Round Table: Cafe Conspirators

The staff gets into a discussion about Wii’s successor.

By M. Noah Ward. Posted 04/21/2011 17:00 5 Comments     ShareThis

Cafe Sign

Late last week, a day after rumors emerged that Nintendo will announce if not fully reveal Wii’s successor at this year’s E3 for a late 2012 launch, subsequent rumors about the console’s capabilities and design began to leak from “sources” to British games news site CVG, French games news site 01net and IGN. While the system’s not charmingly named “Wii Too” as we’d like on our podcast, the console may be wildly different from Wii, so its apparent codename of “Project Cafe” seems appropriate.

The key difference in this new console is, unsurprisingly, its controller, which will be something like “an iPad with buttons.” That’s an intriguing proposition, but IGN’s sources break things down to a much more familiar concept– the controller’s touch screen (which may or may not include multi-touch capabilities) will be 6 inches wide corner-to-corner and set in the middle of a traditional controller that’s similar in function to a GameCube controller, complete with two analog sticks, face buttons, shoulder buttons, d-pad and triggers. In other words, a hybrid of a Dreamcast controller and GameCube controller. The screen is said to support “HD visuals,” and entire games can be streamed from the console to the controller, though whether the controller can actually play those games outside the wireless range of the console is unspecified.

The console itself will be similarly powerful, rumored to sport a 360-esque triple core IBM CPU at its heart, creating graphics that are superior to 360’s and PS3’s (how superior remains to be specified). The system will also be backwards compatible with Wii, suggesting a disc-based media will be used again. Nintendo is said to also be engaging third party developers in games development now to ensure a strong third-party presence at the system’s launch, the same as was done with 3DS.

How much of this is accurate? Nintendo won’t say. In fact, this information may be far more than what we’ll hear officially announced at E3 2011, given Nintendo’s preference to wait until the last minute to reveal details on new games and hardware to maintain competitive advantage. But that can’t stop us from getting into a round table of reactions and predictions for this hardware. Are we excited? Cautiously optimistic? Done with these crazy consoles? What do we think the codename “Cafe” suggests about this console, if anything? How do we envision an “iPad with buttons” and what should that controller do? We discuss below and look forward to your own thoughts in the comments.

Andrew Hsieh

I have to say, honestly, that I’ve been a bad Nintendo fan and didn’t even realize Wii 2 was titled, tentatively, “Project Cafe” until Adam Sorice begrudgingly mentioned it to me. (He was very disappointed in yours truly.) In fact, when he brought it up in conversation, I thought it was some sort of video game-related cafe, not unlike the Mana Bar in Australia. Which leads me to my next point: while Project Dolphin turned out to be completely unrelated to the Gamecube, Project Revolution honestly was a bit of a revolution. And Project Reality, the codename for the Nintendo 64, was true to name as well when it introduced three-dimensional graphics (just like the ones we have in real life!). The question now is, will “Project Cafe” be a codename along the lines of Dolphin or Revolution/Reality?

When I think “cafe”, I think “place to smoke cigars while discussing obscure literary theorists”, which may or may not be the kind of mindset that Nintendo wants players to have while playing Project Cafe. But it’s an interesting thought. After all, Nintendo’s veered straight into casual territory with the Wii, and so perhaps the Wii’s successor will veer into– I don’t know– bourgeoisie territory. Which is a whole article in itself, so I won’t go into that. What I would really like to point out, though, is that Nintendo also seems to be courting the “core gamers” as well, what with the whole somewhat-traditional controller and HD visuals– even if Nintendo’s very, very late to the party. Certainly, Nintendo’s console will still likely be underpowered compared to the competition, but at the very least it’ll have tried to surpass the idea of duct-taping two Gamecubes together. That’s what I like to think, anyhow.

My favorite part of this announcement? The weird parallels between Nintendo and Apple here with the whole touch-screen controls. Once upon a time, Apple Computer claimed the company it feared the most was Nintendo; now Apple’s iOS is eating straight into Nintendo profits. Clearly Nintendo, for all its blustering about how Apple isn’t doing any damage to the gaming industry once dominated by Nintendo, knows what’s up. And it’s fighting back.

P.S. I, too, am disappointed that it’s not “Wii Too”, because that would make way for “Wii Three Kings.” Another day, perhaps.

Andy Hoover

Sometimes I can’t help but laugh when a couple rumors turn into an avalanche of tips from “trusted industry sources” and healthy doses of pure speculation. Of course when you have this much information pouring forth, I can’t help but imagine that somewhere within all of it is at least some semblance of reality. Given how big of an impact touch screens have had on gaming since the launch of DS and iPhone/iPod Touch, adding a touch screen to a traditional controller seems like a very logical step forward. However, a six inch screen seems a bit big and whether or not it is HD has wavered back and forth, though I imagine a high definition six inch touch screen would be quite expensive.

Then again, I can see one situation in which this relatively extravagant setup might make sense. Other rumors have talked about the system’s ability to stream full games to the controller. If this is done locally then it will be a nifty feature but will remain quite limited, but if you can stream via WiFi to just about anywhere then this will indeed be a major step forward for gaming toward a future of one piece of hardware to fit your mobile and home entertainment needs.

Seeing how many cafes feature complimentary WiFi, this could be what Nintendo is getting at with the code name. Imagine playing through the latest Mario title on your 60 inch LCD at home when you get a sudden craving for a latte and some scones, so you pop your controller in your messenger bag/purse/comically large pocket and head on down to your locally cafe where you satisfy your thirst while continuing your adventure. Not only does this concept sound pretty dang cool, but I also thing it would help justify the increased price point for such a technologically advanced controller.

Damn, now I’ve jumped into the baseless speculation.

I hate rumors!

Smith Stuart

I really don’t know what to think about these rumors or what to expect from Nintendo this year. If you had asked me what the “Revolution” was going to be back in ’05, I know I wouldn’t have speculated motion controls because I felt that sort of upgrade in gaming physics wouldn’t come about until we were cruising along in hover cars and time-traveling.

At any rate, Andrew has a great take on the codenames of Nintendo’s previous consoles and their interpretations. Unfortunately, due to the “Dolphin” we cannot rightly state that dissecting these little word snippets will give us any surefire access to the specifics or nature of the final product.

But I wouldn’t say no to Nintendo planting gaming cafes across the country.

Codenames aside, one of the more interesting rumors I’ve come across is that Nintendo’s next-gen console will be a graphics powerhouse. Though I find this thought exciting, I can’t help but bring to mind the 64-bit predecessor that was not as successful as its 32-bit rival, despite its superior hardware and software.

If Wii has proven anything, it’s that video games are not all about horsepower. It may have been criticized by “the elite” for being behind in the area of realism, but it wasn’t afraid to rethink the possibilities of entertainment from a whole new perspective – a perspective that the general hoi polloi would come to adore and its competition would struggle to imitate.

Look at me – I’m already speaking of Wii in the past tense.

M. Noah Ward

Why have a screen? That’s what I kept asking myself.

After reading Andy’s idea of being able to use a local Wi-Fi spot to connect wirelessly back to your “always on” Wii 2 console and play a technically impressive game, OnLive/cloud style, it started to click more. But I’m still struggling to think of an ergonomic way that gargantuan, heavy controller will be pleasant and secure to transport and use. Nintendo has made some ergonomic controllers in the past, so I’m not too worried, but I need to see the form factor to put my mind at ease. Perhaps the actual “controller” parts/wings snap on and off from the screen, allowing you to have a truly “normal” controller for when you’re just playing at home, and a small tablet/portable television on the side! But as Steve Jobs once said, any tablet that’s not at the godly iPad’s 9″ width is “dead on arrival.”

Yet speaking of Jobs, what Cafe rumor initially excited me was the first description– an “iPad with buttons.” At Dojo-Show-Go, Andy has frequently derided iPhone and iPad as gaming devices because they have no buttons. I tend to agree with him. Plus, the “iPad with buttons” description made me initially assume, incorrectly, that the console was the controller. Because let’s face it, with a super-powered console being accompanied by a super-equipped controller– that’s a lot of pricey hardware bundled together into a an expensive box. But if the controller is actually the console, then we have something exciting.

Bah, I said to myself. This would mean the new “console” was actually competing with 3DS, no matter how exciting it seemed that Nintendo would be challenging Apple on Apple’s territory, versus the other way around. Actually, if Cafe functions the way Andy suggests, it will indeed compete with 3DS as a portable gaming system of choice, 3D visuals be damned.

Then I read IGN’s take on the story and saw their awful controller mockup. That was a downer. A GameCube/Dreamcast controller with a giant touch screen isn’t that exciting to me. It seems much more realistic, though. Nintendo has a history of testing “out-there” concepts– 3D visuals (Virtual Boy), tilt-sensitive motion controls (several GBC and GBA games), wireless controllers (Wavebird)– and then revisiting them in a later generation (3DS, Wii, and… Wii) with greater refinement. All I’m really seeing with Cafe’s  console + viewscreen controller combo is Nintendo’s long pursued and minimally addressed dream of using a handheld gaming system to play stuff on your console. It feels like the GBA-to-GameCube connection thing all over again, just upgraded to standard issue in a new console. I can imagine Miyamoto and other Nintendo designers thinking, “Finally! I can make this game that requires your television and your controller’s screen. That’s so cool!”

Don’t get me wrong… I loved Pac-Man Vs., The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. But not enough to want a whole console designed around that experience. Sell me, Nintendo. And make Sony irksome by making this mysterious controller basically a rip off of NGP’s form factor.

Kevin Knezevic

Despite all of the alleged “confirmations,” I am firmly taking a skeptic’s stance on every rumor currently floating around the internet. Nintendo is notorious for being secretive with all of its consoles prior to their unveiling, so it is strange to see all of this speculation gain so much traction in the past week. Surely the company would have some sort of non-disclosure agreement in place to prevent any early leaks, and the fact that new “information” seems to be unearthed almost every day leads me to believe these are all just baseless rumors. Of course, there is always the possibility some of them may turn out to be true, but I think it is dangerous to seriously entertain any of them until we are much closer to E3. (There is also the possibility these rumors are part of an elaborate scheme to technologically Rickroll Sony and Microsoft by throwing them off the trail of what they are really doing, so that is something to consider for all the conspiracy theorists out there.)

That said, I certainly think it’s possible to extrapolate some reliable information from all of the rumors circulating about. For one, it’s all but guaranteed the console will be able to output HD visuals: HD TVs are far more prevalent now than they were at the time of Wii’s release, and Nintendo has a history of supporting such technology only when it has truly become mass market. Similarly, I think it’s safe to say the company’s next home console will be quite a bit more powerful than the current generation. Everyone so easily forgets that, Wii aside, Nintendo has always put out some pretty cutting-edge hardware, and with all of the funds it’s amassed it is only reasonable to believe the company will invest some of that surplus into its next home console to ensure it doesn’t become technologically obsolete the moment its competitors launch their own hardware successors.

Beyond those, things get iffy. It is difficult to say just how different the console’s controller will be– a lot of research went into designing the Wii Remote, and it is hard to imagine Nintendo completely forgoing it (or, more specifically, its TV remote shape) for something so radically unfamiliar and– dare I say– cumbersome. The entire philosophy behind Wii and its controller is simplicity, and these rumors suggest anything but. I also think a “portable” home console would eat into 3DS’s sales, and I doubt Nintendo would be willing to risk such a scenario. Again, it may very well be possible there is some truth to these rumors, but I believe they sound incredibly unlikely and will take them with a grain of salt until E3 finally rolls around.

Your turn. We could talk about Project Cafe all day long– and you’ll hear us do just that (well at least a half hour’s worth) in the next episode of Dojo-Show-Go! posting later today. But you can tell us more of your reactions in the comments below.

5 Responses to “Round Table: Cafe Conspirators”

  • 1379 points
    xeacons says...

    Personally, I couldn’t care less about code names, because they’re fake, and don’t last. As for Wii Too, I’m glad it’s not. I never really liked Wii (I DID like Revolution better) and numerical successors are Sony’s territory.

    I did ponder the screen for a while. What for? Why stream games to the controller? It makes no sense. Unless…

    It’s not the complete game. What if it’s just what they did with the Gamecube and the GBA? Only this time, included in the box? WITH A TOUCHSCREEN? Now everyone can play Four Swords, maps and all, downloaded from the VC. And that’s just the beginning. More games, set up just like that, touchscreen puzzles that activate easter eggs on the big screen? Imagine…This has potential.

  • 318 points
    Greg Wampler says...

    I still very much believe that the 3DS will either be the controller or slide into a shell to complete or add to the existing controller.

    It has IR that nobody knows what it does, it has a motion control built in that nobody seems to think works with 3D, a camera, touchscreen and a mic. Why not just use this as a controller. Besides, Nintendo wouldn’t want to compete with themselves with yet another mobile gaming console.

    • 678 points
      amishpyrate says...

      i bet they will allow the 3ds to be used as a controller for certain games, but they won’t use that as the official controller cause no ones going to buy a $250 controller. I don’t think the controller will allow people to use it as a stand alone device either. it would be cool if they could, but if they can it probably won’t pack much more power than a gba on its own

  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    Two things are why Nintendo will choose this route. One is augmented reality which is more important then 3D. Anyone who has played the 3DS must have thought about this and while the kinect or even the eyetoy did this with consoles before imagine if the consoles augmented reality could be moved and didn’t require just interaction in front of the tv itself. This is more then just virtual reality. This is turning your home or items in it to parts of the game. The second use for a capacitive touch screen is that it means that the system can emulate any button configuration making backwards compatibility and even future possibilities more intriguing.

    Nintendo had games this generation where your controller talked to you, you played hide and go seek with controllers, and now we have the 3DS. I do believe the 3DS can work as a controller for the next system but I don’t believe it will be the primary controller but the ideas are the same. Give gamers the ability to augment their reality and then combine that with more intuitive supposed “waggle” which is always more real then press A button. Combine these techs together and you have puzzlequest with accuracy and bowling that is fun.

  • 360 points
    M. Noah Ward says...

    Cafe at E32011! All will be revealed… And release in 2012. I’m excited to see this thing sooner than later.

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