The next generation of Nintendo is on the way. The Wii 2, codenamed Project Cafe, may hit stores as early as November--just in time for crazed parents to trample each other in a race to the first batch.
Nintendo has long been out of the loop with regard to high-powered, graphics-intensive gaming. While the Wii outsold both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, its success was dependent on the casual gamer. Microsoft and Sony have been the ones to cater to us nerds with our insistence on a high definition gaming experience. Nintendo also racked up points for debuting motion sensor technology with the Wii. They had a new gimmick, a clean look and a great ad campaign. Now that the Move and the Kinect are on the market, it would seem Nintendo is feeling pressure to step their game up.
I'm not sure they need to be. The Wii's appeal as a casual and party game console isn't going away just because Microsoft and Sony released a few titles for their own motion sensing upgrades. Wii owners don't seem to mind that they can't play drunken Mario Kart in 1080p.
It would seem Nintendo is attempting once again to capitalize on innovation. The appeal of the Wii lay more in the idea of motion sensor tech rather than how well it actually worked. The novelty held more value than the usability. The Wii 2 will now be the first console to introduce touchscreen controllers--a seemingly inevitable step in console evolution.
This innovation will probably also sell on novelty. The console may also be the first to support stereoscopic 3D gaming, riding, like the 3DS, on another current trend. These all sound like features that sound cooler than they will be. Touchscreens are great for mobile gaming, but I'm not sure I see the advantage of integrating them with a high-powered console. Well-made games require subtle handling to complete at their highest levels, and my touchscreen phone frequently misinterprets my intentions. I worry that a controller which registers any kind of skin contact as a command might be too sensitive for shooters like Call of Duty or Halo, where the slightest movement can determine whether or not your avatar is blown apart by a grenade.
Of course, there's no concrete indication yet that Nintendo will attempt to cater to players of mainstream first person shooters. Maybe we'll see a new generation of unique Nintendo titles that harness the power of high definition for their own whimsical and socially-oriented purposes. It's just hard to imagine the usual cast of characters looking any better in HD than they do on the DS. I mean, Nintendo hasn't much updated their character designs since they first introduced them to the third dimension. Maybe Mario and Donkey Kong are in for an overhaul, a new look for the next generation.
Rumor has it that Nintendo is considering calling the new system "Stream," presumably because it will be able to broadcast full games to each individual controller. The console is expected to be priced between $350 and $400. Nintendo representatives have so far declined to confirm any speculation. The console will be revealed at E3 in June.