So there it is..the Wii U, Nintendo's next game-changing console packed full of all the innovation and excitement of the Wii when it launched back in 2006. Specs and stats are thin on the ground but what little we know puts it well ahead of its predecessor.
We still have a long wait ahead of us until the Wii U materialises on shop shelves, with chief operating officer of Nintendo America Reggie Fils-Aime making it clear that it won't arrive until 2012. Even so, plenty will be considering an investment in the new console just out of the strength of yesterday's E3 announcement. We thought we would make that decision even easier by pitting the two machines against each other just to see how much more potential the Wii U has.
The Wii controller consists of a pair of wireless Bluetooth 3-axis motion controllers, one with a d-pad and the other with analogue stick. Also included is force feedback and even a small speaker in the controller itself. Nintendo managed to pack all the buttons needed for a normal gaming experience onto a pair of controllers that worked in tandem with each other.
The Wii U takes this innovation even further. The controller is essentially a mini iPad, boasting a 6.2 inch, 16:9 screen with a pair of analogue circle pads either side. The idea is that the Wii U controller removes what Nintendo describes as the traditional barriers between games, i.e. needing to look at a TV screen.
The controller can either work as secondary display with the TV, by itself, or as part of augmented reality style games. The controller is also rechargeable (unlike the Wiimote which takes batteries) and includes all the usual Nintendo gaming buttons. Keeping up the motion sensing is a gyroscope and accelerometer. Better still the Wii U controller also has a microphone and front facing camera for use with both gaming and as we will see later, video chat. Oh, and it's touch screen as well..and incorporates a stylus.
For those who want to keep the old Wii arrangement but like the idea of a Wii U machine, the console is backwards compatible with all Wii hardware.
The original Wii was the smallest console Nintendo had ever made. At just 159 x 44 x 216mm it was designed to fit into a bookcase or be tucked away under the television. Nintendo went for an all-white approach the first time around and that helped it exist incognito in any sitting room.
This shiny white look has been kept up with the Wii U which is 172 x 45 x 266 mm in size. Pretty small then, but a touch bigger current-gen Wii size. To give you an idea of how large the new Wii console is, an Xbox 360 sizes up at 309 x 83 x 258 mm.
Nintendo isn't giving away any details about which media the Wii U will support. Many criticised the original Wii for its lack of DVD and hope for a more home media centre approach with the new console.
Given its size and the dual screen setup, it would make a good all-in-one Blu-ray and DVD player, let alone gaming machine. But Nintendo is currently only stating that it will support original Wii discs and "12-centimeter proprietary high-density optical discs", so perhaps no DVD or Blu-ray support again then? On the bright side, it will certainly keep the cost of the console down.
The original Wii saw Nintendo pushing the online element of gaming more than ever before. Out of the box it shipped with wireless 802.11 b/g, the Wii Shop, Wii Ware, a virtual console and channels devoted to the Internet. This meant that the Wii was pretty much constantly connected to the web and gamers could pick up extra DLC and retro games easily.
Nintendo has kept relatively schtum about the Wii U's internet functionality. We've seen demo videos of web browsing, including using the controller to zoom in on websites at E3 this year, but little else has been revealed. Other than that it's highly likely the new console will be N-type wireless as most routers are nowadays. Nintendo will also probably bring the same virtual console and game downloads we see on the current gen Wii.
With the original Wii, Nintendo didn't push for cutting-edge graphics, instead they went for gameplay and innovation. It worked. Millions adopted the motion controls for simple fun gaming over the hardcore Xbox and PlayStation options but Nintendo never quite managed to grasp the serious gamer market with the Wii. The console's puny 729MHz processor and ATI Hollywood GPU just wasn't good enough, not to mention the maximum 480p output.
So with the Wii U, Nintendo has bumped up the specs massively. Crucially the console supports full 1080p output and has proper HDMI connectivity. Using an IBM Power multi-core microprocessor, the Wii U is rumoured to be capable of running games like the soon to be released Battlefield 3. We saw footage of a stunning looking Zelda tech demo on the Wii U's showreel at E3, something which could put Nintendo's graphical prowess back on the map.
Original flavoured Wiis featured ports a-plenty for the Gamecube. They could manage four wireless Wii Remotes, four Gamecube controllers, two memory expansions and two USB 2.0 ports. Bluetooth was key to keeping everything wireless.
The Wii U unlike its older brother has a proper HDMI-out and supports six channel PCM linear output. It also includes four USB 2.0 connectors and works with just about every piece of Wii hardware imaginable. This means those who have built a complete family of Wii Motion Plus controllers or Wii Fit balance boards will find they can use older hardware with the new console.
Storage is usually scare on Nintendo consoles. The Wii has only 512MB of flash memory and, like the 3DS, uses SD cards for large amounts of data.
It looks like Nintendo is keeping up this tradition with the Wii U. The specs sheet on their website points to internal flash memory again with SD expansion or, this time round, the option to use an external USB hard disk drive.
Given the graphics on show and the multi screen capabilities of the Wii U we don't see why Nintendo wouldn't offer larger amounts of storage. To us it seems like a perfect home media centre and a good way to share video between handheld and tv screen. So, we await to see just how big this internal flash memory offering is. Don't hold your breath.
So should I buy one?
It's pretty clear from the details announced at E3 alone that the Wii U is going to be yet another trend-setter from Nintendo. Expect the Wii U to begin turning up on the christmas lists of just about every kid under the age of 15 when it's released next year. But for the more hardcore gamer the Wii U is also worth consideration. Nintendo has clearly put a lot of thought into upping the specs this time round, making it a more persuasive alternative to the Xbox or PlayStation.
The simple motion control fun of the current Wii, whilst exiting at launch, has now begun to feel worn out. With the Wii U, Nintendo has brought another platform that designers and programmers can innovate with. This means the same kind of quality of games as Super Mario Galaxy, but with full 1080p graphics and a controller like nothing ever seen before. In the famous words of a certain overweight Italian plumber - let's a-go!
Picking up a Project Cafe? Or is the Wii enough excitement already?..