Nintendo's Wii U review
On Nov. 19, 2006, a 19-year-old braved the elements. Along with his fellow diehards, he withstood bitter temperatures and gusting wind in pursuit of what they all were after: brand-new gaming hardware.
That was the night the Nintendo Wii was released in the U.S.
"I'm a Nintendo fanboy," said Lennon Martelli, now a 25-year-old aspiring engineer.
"I'd always wanted a new Nintendo console, and that was the first time I had the opportunity."
Martelli stood outside his local Best Buy for eight hours that night.
"I was the 37th person on the list, and they only had 45 systems to sell," he said.
Martelli was fortunate to get the Wii when he did. The console was a major success for Nintendo, and was difficult to find at retailers for over a year afterward.
To date, over 97 million Wii consoles have been sold worldwide according to VGChartz.
Now, Nintendo hopes to repeat that success with a brand-new console.
The "Wii U" launched on Nov. 18, and is available in two models: A basic set with a white finish for $299.99, or a deluxe set with a black finish for $349.99 that includes more storage space and a game, "Nintendo Land."
Regardless of the set, the Wii U hardware is the same. Unlike the Wii, it's capable of outputting 1080p HD video. Nintendo says the Wii U is substantially more advanced technically than its competitors' consoles, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The Wii U's most distinguishing feature, however, is its included tablet controller, the "GamePad."
It features a 6.2-inch 16:9 resistive touch screen, a motion control sensor, a front-facing HD camera, stereo speakers and the now-standard controller elements like two analog sticks, triggers and face buttons.
The screen on the gamepad can show a player a completely unique view from what they see on the television.
Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Aime believes that could be a game-changer.
"This tablet is seamlessly connected to the system," Fils-Aime said in a Nov. 20 interview with CNN. "There's no lag, there's no delay ... that allows us to create all types of new features that you really can't do with any competing device."
Martelli said that's one of the things that appeals to him about Nintendo.
"People joke on Nintendo for always trying new things like the GamePad, but I think innovation is a good thing," he said. "Gaming's got to evolve somehow. Otherwise it'd get boring."
In spite of that, Martelli hadn't planned on buying Nintendo's new console at launch this time.
"My life is different now," he said. "I'm saving up to move out and get an apartment, but I knew I wanted to get one eventually. But as it turned out, one of my friends had an extra one on hold. He texted me, and asked if I wanted it. It was such a conundrum.
"I knew if I didn't get it now, it might be quite a while before I'd be able to find it in stock again. I went ahead and bought it, and I've been really happy with it so far."
While Martelli ended up buying a Wii U despite his hesitation, some are more patient.
"I'll probably get a Wii U in the future, after there's a price drop," said Jon Shell, a senior in computer science at ETSU. Shell considers himself an omnigamer, and has an interest in a wide variety of platforms and genres.
"I don't have a lot of money right now, but I really want one, especially because the Wii U is supposed to be appealing more to the core gamer," he said.
Indeed, the Wii had trouble overcoming the stigma of being something of a fad.
"We played on it like crazy at first, but it eventually kind of fell to the wayside," said Ashley Dobson.
Dobson graduated from ETSU in 2009 as a clinical psychology major, and got the Wii as a wedding gift that same year. She said she's not much of a "hardcore" gamer.
"I really liked Wii Sports," she said, referring to the game that came with the Wii. "I wish they had done more of that instead of doing the same kind of stuff over and over again with the same characters.
"Zelda's a little involved for me, and I've never been interested in PokÃ©mon. I think if you get into it when you're a kid, it'll stay with you, but I didn't."
Dobson said that she's heard surprisingly little about the Wii U in the lead up to its launch.
"I really don't know much about the system itself," she said. "I don't know what it can do, what games they're offering, nothing. I haven't even seen a commercial for it, which I think is bizarre."
"If you're not looking to find out what the Wii U is, you're not going to know."
Despite possibly missing some of the more casual gaming audience with its launch, the Wii U has been a big success so far.
Fils-Aime told CNET that there were 400,000 Wii U consoles sold in its first eight days in the U.S.
"Wii U is essentially sold out of retail and we are doing our best to continually replenish stock," he said. "Retailers are also doing their best to get the product to store shelves. But as soon as product hits retail, they're selling out immediately."
With Nintendo's competitors likely to release new, more powerful hardware next year, it's crunch time for the Wii U.
"It's likely that faster processors and pretty pictures won't be enough to motivate consumers," Fils-Aime said. "They need to react to what we've done and we need to continue innovating with the Wiii U, and we will."
As a life-long Nintendo fan, Martelli is confident the company knows what it's doing.
"I think they're ultimately trying to get it in a similar position to the original Wii," he said.
"Right now, the Wii U is the most advanced console, and it's being bought by hardcore Nintendo fans like me. But a year from now, when Microsoft and Sony release their next generation systems, it's going to be comparatively underpowered. That's when Nintendo will drop the price of the Wii U and start pushing it to a more casual market, just like they did with the Wii."
Shell agreed, and said it fits Nintendo's business model.
"This is what Nintendo's always done," he said. "Nintendo has a way of working its games around its hardware.
"Nintendo's not known for their cutting-edge graphical prowess, but for the imagination with which they make their games."
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