RUMOUR – ‘Wii HD’ to be called Nintendo Feel? Probably not.

Today, I’m going to do something not often attempted in the realms of online reader-writer interaction. I’m asking you, my readers, to search your souls. To search deep, deep into the abyss of your mind. This is a question not often asked by the everyday man, but it is one of the utmost primeval importance. The answer is in the psyche somewhere, but only the most philosophically astute and inquiring minds will be able to truly understand it.

The question?

“Can you feel it? Can you feeeeel it? CAN YOU FEEEEEL IT?!”

First put forward by the probing minds of the Jackson Five, it’s a question that has plagued mankind for decades, and it’s one that’s soon to be featured on Nintendo TV advertisement campaigns and crappy fan-made YouTube videos the world over, if Swedish gaming website Loading is to be believed.

Rumours concerning Nintendo’s new console, previously dubbed the ‘Stream‘, had been trickling steadily along, gently turning the wheel of the internet rumour mill over the past few weeks, and when NeoGAF got word, the stream quickly grew into a raging torrent of speculative water. So, it’s probably about time the console got a new name – the internet will be calling Nintendo’s next console ‘Feel’, at least for the next few weeks.

What’s it about? Well, the new console’s controller will apparently “convey the sense of touch” to the player, which is a throwback to a rumour that popped up a couple of weeks ago, stating that the controller’s much-rumoured 6 inch touch-screen would feature haptic feedback technology.

Haptics is a tactile feedback technology employed in touchscreen displays, used to recreate the sense of touch and texture by applying force, motion or vibration feedback to the user’s finger. In layman’s terms, this means that, despite being made of plastic and being entirely flat and absolute in its texture, the screen can trick the nervous system into thinking that there is actually an object contained within the screen – an object with texture and depth. An example to use here would be Nintendogs. Call your dog to the screen using the controller’s reported microphone and camera array, and you would be able to literally feel its fuzzy fur, wet tongue or the roughness of the wooden floor.

It certainly sounds very Nintendo-like, and with the 3DS, the Big N has shown that it’s interested in introducing new dimensions of play into its consoles, dimensions which can ‘surprise’ people, something that many feel the industry has failed to do with the Wii’s motion controls over the years.

While the concept itself does sound feasible, it goes against many of the rumours we’ve been hearing, particularly ones concerning Nintendo’s relationship with 3rd parties and the desire to recapture the ‘hardcore’ market.

“Nintendo is doing this one right” said one anonymous source. “It’s not a gimmick like the Wii.” – personal opinions and semantics aside, a console called ‘Feel’ with a six inch haptic touchscreen would, I feel, generally be considered to be a bit of a gimmick; whilst the idea itself and its subsequent gameplay potential is something that appeals to me, I’d be hard pressed to say it doesn’t sound at least a little gimmicky. Based on what they’ve been hearing, lapsed Nintendo fans are about ready for the announcement what is essentially the GameCube 2 with GTAV and Modern Warfare 3 as exclusive launch titles – showing off an overclocked PS3 with a haptic touchscreen is not something that’s going to win core gamers back, and while this is not necessarily what Nintendo want, it’s what we’ve been hearing.

It’s no secret that Nintendo has problems with 3rd parties; 1st party titles are always the ones that perform best on Nintendo consoles, and parallel to this, multiplatform games do tend to perform better on rival consoles. The reasons for this are countless – proprietary, expensive cartridges, mindiscs with limited storage, a poor online infrastructure, awkward, timely and costly manufacturing processes etc – but the one that ties in with this rumour is the design of the consoles themselves.

Nintendo consoles are almost always exclusively designed with their own genius vision in mind. While these are often well-meaning, genuinely commendable steps to improve the industry, 3rd party developers often struggle or fail to see the potential in the control schemes, or they recognise it a little too late. Re-reading that, it sounds like a stab at 3rd parties, but it’s not – when the market is fragmented like that, it’s understandable why developers don’t bother investing the time, money and creativity to push the new innovations, but it’s still a problem to Nintendo.

From reports published so far, Nintendo is trying to strengthen its relations with 3rd parties to get them back on board, making competitive content for them once again. A controller with haptics is not the way to do it. For Nintendo to win devs back over, this console has to be developer friendly with industry standard features, namely, it has to at least support a gamepad with four face buttons, four shoulder buttons and two analog sticks. ‘Industry standard’, however, is no longer the Nintendo way – while Nintendo have created many of the industry standards we see in our consoles today, they don’t stick with them for long; they continue to pioneer new ones.

At the recent investor’s meeting, Iwata himself admitted to what I’m referring to; Nintendo’s tendency to be too self-sufficient. With a couple of exceptions, it was left to Nintendo to really show off the benefits of the Wii’s motion controls and as a result, there weren’t many truly standout uses of the Wii Remote that proved it was the revolution that it promised. Instead we got the phenomenon known as ‘waggle’ – shake the remote to run, shake the remote to jump, shake the remote to do a backflip, shake the remote to win.

The same would happen if Nintendo were to release a console with a haptic touchscreen – the industry simply does not have the resources or time to properly or effectively use such a technology, especially when it isn’t an industry standard. If the Xbox 720 or the PlayStation 4 were to employ identical functionality, then we’d have something on our hands, but the likelihood of that actually happening is next to nil. In fact it’s probably less.

Ultimately, the outcome of this console will come down to Nintendo – do they want to limit their own creativity at the expense of third party support, or will they forgo it in favour of their own genius? Nintendo, it seems, are slaves to their own vision, and will always force their fans to choose between 1st party or 3rd party. Personally, it’s a no-brainer. I have an Xbox for a reason. Nintendo, keep working on topping Ocarina.

So, readers, how about that name? Are you feelin’ it or not?

– Rory

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2 Responses

  1. Great Article Man…….very well written

  2. I really love your site.. Great colors & theme.
    Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my very own blog and would like to find out where you got this from or what the theme is called. Kudos!

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