Versatility is the new black. Or whatever color you want it to be, really. But when it comes to console gaming, it’s all about being more than just a box that plays video games.
It started with Play Station 2 and Xbox, which could play CDs and DVDs as well as Grand Theft Auto or Halo. But even when Nintendo entered the disc gaming world (late to the game, as usual) with Gamecube, they severely sunk in a market they normally dominated. Even the Wii, which gave back Nintendo their edge, wasn’t able to play anything besides Wii games.
But now, Nintendo is set to change that with the Wii U, aiming to make the Gamepad (with a touchscreen, no less) the center of your living room. The tablet-imitating controller can be used to manipulate your favorite Nintendo heroes like Mario or Link, but it will also include a “TV” button which will act as a cable TV remote, even if your Wii U is not in use.
Other important details regarding the new Wii Gamepad include how it will implement NFC-enabled items near the remote. This will activate channels of wireless communication, a tool that’s been spearheaded by Activision’s platformer Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. The popular dragon video game used this technology to allow physical, real world action figures to be placed in the game, simply by using “The Portal of Power” which is a NFC console add-on that plugs into game systems via USB. Most of the success of Skylander can be attributed to their high merchandise sales. Nintendo is hoping to build on that strategy in a similar vein by making the whole process easier – all you’ll need is the Gamepad, because the NFC reader will be built in.
Also be on the lookout for Nintendo’s Miiverse online service, which will dip from the Mii caricatures and push them into social networking. There isn’t much word on new games, however, although Pikmin 3 is confirmed and something like Super Smash Bros. can’t be too far off.