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The Wii was a ground-breaking device when it was released in 2006, and there is no doubt that it paved the way for motion gaming and indeed bringing together every generation of a family for console gaming antics – but 5 years down the line and with the successor Wii U announced, is it all it cracked up to be? Has Nintendo finally lost the plot?

Motion Controls & The Mountain Of White Crap

The Wii was the first console to bring motion control to the masses with their innovative little Wii Remote, which combined not only a tilt(meter?) and accelerometer, but a reverse-infrared pointing device and a little speaker inside the remote too.

Pretty soon it was discovered though that rather than actually performing the described motion, a quick flick of the wrist was basically all that was needed to win most games. So as a gaming controller, I’d say it failed on a fundamental level. I still think it’s an amazing bit of technology, but just not for gaming. Heck, I’m much more impressed with some of the amazing hacks that pioneers such as Johnny-Lee (now working for Microsoft) got out of it. [Skip to 3:50 for the best bit]

Then of course we can’t forget the infamous Wii accessories…

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For any “serious” gamer, and I put that in quotes because they aren’t really any serious games on the Wii – you needed a traditional previous-generation GameCube controller. So now you have 4 Wii Remotes and 4 GameCube controllers sitting next to the Wii.

So how about a dancing game? Go purchase a dancing mat! Fitness game? You’ll be wanting the Balance Board then! Racing game – may I recommend the official steering wheel? Sports game? How about a ridiculous plastic handle for that Wii Remote. Shooting game? We have just the perfect gun-shaped cover for you, sir!

Sure, on the one hand you might argue that the Remote is so versatile that with a little bit of injection-moulding you can turn it into anything! On the other hand, I’d say you end up spending a ridiculous amount of money and are left with a literal mountain of white plastic crap. Not only is this evident of bad design, it’s a disaster for the environment.

The power of kinesthetics is not be underestimated though. It’s a secret that elementary school teachers have known for a while – when you move your body, you learn while having fun. It’s so simple, and it works. The Wii tapped into that power and brought together generations of the same family on the same gaming console – and for that it deserves its place in history. The Wii boldly carved out an entirely new market – away from the traditionally rather elitist gaming community. Granny doesn’t want to sit and mash hundreds of buttons for Street Fighter, but give her a Wii Remote to waggle around and she’ll be happy to go through the motions of bowling.

But things have moved on since then, and the Wii U has been announced as the official successor to the Wii. So what magic does it have this time?

The Wii U – Must Be Kidding Right?

Nintendo decided to up their game this time in regards to graphics, which is probably a good thing because the Wii’s graphical abilities were outdated before it was even launched. In fact, it was no more than their last generation GameCube, repackaged with a new controller. They must have blown the R&D budget on that Wii Remote.

Apart from an updated graphics chip, what innovative new features does the Wii U bring? Another new controller! And this one has a screen! Check out the official E3 trailer for an overview.

That’s a lot to take in one video, so I give you a moment to catch your breath. I’m sure your first impressions are along the lines of “wow, that’s so cool!” but let’s just think about it all for a moment.

First off, despite being a controller and a screen that works wirelessly, I should make it quite clear that this is not a portable gaming device. That’s called a Nintendo DS, and you can be certain Nintendo wouldn’t try to kill off their portable division (although it looks like the 3DS might have done that for them anyway).

How does this spiffy new controller differ from a Nintendo DS, apart from being crippled for portable gaming? I mean, it has wireless connectivity, a touch screen, and could feasibly be connected to the console – in fact, Nintendo played with this idea before with the previous generation Game Boy Advance that could be wired up to the GameCube. Are they actually going to sell everyone a crippled Nintendo DS? It would seem that way.

Notice how it works with a lot of the old controllers too – like the balance board. So really, it’s just another accessory they’re trying to sell you now. Nice one, Nintendo.

Now you have to ask yourself – is all this really that impressive? The touch screen, the mini games you can play on it, the video chat, the quasi-VR interactions – it all reminds me somewhat of an iPad, but more gimmicky. The only difference is that the Nintendo device is  really, really ugly. Perhaps I’m just a little too accustomed to the sleek industrial design of Apple, but this thing really does look the creative design department took a 4 year holiday and left the accountants in charge.

So I’m sorry Nintendo, but I really do think you’ve lost the plot. The Wii was remarkable. The Wii U won’t sell as remotely well, but with any luck it’ll be backward compatible with all the Wii Remotes and upscale old games to 720p, so at least you can keep selling all of those to the old folks homes that haven’t made the plunge yet. Even your shareholders are crying out for you to make iPad and iPhone games. Is the end in sight? I think so.  What do you think?

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