Wii U @ E3: Microsoft’s Subtle Jab

E3 is back in full swing, and with it comes a boatload of news about Nintendo’s Wii U system, expected to launch somewhere around the end of this year.

I could spend my time talking to you about some of the new features announced today, such as the slightly redesigned and newly named Wii U Gamepad (see above). There’s a few additional buttons that have information now, includingthat rectangular one at the bottom right that allows you to switch what’s on the TV screen to your tablet’s screen instead. Oh, and there’s a handy new traditional controller if you prefer a more hardcore gamepad — or one that actually fits in your hands.

I might talk about the news that the system will apparently be released in both white and black at launch, which is good for those of us who bought a Wii at launch and thought the black one that came out a couple years later looked much cooler.

There was a possibility I would spend some time on today’s announcement about video chat on the system, which seems like forward thinking from Nintendo until you remember that it’s 2012 and Skype has already been around for years. Still, for the casual market that Nintendo’s systems generally target, I suspect that feature will get some use.

Hell, if it were up to me, I’d tell you about the rumors of a new New Super Mario Bros. game that leaked as part of today’s press conference. Yes, new new. If you’ve read any of my posts on the site before, you’re already aware of my love for four-player co-op, and the first game for the Wii was one of the most fun four-player experiences around. Of everything I’ve heard and read, this is the news I’m most excited about.

But…there’s something else we have to address.

See, Microsoft confirmed a batch of rumors from a couple of days ago by announcing their new Xbox SmartGlass. Just like last generation’s Playstation Move, the idea seems oddly familiar. The Move was a mysterious wand that allowed for more immersive gaming by allowing for an unknown concept called “motion control” — you now, the same thing the Wii had done (and been ridiculed for) since launch. But the controller had an orb on top and was rounded instead of rectangular, so you knew it was different!

Now Microsoft looks to elbow in on Nintendo’s market by releasing a way for tablets and smartphones to interact with games and even have the image displayed on the smaller screen. Where have I heard that before? I wish I could remember.

When you think about it, Microsoft is also striking back at Apple with this move, trying to fend off the charge of gaming on iPads and iPhones by giving players access to big-budget games on a legitimate system. As a long-time console fan, I’m certainly okay with that.

Still, I find it hilarious that we’ve seen Microsoft and Sony execs lambast Nintendo for being too “kiddie” just because they went after a different audience. Is it just bitterness that a non-HD, low-spec, casual gaming hub outsold their beefy, manly consoles? Don’t know, don’t care. It just seems duplicitous to then repurpose some of those ideas you hated and then try to subtlely present them as outrageous new ideas.

None of this has a huge impact on which — if any — system I’m going to get in the new generation. The rumored price point for the Wii U ($400) is a potential turn-off, and the question with Nintendo always comes down to how much third-party support it’s going to have. As mentioned before on this site, Sony and Microsoft’s new offerings might lock down the ability to play used games, which is an instant no from me. We’ll see as more news comes out over the rest of E3 and the months ahead.

Just do me a favor, Microsoft. Let’s not pretend that you haven’t been glancing at your competitors out of the corner of your eye. We’ve seen this trick before.

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