After Wii – the future of family gaming

The Nintendo Wii U should be the natural successor to the Nintendo Wii, which redefined – some may say invented – family gaming with its accessible motion-controlled game play and visually appealing, non-threatening cartoonish graphics.

However, it seems unlikely that British households will be crowded round the TV this Christmas to boot up the Wii U, due mainly to the fact that it’s really rather confusing.For a start, there’s an utter plethora of different controllers for the new console, and it’s hard to imagine how they could be interchangeable.

You can use your existing Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers, if you have them, or there’s a GamePad that looks like a handheld console in its own right.

There’s a stylus for the GamePad, and there are Pro Controllers that look like traditional games console joypads – making it almost impossible to predict what game play on this console might actually feel like.

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In addition to this, there’s a ‘basic’ set and a ‘deluxe’ set which appears to differ only in the respect that the ‘deluxe’ set is black instead of white, and comes with a hefty 32GB of internal storage, compared to 8GB on the basic model.

The GamePad itself looks like it was designed by an engineer who just couldn’t decide what to leave out – so stuck absolutely everything in there.

There’s a camera for video conferencing, two joysticks that double as buttons, a four-way A-B, X-Y array of buttons, built-in speakers, accelerometer and gyroscope for motion detection, a button that promises to let you control your television using the GamePad as a remote, a microphone, and near-field communication for wireless file transfer.

All of that is not to mention the 6.2″ widescreen touchscreen display, built-in volume control and audio jack, left and right shoulder buttons, and secondary ‘ZL’ and ‘ZR’ buttons on the back of the pad.

It’s all… well, it’s all a bit too much really. Games will either have a large number of redundant buttons and control methods, or will be so complicated that only the most committed of gamers will be able to master them.

And that would be fine for most consoles, given the usually niche nature of the market – but the Wii U will be faced by a nation of expectant families keen to take their low-stress, low-impact gaming forwards to the next generation.

With the Xbox One and PS4 also arriving, it’s difficult to imagine the Wii U gaining much traction among hardcore gamers – but I can’t see it working for families either.

As much as it pains me to say it, I suspect the over-engineering of the Wii U may not only sound the death knell for its own chances as a console, but also for the trend for family gaming that many households have enjoyed in recent years.

About Will Beeton

I am a gadgets enthusiast who loves sharing my gaming time with my family, but fear I will ultimately have to sell my Nintendo Wii with no decent family-friendly option with which to replace it.