Nintendo's Next Console Will Enter HD Era, Not Hard-Drive Era

The successor to the Wii will not include a traditional hard drive, but will bear some of the traits of competing high-definition game consoles, according to sources familiar with Nintendo's planned 2012 gaming machine.

The console, codenamed Project Café, will include 8GB of on-board flash-based memory, presumably for game storage. That quantity, while nearly 16 times the storage capacity of the Wii, is smaller than the 20GB of room available in the original, optional harddrives offered in 2005 for the Xbox 360. The amount of memory in the new Nintendo console would also be dwarfed by the 250 GB drives offered in current, high-end versions of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

While my sources have not specified how Nintendo plans to allow owners of its console to use the machine's memory, 8GB would seem to provide ample room for downloadble retro games, a service Nintendo has already supported on the Wii. The increased capacity, compared to the Wii, would also allow games on the new Nintendo platform to be patched and updated, though downloadable expansions, such as 650 MB Call of Duty map packs would quickly stuff the machine. The system will also support saving to SD cards.

By offering 8GB of storage, Nintendo would not be able to offer full-sized new games for download, a practice that has been promoted on the Xbox 360 and, to a lesser extent, the PlayStation 3, in recent years. It would also be unlikely to store downloaded feature films without additional, user-supplied storage.

Nintendo is not commenting on specs for its Wii successor, promising to reveal more at E3 in June. If I hear back from them about these new revelations, I'll update this story.

The new 2012-scheduled Nintendo system will fall more in line with the 360 and PlayStation 3 by matching those consoles' abilities to render and output graphics in high-definition. I've heard mixed things about whether Nintendo will cap their machine's graphical resolution at 1080i or 1080p, but either figure would significantly exceed the Wii's 480p and achieve the resolutions used for most high-end console games on the Microsoft and Sony consoles.

Nintendo's disc format for the new console will hold 25GB of data, I've heard. That capacity is triple the size of the biggest DVD-style discs for Wii and Xbox 360 and comparable to the capacity of single-layer Blu-ray discs on the PlayStation 3.

All of these new specs about Nintendo's device give us, at best, an incomplete a sense of what Nintendo's new console will be like. They help, but do little better to fully explain the device than the measurements of a femur and talon tell us the colour and scent of a dinosaur. Nevertheless, the numbers do hint at some of the system's capabilities. The disc size and the broad impression of graphical prowess is consistent with my and others' reports that the new console will at least equal the PS3 and Xbox 360 in horsepower, increasing the likelihood that games made for the current Sony and Microsoft consoles could also be made for Nintendo's next machine. The size of the new console's on-board storage signals that Nintendo isn't planning on turning its Wii successor into a device for downloading retail games and movies, though it could continue to support the act of streaming linear content, like Netflix movies, through its console. Nintendo currently allows users to stream standard-definition content through the Wii and will soon offer Netflix streaming on its portable 3DS.

Nintendo has ample time to tweak the specs of its new machine and could increase or decrease the new system's storage capacity - or other parameters - prior to the machine's launch.

Nintendo executives have said that they would not create a new gaming console until they had an idea for it that would distinguish the device from the competition, just as the Wii Remote set the Wii apart from the 360 and PS3. The new machine's Nintendo difference seems to centre on the console's unusual screen-based controller - an amalgam of traditional twin-stick controller and touchscreen tablet (à la Apple's iPad) - that will complement the console's support for Wii-style motion controllers.

Nintendo is planning to enable the screen-controller to function in multiple ways, I've heard. It can serve simply as a standard game controller that imitates the posture of playing a game on a 360 or PS3. Its screen allows it to also present a supplemental, touch-sensitive viewing screen (for maps and inventory) that extends the game running on one's TV, an option that renders the controller as a plus-sized equivalent to the lower screen of a Nintendo DS, with the TV serving as the top screen, so to speak. A third option we've been hearing from several sources involves the new console streaming the same game that can be output onto a TV onto the controller screen, allowing high-end games to be played portably while within an unspecified range of the console. (Imagine, though it's crude, being able to take the game you were playing on your TV to the bathroom, via your screen-based controller.)

Despite the volume of leaks about Nintendo's Project Café in recent weeks, the company behind Mario and Miis has long possessed a knack for surprising its consumers and the gaming industry. As much as we're learning in advance, expect plenty of twists when Nintendo presents its new machine early next month. And with any luck, you'll be able to buy and play it a year after that.


Comments

    I am most likely going to get chased out of here saying this, but here goes.

    If I had a choice, I would rather have a hard drive put in over HD graphics any day.

    Then again, this comes as no surprise - Nintendo is basically the game industries answer to Apple. Nintendo love to keep their platforms locked down, and a hard drive will only threaten the grip they like so much.

      I'd much rather a hard drive AND HD graphics :D

        there is nothing to say there is no HDD at all.

        the 360 has a similar amount of flash and the ability to add a HDD

        the Wii 2 might simply just have optional (undoubtably expensive) external HDD suport.
        to minimise upfront costs.

        i use my HDD on my 360 heaps but when i think of the people that own a wii. they arent the people that would be installing games to hdd or download every xbla title.

        if there is NO otpion i will be pissed but if it is merely an add on ill just be annoyed

    So, the new console will only rival the PS3/360 in terms of horsepower, and lack a proper hard drive?

    I wonder if this fancy tablet controller is a good enough gimmick to keep them ahead. It sounds like they will very much start off on the back foot here. I understand it may be in order to keep costs down, but it seems to me that by doing so they may shoot themselves in the foot.

    How expensive are the controllers going to be? Swallowing an extra $100 for an extra controller + nunchuk was bad enough for parents. I can't see a touchscreen controller selling for less than $200...

      DSLite has been selling well under $200 for years. Somehow I think they can sell a substantially less sophisticated bit of kit (the controller) for less than that. :--]

        No, it hasn't - not here at least. Over six months after the DSi release, $199 was the going price for a used DSL.

    Maybe they'll enable us to connect an external hard drive? And as mentioned above, they may well increase their memory size later on

      It's not much different to the Xbox 360 "Arcade" with 4GB internal storage, and the ability to use USB sticks. Wii2 will have 8GB internal and an SD card slot - and SDHC goes up to 32GB.

        Yeah but thats the 1 version of the system. No one really bought the Arcade 360 because they knew it couldn't store anything.
        Not adding a harddrive obviously means that nintendo is sprewsing for DLC from developers:/

          It's not called the "Arcade" anymore (I got it wrong, the Arcade had 256MB onboard), but MS still sells a 4GB Xbox 360 with or without Kinect.

          It may not be something you or I would buy, but MS wouldn't have maintained the SKU if they weren't selling enough.

          Also what do you mean by "sprewsing"? Dictionary.com doesn't have a definition... in any case, surely if Nintendo wanted more DLC they'd have added more storage?

          It's just a rumour at this stage anyway, so I'm not taking it too seriously. :--D

    Here's hoping they are going with cloud gaming instead of a large Hard Drive. We all know this isn't actually going to happen, but it's a nice dream.

    Is this the same 1080p that the 360 and PS3 are advertised as?

    Hey Kotaku you do realise this is just a rumour? It's strange that it being a rumour wasn't emphasized; not strange for Kotaku but just strange.

    So... an online marketplace isn't going to be a big part of the Wii2 then?

    so, the wii2 will be as powerful as a 360 or PS3, well that seems a bit odd considering that the PS4 and the next xbox will dominate the wii2, nintendo really like making consoles with last gen graphics.

      What do you expect? Nintendo focus more on game play than graphics rendering. As surprising as it sounds, during the 16-bit era Nintendo still did very well with their 8-bit NES. It wasn't until Sonic came along to bump off Mario that Nintendo finally updated the hardware.

      That aside, this is just Nintendo keeping to Gunpei Yokoi's principle of using dated but inexpensive hardware to build game machines.

    So how many SD Cards are we going to have to buy for this thing? And how much is going to be spent on them in comparison to a 200gb harddrive?

    This is not good if true.

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