That Time I Predicted the Wii U and Switch Eight Years Ago (Part One)

This is something I locked away in the recesses of my mind until recently, but as I was stumbling around old computer files looking for something to blog about, I remembered that I accidentally predicted the future of video game consoles. I even posted about it in my high school-era blog, which you can read here.

It was April 2011, and I was thinking about the next Nintendo console, which I figured would be announced at the upcoming E3 press conference for a release in 2012. I figured what the essentials would be for a new system, what Nintendo absolutely needed to survive in the field after the Wii’s lagging end-tail sales, then what I thought might be able to be enhanced from the Wii era. That brought me to the idea of new controller designs, and thinking about how Nintendo loves to try new innovations, I ruminated on just what they might to to differentiate themselves.

Turns out, for all my teenage weirdness I was a bit of a prophet about the future direction of console video gaming.

Keep in mind, this was a Dream Console, rather than a firm prediction; this was definitely an idea for an ideal console circa 2011, including everything that I wanted in a system that was feasible with the current levels of computer technology and internet speeds.

Here were the “must-haves” for a next-gen console in my eyes:

I have an “official idea” for the next console:

3D (no glasses? Maybe by 2020)
Blu-Ray
Online Experience much like a Social Network/Xbox Live
Extremely accurate motion control
Steam-esque online purchasing/updating/patching system
Firmware updates all the time
Those are “duh”.
1TB CDs if possible, or at least 30GB single-layered?
PC integration for media, internet, programs, ect.
Harddrives at 600GB+
Backwards compatible with Wii/GCN

What I Got Right:

6+ Players per console! If Rock Band 3 can do 7, I don’t see why there can’t be as many for regular games. Not splitscreen; that would be way too small a screen, but at least for party games like Mario Party, where it would only benefit the game.

The Wii U was the first system to easily go beyond four players, allowing up to five players for most multiplayer games (with one person using the Gamepad), and then up to EIGHT players for Super Smash Bros., with players using Gamecube controllers or their 3DSes to fill the extra spots.

Past that, though, the Xbox One increased support to eight players for local games, though I’m not sure how many games actually supported that. The Nintendo Switch too did this, with the extra addition that each joy-con can serve as either one pair or two separate controllers, giving even more options in party situations. It’s still not common to see more than four players supported, but the fact that it’s an easy option now is encouraging for the future.

Smartphone/3DS integration:
they can connect with apps, games, and the handheld devices could even be used as controllers for certain games.

As I said before, the 3DS was able to connect and be used as a controller, though only for Smash Bros. I believe. You could also play cross-platform between 3DS and Wii U in a few games, including Monster Hunter and apparently Disney Infinity.

While Nintendo’s integration with smartphones only started with the Switch’s online chat stuff, smartphone integration with console gaming hit it big time with one specific game series, the Jackbox Party Pack.

These games are incredibly popular at parties, and the fact that nearly every single person at any given event can play just by going to the website is crazy. Technology is great.

Flash Drive-based games: 16GB flash drive costs $20. $64GB is $100GB. These prices will only decrease as time goes on, and by 2013, most likely, the 64GB will be down to $50 or lower. But seeing how much memory can be put on these, games could be produced on them instead of on Disk! Cartridge gaming could come back somewhat with Flash Drives.

I was dumb about flash drives when SD cards were always the more stable choice, but they’re almost the same thing so whatever. The Vita was unveiled that next E3 and returned to cartridges to save on space, and then Switch did the same thing several years later. It makes perfect sense when you’re talking about portable systems, because disc drives are bulky and easy to break, but at the time it seemed like a pretty revolutionary step… uh, backwards.

What I Got Almost Dead-On By Sheer Accident:

The controller: I think that it could be about the size of the Wiimote now, but a little taller and quite a bit wider, but it is made mostly of a touch screen. The B button is still there, but it is much smaller and thinner.

Otherwise though, there are no buttons. This way there can be ANY BUTTON LAYOUT YOU WANT. O__O The touch screen could even act as its own screen.

Example: Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. To play this you would need to have 4 GBAs connected to the GCN as controllers. Think of these new Wiimotes AS the GBAs, ableit much more advanced. The screen would be much like the Kindle in its low graphical power to retain relative cheapness, though it can play 8 and 16-bit games while someone else is playing something completely different. Yes this controller has a 16-bit processor.

For those people who absolutely need the control stick (that would include me), there will be an add-on to the controller, packed in WITH the controller itself (+one with the console duh) that includes 2 control sticks, the Triggers/bumpers, and two new buttons on the back(I don’t understand why they never did that before).

Here’s a reference for those who aren’t following:

This is some crazy shit.

Obviously, I was more focused on the idea of adding new control schemes, stuff like extra buttons, maybe maps/inventories, or completely original stuff that is different in each game, rather than second screen gameplay. But seeing as how the Wii U Gamepad ended up mostly as maps/inventories, I was pretty much right about the idea of touch screen controllers.

At the time I was also really into the idea of haptic feedback touch screens; for example, you could pull up an overworld terrain map for Elder Scrolls, and as you put your finger over the area, it gets rougher or smoother depending on the elevation. That functionality is still a bit further away, but HD Rumble on the Switch, which is pretty fantastic mind you, is a close approximation.

Also, because I hadn’t considered that wireless video streaming would be very feasible, I had assumed each controller would have to have its own limited processor. The wonders of technology were even greater than I realized!

Either way, my ultimate idea of, basically Zelda Four Swords Adventures with Gamepads didn’t pan out because we could only use one at a time, but I think it’s crazy how close I got with exactly what Nintendo’s big gimmick ended up being.

What I Got Wrong:

Webcam/Augmented reality can improve to the point where Kinect-type gaming can take place in much smaller enviornments than the 3-foot space needed currently.

The old periphrials will be enhanced tenfold: The Balance Board, if not a pack-in with the console itself, will be extremely cheap, nearing $30 by itself. A new version would be released as well, but the differences would be minor.

I was always way more into peripherals than real people are actually into peripherals. As we saw with the Xbox One, motion gaming never worked that well even after upgrades, and people were too scared of the privacy factors to use it anyway.

One lucky thing, in my opinion, is that the Wii U simply used the old controllers from the Wii; your old Balance Board still worked, your old Classic Controllers still worked. It made the upgrade a lot less of an upfront investment, though that may have added to the branding confusion that hurt initial sales.

Insane Teenage Fantasies:

Older cartridge-based consoles can plug into the new console itself, so that consoles that don’t use the colored-wires like the NES can be used on newer TVs. Also, you can actually WRITE the data/save data of the cartridge and put it on a special Disk, or onto the HDD, though at a price due to royalties and overall profit gain. It can only be done a limited amount of times per cart, because each time it’s done, the Wii2 will write data onto the cartridge that will not allow it to be copied more than, say 10-15 times total. This way all games of the past can be preserved legally, not just those put on Virtual Console. Like even certain pirated games could be copied.

I don’t know what the heck I was talking about here, except for maybe my latent interest in modular consoles and in having one console that can play as many games as possible. I think emulation and better access to a wider selection of games is the more rational choice now, but hey, if we’re dreaming big, I guess we can theorize about how to immortalize your video game collection via a video game console.

The RetroN 5 ended up doing some form of this idea on a smaller scale, playing games from NES/Famicom, SNES/Super Famicom, Genesis/Mega Drive, Game Boy/Game Boy Color, and the Gameboy Advance, and dumping the cartridge data onto the console when you put it in. It’s still emulation though, rather than playing the game cartridge itself, but it’s also free, unlike my kinda stupid idea to charge for each use.

What Happened:

Well, while a lot of this stuff turned out to be right… it’s not like it all turned out that well.

Wii U Console and Gamepad.png

The Wii U marked the lowest-selling Nintendo console of all-time, just barely supported by third parties and often going months without a single notable release. I love the thing– it has some of my favorite games ever, and its multimedia functionality was pretty great at the time– but it clearly doesn’t hold a candle to any other Nintendo system.

It turned out that, for all the ambition, the tech really wasn’t there, and Nintendo wasn’t ready to go all-in on an online system anyway. The system was too weak to handle more than two Gamepads at a time (and the firmware never supported more than one, anyway), limiting the gameplay possibilities significantly. Most games used the second screen as a map or inventory system, and it failed to reach the same heights that the DS and 3DS were able to achieve.

The online apps were hampered by software that was too slow; the Nintendo TV functionality came and went without more than a whisper; and, in usual Nintendo fashion, their disinterest in adding a Blu-Ray player meant that you still needed to have another heavy brick of a DVD player if you wanted a full home media center experience. In a stronger system, you would have been able to multitask between apps; while someone watches Netflix on the TV, another person can use the Gamepad to play a game. 2012 certainly wasn’t the time for that to be a cheap enough possibility, though, and by 2019, there’s too many devices that can easily use any given app that it’s pointless to design a console that could do any real multitasking.

So it sold really poorly, and nobody cared.

The Nintendo Switch went in a completely new direction, eschewing all internet functionality besides the eshop and messages from games or companies you subscribe to. Making the system as tiny as possible, and focusing all of its energies on getting users to their games as fast as possible. It was thanks to that, as well as a lineup of hugely successful first-year games, that it sold so well. Though with that, went most of the ambitious features the Wii U attempted.

I’ll talk more about that in my next article.

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