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Now we know everything about the Wii U, is it really the first Next-Gen console?

Early this morning, an official Nintendo videocast revealed some decisive information about their upcoming console venture. We know now that the price for the cheaper of the two Wii U models will stand at $299 (Deluxe Edition: $350), and that it will be coming out on December 8th (conveniently in time for Christmas). This seems like a reasonable price. The original Nintendo Wii was $50 cheaper when it came out, but it certainly wasn’t as high-end a games console for its time as the Wii U is now. It is, however, more expensive than a 160GB Playstation 3.

The pricing of the Wii U can be interpreted one of two ways. Nintendites will hail it as a fantastic price for the first next-gen console, pointing to the system’s specs as perfectly justifying the not-too-outlandish asking price. Sceptics, on the other hand, will point out that while the price is decent, it doesn’t take into account the pretty shocking price of the Wii U Gamepad controller, which stands at around $170. Also, the sceptic could question whether the console really is next-gen.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed the following specs for the Wii U:

  • Full 1080p resolution
  •  “GPGPU” – allows developers to use GPU memory where normally CPU memory would be used
  •  Main memory: 1GB
  •  1GB System Memory, dedicated to running the OS
  •  Total memory is 2GB
  •  Games only use 1GB of main memory
  •  Can use the browser while playing
  •  25GB Game disc capacity
  •  Discs run at 22.5 MB/s
  •  Uses up to 75 watts of electricity
  •  45W power usage

Some impressive stats do stick out from those. For instance, the disc drive’s 22.5MB/S running speeds far outdo the PS3’s Blu-Ray drive speeds of 9MB/s. Secondly, the division of RAM into that which is dedicated to running the OS and that which is dedicated to games means that the whole show should run very smoothly, and possibly accommodate the option of plentiful multitasking.

However, are these specs enough to really call the Wii U a next-gen console? The exact details of the GPU and CPU have remained a mystery, with rumours suggesting that the graphics will be based on the AMD R700 core, which has been around for four years now.

Furthermore, the launch titles for the Wii U will be New Super Mario Bros and some quirky offering called Nintendo Land, which will apparently show of the Wii U’s unique capabilities to the max. It’s hard to get too excited by these games though, as they seem to be falling back on Nintendo’s typical formula of nostalgia and mini-games rather than innovation. A future release of Bayonetta 2 however, has also been confirmed, so there’s at least something to get excited about.

Ironically, even though all these new details have been revealed, it’s still hard to gauge how excited we should be about the Wii U. Yes, hardware-wise it looks like a powerful little system. That being said, it doesn’t look like it’s going to push any boundaries in terms of either graphics or the games on offer. Its price looks reasonable on the one hand, but on the other, the 6.2″ display-donning Gamepad costs over half as much as the console itself!

In summary, there will be few people who can honestly say that they’ve seen anything truly jaw-dropping in the Wii U. While it looks like a strong console within the current generation, I think I’d die of heartbreak if I was told that this genuinely marks the start of the Next-Gen. Nintendo have now caught up with the X360 and PS3, while adding a few trademark quirky touches of their own. True their style, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves with the Gamepad controller screen and usual selection of eternally popular Nintendo games. What’s new? Not that much, but it’ll certainly be at the top of many a Christmas wish list.

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