Friday, 18 January 2013

Wii U and the Winds of Change

Originally posted on the Reckless New Media website.

Last Friday saw the launch of the Wii U, the first major console launch for six years. As is pretty much the norm with Nintendo, there's a certain amount of leftfield thinking with the controller, which includes a small screen rather like the succesful Nintendo DS handheld console (and less successful 3D version of the same thing).

The console comes with it's own NetFront-based web browser. Not heard of it? Well, it's a variant of Webkit and is mostly found on lower-end mobile phones, plus the PSP and Nintendo 3DS handheld devices. The 'Webkit' part should make it relatively similar to Safari or Google Chrome browsers, although exactly how much so is another thing since Webkit is a fairly loose tag in itself. The browser will be able to do all of the normal HTML5 things, like play video.

Early user testing suggests that it'll be the fastest console browser out there, easily outperforming Internet Explorer 10 on the Xbox. It's an interesting development. In the past, Nintendo have kept an Apple-like grip on the software allowed to run on their devices. However, this would suggest that they may be taking HTML5 games and applications more seriously - even if it wasn't the intention, you can be fairly sure that Nintendo are tech-savvy enough to realise that it's a possibility.

Whichever console it is that finally does fully embrace HTML5 apps, it's quite a race to win. The possibility of playing games on your console, then leaving the house and still being able to continue playing on whatever web-enabled device you happen to have (eg a mobile phone) would be a dream come true for a certain type of game, say a highly addictive football management game, particularly given the massive increases in mobile broadband connection speeds offered by 4G and the ever-increasing area covered by fibre optic broadband.

Exciting times, although I do hope that it doesn't come at the expense of people properly enjoying their journey to work.

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