Can you feel it in the air? The excitement of a new generation of video game consoles is upon us. In a year or two we’ll all be at each others’ throats debating whether the next Xbox, PS4 or Wii U are as awesome as we expected them to be. But for now, let’s take a moment and celebrate the start of the next-generation of gaming, which starts in just three weeks when the Wii U releases in North America on November 18.
It’s been a long generation for Nintendo fans. The Wii sat by as the 360/PS3 got a slew of games that would never run on Nintendo’s underpowered console.
The Wii U fixes that and with gusto. While people initially believed the Wii U (or Wii 2 as it was referred to before all the Project Cafe leaks in early 2011) would simply be an Xbox 360 in a Nintendo casing that isn’t true. The Wii may have been a incremental upgrade in terms of performance over the original Xbox but the gap between the Wii U and current consoles is wider than many expected.
Nintendo’s new home console sports 2GBs of RAM total. 1GB is reserved for the OS (but could be freed up for games in the future) and 1GB is used for games. For reference the Wii only had 24MB memory than the original Xbox. Twenty four megabytes! The gap between the Wii U’s 2GB memory and the amount of memory in current-gen consoles is dramatically bigger than the Wii/Xbox gap.
The PS3 uses 256MB system RAM and 256MB video memory at all times. Even less when you factor in small things like the PS3′s OS which take up a small amount of memory.
Even with only 1GB of memory for games, that’s four times the memory of the PS3. That’s a great upgrade if you ask me, not considering whether any of that 1GB reserved for the OS gets freed up for games in the future.
Additionally the Wii U has an incredible looking social networking feature called Miiverse. It gives players access to message boards designed around specific games, video chat with anyone, and in-game messages from friends all during gameplay.
No more pressing the guide button to access your friends list, all of the social features you’re used to on the PS3 or Xbox 360 are stream-lined and in-game. In Zombi U you can leave messages that will appear in your friend’s single player campaign, and in Mario Bros U you can post messages on the overworld warning friends of a tricky area in an upcoming level.
Miiverse will even block spoilers. That 1GB of memory used for the OS doesn’t go towards just Miiverse, it also allows players to surf the web during games. Sure, you won’t be playing the game itself while browsing but the process is much easier than it is on current consoles.
Normally you’d have to quit your game, launch the browser app, search for an online game guide to help you get past a difficult part of the game, then quit the browser, launch the game again, wait for it to load and apply what you learned while browsing the web.
That is a thing of the past. The 3DS already has this nifty feature and the Wii U will only expand upon it. Want to know the consequences of a decision in Mass Effect 3 on the Wii U but don’t have a computer nearby?
Simply launch the web browser, look up the results of that in-game decision and there you are. And when you’ve got your answer you can go back to playing the game exactly where you left off within seconds. No loading screens or wait times between quitting applications for you!
The fact that we’re finally getting free HDMI cables included with the system and can use any USB hard drive, flash drive or SD card we want for extra storage (up to 3TB!) screams next-gen to me. While consoles like the PS3 have allowed gamers to add storage via laptop hard drives in the past, the Wii U makes the storage upgrade process much simpler as it only requires the user be able to plug a USB hard drive into the console. But this feature is sure to be more of a relief to people who’ve paid for expensive Xbox hard drives in the past more so than PS3 players.
Additionally the Wii U is launching with some native 1080p games and has a long list of native 720p games as well. Despite this past generation being the advent of HD gaming there was a large amount of games that were only upscaled into HD.
The Wii U will have it’s fair share of upscaled HD games but thankfully it appears that a majority of it’s games are at least native 720p. For example, Call of Duty Black Ops 2 is 720p whereas it is upscaled into that resolution on current-gen consoles.
With everyone trying to incorporate second screens via tablets into their consoles (smartglass, PS Vita) it certainly seems like the Wii U Game Pad is ahead of it’s time. It gives games the features of having a tablet near by to add touch control and a second screen, and it can be a traditional controller with all the buttons you’d expect from a video game controller.
If Sony and Microsoft’s experiments with second screens are any indication, there is a chance we see Xbox or Playstation controllers that barrow heavily from the Wii U Game Pad as the standard controller for the PS4 and 720.
There are many reasons to get excited about the next-generation of gaming, and a lot of them center around Nintendo right now. The Wii U is truly a unique machine with it’s innovative controller. But even if you’re not excited for the Wii U don’t fret. With a new Nintendo console on the market that means you won’t have to wait much longer until Sony or Microsoft reveal their new consoles. It truly is an exciting time to be a gamer.