Is the Wii U a Next Generation Console?

The Wii U has been released now and that means only one thing: console wars. You see, internet, a new console means that suddenly Nintendo is open to rampant hatred from Sony and Microsoft fanboys, who gave up belittling the Wii after it died alone and cold a couple of years ago. The number one criticism of the Wii from people who don’t own it and have absolutely no intention of ever buying it is that it isn’t a next gen console. Worse still, it might actually be weaker than current gen consoles. This is definitely a concern; I won’t argue that point, but does being underpowered instantly make a console not next gen? What is exactly makes a console next generation? If you asked me before last generation, graphical power would definitely have been one of the considerations. Now, I’m not so sure. Nintendo has changed the game somewhat and I think it’s worth looking at whether the Nintendo Wii U can be considered next generation.

Still a terrible name for a console.

We are currently in the seventh generation of console gaming. The first generation, one that most gamers, myself included, ignore, consisted of the Magnavox Odyssey, Coleco and an Atari console. Skipping ahead to the third generation of consoles and the first one that I consider to be worth mentioning, and you have the Nintendo Entertainment System. This generation revived the dying console industry and pushed Nintendo into the forefront of the console market. It was the birth of modern gaming, and the NES’ contribution to the entire gaming industry is still unparalleled. Since then, each generation of consoles has offered a fairly major graphical leap. The fourth generation changed from 8 bit to 16 bit. The fifth generation moved to a 3D plane. The sixth generation expanded upon the fifth, and this one further expanded upon what can be done with 3D models. Different, minor ideas were always brought to each generation, but the primary improvement has always been graphical, which is why people are having such a hard time with the Wii U.

This is for you weirdo’s who think graphics can’t improve next gen.

The problem lies with the current generation. Nintendo took a gamble with their newest console. The Wii was unlike anything the video game industry had seen before. It was a purposely underpowered console that could be sold cheaply, and relied on a gaming innovation to push the system. It was an insane idea, which paid off hugely for Nintendo. Although, they’re feeling the snap from alienating their core fanbase now, Nintendo was able to make the Wii a monster seller by appealing to casuals, who were less interested in bigger and better graphics. There were serious issues that resulted from this decision, but it was undoubtably a successful gambit, at least in the short term. What made the Wii special was the focus on motion controls over graphical improvements. Truthfully, I don’t think motion controls have a future in gaming, but it was certainly a unique approach to entering a new generation, one which Nintendo is mimicking this time as well.

If Kinect has shown us anything, it’s motion controls don’t have a future in gaming.

Nintendo has been working hard trying to distinguish the Wii U from the Wii. They are trying to bring in a large assortment of 3rd party developers, and not simply relying on their own first party; they’re trying to cater towards their core audience; they’re trying to catch up to the online presence of Sony and Microsoft. However, despite all of this, they’re trying to do the same thing as last generation. They’re relying on a gimmick instead of raw power. The Wii U is using the touch screen to push gaming in a new direction. Unlike motion controls, however, touch screen gaming is a proven effective method of gaming, so there is much less concern on this particular gambit. After all, Nintendo has been using touch screens effectively since the release of the Nintendo DS.

But this is just a lousy gimmick, right?

This leads me back to the question of what is a next generation console? Power has always increased each generation, but is that actually what makes the generation or is that simply incidental. Truthfully, I lean on the fact that power actually has nothing to do with generational leaps. Next generation doesn’t refer to the next generation of power, but the next generation of consoles. Meaning Sony’s next console, or Microsoft’s or Nintendo’s. With that interpretation, any console Nintendo puts out that isn’t simply a modification of the Wii can count as next generation. Maybe next gen needs something that couldn’t be done on modern consoles? If that’s the case, then Nintendo’s focus on touch pad gaming still meets that criteria.

I don’t have any image for this paragraph, so here’s Pac-Man. He’s probably an allegory for something I’ve said so interpret as you will. 

Do you think that the Wii U is a next gen console? I suppose that requires you to figure out if power is the only qualification. I would argue that the Wii is a current gen console running on last gen hardware. The same could be said for the Wii U. Will the Wii U be considered a next gen console? Absolutely yes. Even if some individual gamers don’t consider it to be, a brand new console from Nintendo is not something that will be ignored. The truth of the matter is that the Wii is not considered a peer of the PS2, but rather the PS3. The same will be true of the Wii U, underpowered or not.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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