The long-rumored successor to the Wii is real, and it’s going to be unveiled at E3 in June. Compiling data from various reports, it sounds as though Nintendo is going well beyond a “Wii HD,” instead trying to revolutionize the industry once again with something unprecedented.
Dubbed “Project Café” by Nintendo, the new console’s existence and planned debut were first reported by Game Informer, citing numerous anonymous inside sources. Corroborating reports stated that Nintendo’s next-gen system will offer HD graphics thanks to system specs on par with the current-gen Xbox 360 (some reports suggest it’s more powerful than both the 360 and the PS3), and a new controller that could be the “next big thing” beyond the Wiimote.
The controller is said to include a 6″ touchscreen, enabling it to work as a tablet of sorts, as well as opening the door to cutting edge new control schemes. An “iPad with buttons,” if you will. Some insiders suggest that the screen will be HD, while others say it will be standard-def.
The controller also includes left and right-side buttons, a standard d-pad, two triggers, and other inputs that have yet to be revealed. The technology behind the Wii’s sensor bar — that little black bar that sits atop your TV, allowing the Wiimote to sense your movements — is being integrated into the controller this time, which means that motion controls will once again be included, but they’ll be more advanced this time. Perhaps strangest of all, the tablet/controller will also have a front-facing camera. (Anybody care to venture a guess on how that might be utilized in-game?)
Nintendo is said to be trying to correct its biggest mistake with the Wii — lack of strong third-party developer support — by having already filled in all of the major developers about Café. Back when the Wii released, Nintendo focused almost entirely on its own game development, leaving third-party developers out in the cold. Five years later, Nintendo is paying the price for this oversight with a console that’s become stagnant and… well, wholly uninteresting. When was the last time a new Wii title was able to generate the same level of excitement among gamers as, say, the latest Call of Duty, Halo, or Assassin’s Creed? It sounds like Nintendo is finally ready to embrace the hardcore gamer again — while not altogether abandoning casual players.
On top of all this, a French gaming site called 01net — which correctly predicted the specs of PlayStation’s next-generation peripheral — says that Café has one other major aspect that no one has yet guessed or revealed. This last ace up the N’s sleeve reportedly has developers all tingly with excitement. “Nintendo’s plans sound unreal,” says one source, who mentioned that “publishers are already planning launch titles and it’s all very exciting.”
What could this last surprise be? Could that controller touchscreen be 3D, using the same technology behind the 3DS? Will the front-facing camera somehow interface with the HD game on your TV in ways never attempted before? Will the controller itself also function as a detachable, handheld gaming device? Or is Nintendo preparing to unleash a completely new technology on the gaming world, just as it was the first to implement motion-sensing controls?
And what about those hardware specs? Even if Café is more powerful than the 360 and PS3, Nintendo could quickly find itself in last place again when it comes to horsepower, when Microsoft and Sony release their next-gen consoles. (Industry rumors suggest that Microsoft has quietly been working on the third-generation Xbox for a while now, though Sony’s in no hurry to pump out the PS4.)
In the meantime, the price of the Wii is expected to drop down to $150 as soon as mid-May, while possibly even being packaged with a copy of the bestselling Mario Kart Wii. This would be an attempt to squeeze the last bits of life out of the Wii before Café is unveiled. Moreover, Café is expected to include backwards compatibility with all Wii games.
Café is expected to be in stores for Christmas 2012, but we should get a look at it much sooner. E3 kicks off in early June, and Nintendo will hold its annual “media briefing” early that same week, where Café will most likely be shown off for the first time.