When Nintendo Co. presented the Wii U in its near final state at the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this month, the company underwhelmed with a lack of important information that would drive buzz into the holiday.
Its reluctance to announce pricing, key third-party support, in addition to conservative launch titles is keeping interest for the hardware at a moderate simmer. However, the hardware holds important components in it that, if executed and marketed properly, could make the Wii U a game changer.
Nintendo did not emphasize the capability at its annual media briefing, but the Wii U’s ability to stream entertainment content in high-definition is a very important factor in its attempt to nab market share. As household budgets shrink and consumers navigate toward home entertainment, the ability to stream content from mentioned partners like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube is a must to attract consumer dollars.
While competitors like Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. offer the same services to their customers, they will not have the ability to stream content to the tablet-like Wii U GamePad. The Netflix application demonstrated at E3 allows users to watch content from either the television or the 6.2-inch GamePad screen. While content is streamed to the GamePad, the TV is free for any other task, changing the dynamic of how the television is used in the living room. The option to have two entertainment options working simultaneously yet independent of one another is a brilliant option for any consumer in the modern age, many of which are accustomed to having personal mobile devices for customized entertainment. The Wii U GamePad combined with streaming functionality creates an attractive two-way entertainment option at an expected affordable price.
The Tablet Factor
The Wii U GamePad is not multi-functional on its own, but it yields many functions of a standard tablet device in combination with the Wii U. When docked at a coffee table, owners could pick it up and use it as a TV remote, browse the internet, stream content, or play Wii U games all from the controller itself. Combined with the headphone jack, the GamePad is every bit a competent personal entertainment device. With the purchase of the Wii U console, potential buyers could view the GamePad as an investment in a tablet-like device, without having to purchase a stand-alone tablet – which could cost as much or more than the Wii U console itself.
Nintendo demonstrated the perks of asymmetrical gameplay, which will utilize the TV and the Wii U GamePad to provide alternate forms of play in a game title. Ubisoft Inc.’s ZombiU best demonstrated the functionality in a two-player local ‘Capture The Flag’ game in which the Wii U GamePad user tapped the touch screen to deploy hordes of zombies to the other player, which viewed the action from the television in a first-person shooter perspective. Having a second screen for a third-party title may attract core users looking for the best version of a particular title and would be a first for a home console to divide local play into two completely unique experiences.
A cutting-edge component of the Wii U that didn’t receive much attention at the E3 media briefing is NFC technology. NFC (near-field communication) functionality is built into the Wii U GamePad to allow users to read and write data from physical objects like cards and figurines. The console is the first to have NFC built-in to allow properties like Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Skylanders or Nintendo’s Pokemon IP to incorporate the product-to-game functionality without additional investment by the consumer.
In addition, NFC could be used to facilitate micro-payments via an NFC-enabled device like a smartphone. The function will allow owners to pay for premium content wirelessly without adding another account of credit card information to the console.
The Wii U has the components to inspire change. With 95 million Wii units sold to global territories, Nintendo reinvigorated the video game market with new motion-based controls and forced competitors to play catch-up.
But despite an array of technological innovation, Nintendo still has an uphill battle to convey the value of Wii U to customers. A shrewd yet equal focus on games, entertainment, and social functionality, in combination with their ability to be utilized differently with the Wii U GamePad, could attract new and existing customers to the hardware. If not, Nintendo will have to take out the stylus and head back to the drawing board.