We’re already well over a year into the eighth gaming generation thanks to the launch of the Nintendo 3DS last year, but we still have a long road ahead of us. While both Wii and DS had pretty extensive and diverse software libraries, I know there are plenty of fans who prefer one over the other for whatever reason. Some like the DS’s simplicity and its similarities to the SNES and that whole heyday, while some like the motion controls pioneered by Wii. I’m a big fan of most of the Wii library, while I was never nearly as excited for most of the DS’s lineup; others like the DS’s diverse palette of RPGs and think it’s God’s gift to handhelds.
We don’t know much about Wii U, but we know enough to get a good idea of what the system has to offer in terms of gameplay (touch screen, screen streaming, 3DS-like motion control, all the bells and whistles of traditional controllers) as well as graphics (HD and higher processing power). The question is, given what we’ve seen so far from each system, which do you think will turn out better in the end? Will the HD games attracted by Wii U give it the edge it needs to be the perfect marriage between the traditional gamer’s dedicated system and Nintendo’s trademark innovation? Or will 3DS end up with the more robust and extensive software lineup, giving it a leg up over its homebound counterpart?
For me, it really depends on what level you want to evaluate the two. In terms of actual performance, I expect 3DS to do much better in the long haul. It’s a more affordable platform, I imagine it’ll receive more frequent software releases, particularly on the first party side, and it’s portable to boot. All of that gives it major value for its target audience. Wii U will comparatively be expensive, in terms of hardware especially but also software, but I expect that we’ll see more major third party offerings thanks to its increased capabilities.
But there’s a big reason why I don’t think that will give Wii U quite so big a boost as many seem to think: more than likely many if not most of those third party games will show up on the other two HD platforms as well. It’s unclear whether customers who’d typically buy those games for PlayStation or Xbox will switch over to Wii U, as well as how the introduction of the Wii U will affect the growth of the PS3 and 360 userbases, but I don’t expect Wii U to gain a clear advantage until its competitors begin their own segues to the next generation.
The 3DS’s slow start also seems to be mirrored by mixed reception of the Wii U, although we’ll see how that changes once its full lineup is shown at E3.
On a personal level, however, I’m much more excited for the future of Wii U. I’m largely a single-player kind of gamer, meaning that I like to play massive time sinks with tons of content, and large console-grade experiences are usually better suited to those tastes. My handheld experience is usually reserved for games I’d rather play in short bursts or to give me a chance to take my obsession on the go. Most of my all-time favorites have been home system games, and I don’t see that changing with the eighth generation.
3DS’s graphics are nothing to sneeze at, but hardly cutting edge, even for a handheld. Wii U, on the other hand, seems much more ambitious. I don’t care so much about graphics as about processing power, though, and what the extra punch will allow games to do that just wasn’t possible before. Tons of detailed, complex enemies on screen at once in an intense combat scenario? Yeah, I totally want that. Settings that are not only unprecedentedly gorgeous but also full of vibrancy due to the upgrade in sheer potential? It’s one of the most tempting features of those higher-powered systems, and not something I can get to the same extent from my 3DS.
Wii U sounds like it will accommodate more robust download titles as well, which is always a plus. The limitations of both Wii and 3DS have held me back from purchasing a lot of original download titles for either, but with some of the restrictions of those platforms out of the way, I get the feeling I’m going to become more of a digital customer in addition to my traditional retail buying habits.
In short, Wii U seems like it will be a better gateway towards a more diverse palette of games, while 3DS seems like the path to more of the kinds of games I’m used to, except in portable form. I think it’s pretty obvious which of those prospects has me more excited.
How both upcoming New Super Mario Bros. present themselves should prove an interesting factor in the debate. New Super Mario Bros. 2 seems to forgo production values, but does it make up for this in other ways? New Super Mario Bros. Mii looks nicer, but seems to play it even safer from an ambition and variety standpoint - which I suppose makes some sense if Nintendo wants to use it as a starting point for their new platform (although Super Mario World was pretty ambitious back in the SNES days). All things being equal, I think I’d prefer the nicer looking console iteration, but the handheld sequel just might upstage it. It’ll all boil down to the software in the end.
Obviously we’ll find out a bit more at E3 and be much better equipped to judge then, but I’m just curious what you guys think based on what little we’ve already learned. Hedge your bets in the comments!