What started out as a dream for gamers may be slowly turning into a nightmare for Nintendo. Ostensibly Nintendo’s stab at making a thoroughly modern, graphically competitive console, the Wii U received a mixed reception at E3 2011, with particular scrutiny focused on its unusual tablet controller. Though Nintendo is keen to emphasize the range of gameplay possibilities inherent in the controller’s design, a new report claims that the tech is not working as planned.
Rumored to be at fault is the tablet controller’s primary chipset. Likely a result of Nintendo’s proclivity for using dated, low-cost technology, the chipset apparently lacks the necessary muscle to power the device’s streaming and wireless functions. As a result, developers working on Wii U titles are left using tethered controllers — though those too apparently fail to function properly.
This news comes from French site 01net, source of many of the earliest Wii U rumors. The source is identified only as “A Nintendo Insider,” and while this news should be taken with the requisite serving of table salt, 01net’s record on Wii U rumors thus far counts more hits than misses.
The report goes on to state that Nintendo had been eying a June 2012 release for the Wii U, though the ongoing difficulties with getting the tablet controllers working properly may force them to hold the unit until September. Could that be why Nintendo refuses to put any public timetable on the system’s release date or price until 2012?
This is only the latest in an increasingly long string of issues surrounding the Wii U’s still nameless controller. A number of questions about the hardware sprung up after Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference, and the answers have been resolutely disappointing. Will the Wii U support multiple tablet controllers? No (and if today’s news is accurate, supporting even one is tricky). Can the controller be played in a separate room from the console? No. Even Nintendo appear to be backing away from some of the unit’s features, suggesting that third parties won’t be required to use the touch screen.
While the Wii U still has public support from such industry luminaries as EA’s Peter Moore, today’s news (if true) makes it ever harder to discount the claim that the system is just a stopgap measure. Particularly in light of the panicked 3DS price drop and the just-announced, borderline embarrassing 3DS Circle Pad attachment, Nintendo appears uncharacteristically erratic. The company is visibly struggling to compensate for its own hardware’s shortcomings.
It would be a shame if the Wii U, once believed to signify Nintendo’s readiness to take the battle directly to Sony and Microsoft, instead became the company’s hardware swan song. Time, and ample good will on the part of gamers, remains for Nintendo to turn this situation around. More than ever, the question has become: can Nintendo deliver?
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