Nintendo U – Soon In A Store Near You

Nintendo is going to get out to another fast jump in the console wars, with its Nintendo U set to launch by the end of 2012. You may remember that the Nintendo Wii leapt out of the box to amazing sales after its launch half a dozen years ago. The Wii completely revolutionized game play. Characterized by a handheld motion sensitive controller, the new controller helped propel the Wii past the Playstation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360 in the initial years after release. It seemed that everyone was playing the Wii. While the Nintendo Game Cube had been the console for children, the Nintendo Wii caught on with crowds of all ages. Even grandparents were playing the Wii. The obvious challenge for the next generation Nintendo console will be to meet or exceed the success of the Wii.

On Thursday Nintendo finally answered many questions surrounding the mysterious Nintendo U – the next generation Nintendo console. Little had been known about the console until this week’s press conference. The U was first discussed at E 2011 with a limited preliminary showcase. Though there has be much talk in tech circles about the death of the console, due to the rise of mobile computing and hence cheap mobile gaming, the fact is that the buzz surrounding the U is proof positive that the console is far from dead. But, the details about the U were few and far between. One particularly appetizing preview of the U revealed that the Nintendo would once again attempt to revolutionize the gaming experience – with a completely rethought controller. What remained to be seen is whether the company would go after diehard gamers – focused on graphics, processing power, and the cutting edge experience.

So, what did we learn about the U during Thursday’s conference? Well, first let’s focus on what the U will offer. In the way of game offerings, the U will reportedly be launched along with a number of titles. Nintendo promises that 50 games will be available by March. The titles that to be offered on the U – including “Assasin’s Creed” and “Call of Duty” – show that the Japanese company is moving more toward a having a more adult gamer in mind with some gaming options. One particularly important score was that the sequel to the popular game “Bayonetta” – titled “Bayonetta 2” – will only be offered on the U. This is despite the fact that the original “Bayonetta” was offered on all 3 gaming consoles. Another exclusive title will be “The Wonderful 101.” Both exclusive titles are produced by Platinum Games. The 50 announced titles were spread among many different genres, including some adult-centric games. The general consensus among the gaming community was that there was something for everyone among the gaming titles.

Though the specs of the U are still being revealed, the console is not expected to be as powerful as the Playstation 4, or the X Box 720 – the presumptive names of the next generations of the other 2 major console manufacturers. The Nintendo U is going to have a lot to prove to the hard core gamers in terms of graphics. But, Nintendo has been playing a kind of stand-alone role in the console wars for some time. The fact is that the company seems to have decided to cater more to younger gamers and those who just want to play a game for leisure every now and then. These gamers tend to be less demanding as far as cutting edge game play and story line, and are more interested in just having fun. This demographic will always exist, and time will tell if Nintendo how Nintendo bridges the gap and begins to cater to a more difficult to please demographic of gamer.

One feature of the Nintendo U that we should also talk about a little more is the “second screen” technology which will be included on the controller. The name of the new Nintendo controller is the “game pad.” The controller will include a color screen which resembles a kind of screen one would find on a smart phone. The way this particular development will be utilized in gaming is still to be seen. One thought is that while playing a game of UNO on Playstaion 3, the individual screen on the player’s controller could be used such that the other players would not know what cards each player has in their have in my hand. The cards could be displayed for each player personally – but no one else. This kind of privacy is one way the controller could be used. But the full functionality remains a mystery for now.

Nintendo also announced that the company will be launching Nintendo TVii – which will apparently be a free TV and movie service which will use the handheld controller as a remote control. The controller will also be able to double as sort of a tablet, making the Nintendo U one of the most interesting, if not mysterious, console developments in some time.

So, when can we expect the Nintendo U, and how much will it cost? The console is expected to be released by November in the United States, which will give it plant it in stores just in time for the Christmas holiday rush. The basic Nintendo U package will cost $299. An upgraded “deluxe” package will run at $349 and will include a stand for the console, a charger for the game pad controller, and the game “Nintendoland.”

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