes with other odds and sods but the media has been quite inconsistent thus far about what these odds and sods might well consist of. 

We’ve known for a while that the Wii U won’t be compatible with Gamecube software but some will be available to purchase through  the Virtual Console.  I maintain that this is a mistake; the Gamecube for the first year of the Wii’s existence was seen as the “budget library” and many of us continued to enjoy playing our GC games.  Given the length between VC releases, this doesn’t bode well.  However, whilst the Wii’s VC abilities were locked down, the Wii U promises the ability to transfer VC titles and channels to the new machine which if successfully implemented, will be great news. 

I was further disheartened to have confirmed that only the Wiimote Plus controllers would be compatible with the Wii U – I have two of those but two of the regular model but hopefully if I were to buy the new console, my compliment would be up to four with the tablet and the new Xbox-like controller.  Can’t say I’m too fussed about compatibility with the Wii Balance Board et al. 

Also under the category “I’m not fussed” is the launch line up.  Now here’s the thing.  As one could make a strong argument that the Wii U isn’t in fact the first of the 8th Generation consoles but more 7.1 or 7½ generation as it doesn’t particularly augment what has come before, there could be a flood of ports from the Xbox and Playstation catalogues, especially if the opening sales are abundant.  The Wii, the 3DS, the DS and even the Gamecube were crippled by the lack of new titles for the machine in the early stages of existence which allowed competitors to shore up their defences.  The fact that the console is out the month before Xmas surely portents a string of titles that gamers will be rushing to snap up but given Nintendo’s recent(ish) history, one cannot bank on them doing the sensible thing. 

The big question of course is – will the 3DS/3DS XL be compatible as a controller?  There have long since been rumours of this possibility, especially as the Tablet controllers will be retailing for approximately £105 (and who’ll be throwing them at the wall at that sort of price?).  Many buyers of the console are likely to have Nintendo’s latest handheld and it would be a tremendous coup if one could be used as a controller.  AFAIK, there hasn’t been anything substantive on this point but I’m not as glued onto gaming media as I used to be and could be talking out of my arse. 

Inside the console isn’t much to get excited about; though the lack of top-rate hardware has driven down costs.  The RAM is only 2GB (my last PC had 2GB RAM which was pitiful) though there isn’t the resource guzzling operating system behind it.  Also the console doesn’t appear to be DVD or Blu-Ray compatible which is perhaps not the best move.  At least there are 4 USB ports which point to multiple use functionality and Nintendo might well have something up their sleeves there.  

I can see why shareholders have gotten nervous about the latest Nintendo offering; as I said earlier, this is NOT an 8th Generation console but an update of an existing model – quite the update but an update nonetheless.  Console fanboys and fangirls will play the machine but will they spend money on obtaining one?  Or will Nintendo continue to appeal to their new “casual gaming audience” thus galvanising them in the position of being the “junior video game manufacturers”? 

Would I get one?  I have to confess that I just don’t know.  In the past three months, I’ve played Wii Games on perhaps three days – I have a host of titles I’ve never played or barely played because the overall satisfaction of these games has been lacklustre.  Casual games don’t suck you in the way that intense games do and my fears are that I’d be saddled with a console investment which represents a poor return for my money.  Sufficed to say, I’ll keep an open mind for now and see what developments the rest of September brings before rushing down…somewhere with a deposit.  I think Nintendo need to learn from their competitors – have in-game achievements because even the casual gamers can have targets with which to aim for an competitive people will glue themselves to their screens in an attempt to earn badges/records.  And then develop the online Nintendo presence rather than the bare-bones operation there is – use those bloody Miis more except in Nintendo-only software and develop more of a social networking experience.  Otherwise you’ll get another Sega – great games let down by the hardware.