The Electronic Entertainment Expo, usually referred to as the E3, is going to be particularly interesting this summer! Nintendo has recently let it slip (probably for publicity purposes) that they will be unveiling a new console based on high-definition technology. Reliable sources have claimed that the Wii 2 will be launched worldwide at the end of 2012.
This new Wii 2 console will be fully backwards-compatible with the existing Wii console. Backward compatibility is a feature gamers of the 21st century truly appreciate. It’s very common to hear Wii owners talk about how they love it how their Wii is backwards compatible with Nintendo’s Gamecube console. Presumably, the Wii 2 will also be backwards compatible with the Gamecube technology in the same way that the Wii is.
The Wii 2 is apparently the most powerful HD console ever created, with a design very similar to the Xbox 360. Currently the Xbox 360 has the most powerful GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and has the ability to display more polygons than any other console –500,000,000 polygons per second. The Playstation 3 console can display up to 275,000,000 polygons per second. This is the reason why Xbox 360 versions of multiplatform software released by third-party game developers often have smoother frame rates and higher resolution than their counterparts on the PS3.
Apparently, the Wii 2 will be capable of displaying games in 1920x1080p resolution on a regular basis. The Xbox 360 and PS3 already have games that run in this 1080p resolution, but they represent only a small percentage of games. In reality, it would make more sense for the Wii 2 games to be based on a native resolution of 1280x720p, which would allow a smoother frame rate and a greater amount of lighting and shading techniques to be used.
Multiplatform games released for all the consoles may see the Wii 2 versions of games use the higher native resolution of 1920x1080p. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions would be based on native resolutions of only 1280x720p. We have already seen quite a few Xbox 360 games run at resolutions of up to 40% higher than their PS3 counterparts.
For example, Soul Calibur 4 on the PS3 runs at a native resolution of 1280x720p. However, the developers realized the Xbox 360 had quite a bit of power remaining. This motivated the developers at Namco to increase the resolution of the Xbox 360 version by 40% so that it ran at a native resolution of 1365x960p. This is the type of environment we might expect the Wii 2 version to run at a native resolution of 1920x1080p.
Publishers that have seen this new console have claimed that Nintendo has already revealed to them that the Wii 2 will use a new form of controller, rather than an update to the existing Wii controller. Obviously the motion-control technology must still exist, since the Wii 2 keeps the name of Wii and is fully compatible with Wii software. This makes people wonder if Nintendo will be trying to use something similar to the very successful Kinect controller used with the Xbox 360.
What’s really interesting is that the Wii 2 controller is said to have a screen on it. This is something that hasn’t happened since Sega tried it in 1999 with the Dreamcast console. The Wii 2 takes this a step further by making it so the screen is touch-sensitive! The Wii 2 controller is also said to have some other surprises that Nintendo will show to us at this years E3. The first thought that springs into my mind is some form of 3D compatibility with the new 3DS handheld product from Nintendo.
I believe Nintendo is in an excellent position to continue their domination of the global videogame market. In 2005 Nintendo realized that only a small percentage of the market owned an HDTV, which is why Nintendo stayed away from that market. The Wii was less powerful than the Xbox 360 or the PS3, but the Wii sold far more units worldwide due to the fact that the Wii cost less money. Most people didn’t even consider the Wii as a direct competitor of the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Now, in 2011, the HD market has significantly grown, and will continue to grow by the time the Wii 2 launches in late 2012. Nintendo has always done their best to launch a console at the price of no more than $249. With that in mind, the Wii 2 will instantly be priced to compete with the various packages of Xbox 360 and PS3 when it launches in 2012. Considering that the Wii 2 will offer better graphics for a similar price, it seems reasonable that the Wii 2 really will allow Nintendo to remain leader of the videogame industry.
The Xbox 360 console currently can be purchased for as little as $199 for a new unit, but this does not include a hard drive. We do not yet know if the Wii 2 will include any form of hard drive. The Xbox 360 unit with a hard drive costs $299. You can also purchase an Xbox 360 without a hard drive with a Kinect packed in for $299. For $399 you can purchase an Xbox 360 with a 250GB hard drive and a Kinect packed in.
Playstation 3 sells for as little as $299 with a 160GB hard drive. For $349 you can buy the PS3 with a 320GB hard drive with the Move controller packed in. The Move is a motion-sensitive controller similar to what is used in the Wii. The Move has not been nearly as successful as the Kinect, so it remains to see what form of motion technology the Wii 2 is based on.
The Kinect technology is revolutionary and has very little in common with what is used in the Wii. Kinect launched during the fall of 2010 and quickly sold 10 Million units. Kinect is currently in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest-selling item in electronics history. There is no doubt that Kinect technology will be a part of Microsoft’s plans for a long time to come in areas of gaming, computers, home entertainment, and many other areas of living.
At this point in time it really did make sense for Nintendo to release a new console. Over the last year, the Wii has been declining in sales – each month being outsold by the Xbox 360. Right now, the Wii is often the odd-man-out when multiplatform games are released by third-party game companies. For example, games will be released for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, but not for the Wii.
Even when games are released for the Wii, gamers often stay away from the Wii version because the Wii version has graphics that are far less impressive than what is seen on the PC, Xbox 360, or PS3. But with the Wii 2, gamers will want to buy the Wii 2 versions of games since they will be the best-looking console versions available. Only expensive high-end PCs will have graphics as good as the Wii 2.
This places some stress on Microsoft and Sony. Both companies are now being pressured into released consoles sooner than they wanted. Sony said from the beginning that they thought the PS3 would have a 10-year life expectancy. Microsoft never said how long they felt the Xbox 360 would be on the market, but they did say they believed this generation would last longer than any other previous generation – which it already has done.
Microsoft referred to the Kinect as a new launch for the Xbox 360. There is no doubt that the successor of the Xbox 360 will remain fully compatible with the Kinect. But we don’t know when Microsoft’s next console will arrive. Xbox 360 is selling better now than it ever has. Microsoft continues to earn net profit with the Xbox 360 and the Xbox Live gaming service.
Sony has a tough decision to make. Unless the PS3 can last 10 years, it is very likely that the PS3 will result in an overall financial net loss for Sony. It cost Sony billions of dollars to launch the PS3, and Sony continued to lose hundreds-of-millions of dollars each quarter afterward. The amount of net profit Sony has only recently started earning is very small; it won’t put a dent in the billions of dollars of loss the PS3 has cost Sony. This is why Sony needs to ask themselves if it would be better to forget about this generation in order to get an early start on the next generation or if it would be better to try and get as much as possible out of the PS3.
From a graphic point of view, it doesn’t make sense for Microsoft or Sony to launch a new console by 2012. The balance between graphic quality and the price of a console – directly related to the cost of launching that console – clearly shows that Microsoft and Sony would be better off living in a world where the Wii 2 has better graphics until about 2014. The Xbox 360 will continue to sell well and generate profit thanks to Kinect and Xbox Live. Net profit is the name of the game in business and Microsoft has achieved this goal with Xbox 360.
With that in mind, I think the soonest we will see a console from Microsoft is 2013 or 2014. Only then will graphics technology have reached far enough beyond the Xbox 360 that it makes sense for Microsoft to start a new hardware generation. Remember, the Wii 2 is a direct competitor of the Xbox 360 and the PS3; the Wii 2 does not start a “new” graphics generation the way the next Xbox would. The simple fact is, that type of graphics technology will not be available for a while.
Sony is a different story due to the lack of financial success associated with the Playstation 3. The PS3 is the least successful Playstation console that Sony has ever released. It was very arrogant of Sony to launch a console for $600. Sony had an amazing amount of momentum heading into this hardware generation. Yet all of that momentum attained from the success of the PS1 and PS2 was lost because they stumbled over their own arrogance.
This arrogance was directly related to Sony’s desire to try and turn the blu-ray disc into the format that replaced DVD. We do not know what format the Wii 2 will use. At this point in time it seems reasonable that Nintendo could include some form of blu-ray technology into the Wii 2 for a low price. However, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see Nintendo develop a proprietary disc format of their own. I doubt this will happen though, since many people believe the market failure of the Gamecube was caused by Nintendo’s decision to avoid the DVD format.
My prediction is that Nintendo will play it safe and use blu-ray technology for now. After all, Nintendo is designing the Wii 2 to be direct competitors with the Xbox 360 and the PS3, not their successors. I do believe that once Microsoft and Sony eventually release their next consoles, we will see that blu-ray becomes an outdated format. Developers in this generation have already said that blu-ray discs do not offer enough storage space.
Once the Wii 2 is released, we will see that Nintendo is once again included in the lives of console gamers that want the best graphics. Games will be released for PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Wii 2. Console gamers that want the best graphics will be purchasing the game for Wii 2.
It also will be interesting to see what type of online services Nintendo will be offering for the Wii 2. Currently in the videogame industry, it is generally agreed upon that the Xbox Live service of the Xbox 360 is a full generation ahead of what is offered by Nintendo and Sony for the Wii and PS3, respectively. But the Wii 2 isn’t meant to put Nintendo into the“next” generation. The Wii 2 is merely meant to pull Nintendo into the current high-definition generation in a way that competes directly with the Xbox 360 and PS3 on a technological level. I believe the Wii 2 will probably use the same form of online service as the Wii.
This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo will certainly be a very interesting event that all of us are looking forward to!
UPDATE: You can read more about the Wii 2 here.