Recently, there has been a wealth of rumours concerning the Wii console. It´s hard to keep up with every single one of them, so I have summarized all of them here for your convenience.
1.) The Space World 2006 story
Perhaps the most spectacular, certainly the most outrageous one was originally posted on the Moz la Punk forums and republished almost everywhere. I will not quote it in its entirety, since it is obviously fake. Here´s why: The author claims that Nintendo will announce a whole wealth of new info at a Space World expo to take place in August. It mentions several new games which will be rated ´Adults Only´. Critics have claimed that Nintendo has never published a game that was rated such. Also, and more convincingly, developers can only aim for a certain rating. You can never know what rating you end up with.
It is further claimed that ´Sadness´ gameplay is to be showcased. No disrespect to Nibris and the best of luck to them, but I am sure they will not manage to get this game out for Wii, let alone be featured at a Nintendo show.
According to the post, Iwata was also supposed to introduce Hideo Kojima: "He will go on to explain the idea behind Elebits and then announce that a new ´disruption´ will take place." As far as Elebits is concerned, Shingo Mukaitoge is producer and Akihiro Ishihara is director. Hideo Kojima has nothing to do with this game and, thus, would not be on stage talking about it. Also, it would make no sense for Nintendo to introduce Kojima-San as "one of Nintendo’s newest best friends", since he has enjoyed a close working relationship with Nintendo for some time.
The claims concerning a ´Resident Evil´ Wii exclusive are even more ridiculous. Capcom will be more than hesitant about publishing a part of the series exclusively on a Nintendo console after the fourth installment did not sell as much as Capcom had hoped for. Also, a game that is slated for a 2009 release would not be discussed publically, let alone at an event like Space World.
I won´t even go into the hardware claims that follow. Just ask yourself the question: Wouldn´t developers that have been hard at work on the games you saw at E3 be a little pissed off to learn that they can pretty much start from scratch? Or do you really believe they would have toned down those demos to the graphics you saw, just as a smoke screen? Of course not. This guy is a notorious liar and a bad one at that. Don´t believe a word of this crap.
2.) The user profile / caricature story
First of all, let´s recap a little. This has been confirmed to some extent. Miyamoto said the following in an MTV interview at the end of May:
The "Wii Sports" series features these little models which you can put your own faces on ... and then you may start to see those characters, with faces you've created, appearing in different games on the Wii system.Now, Digital Battle (through Codename Revolution) report about a Game Informer article to be published in the next issue. Apparently, the article will reveal exclusive information about this feature:
It seems that the Wii will feature a build in camera for snapshots so you can put your face on character models in the game. The ATi graphics chip is said to be quite powerful supporting HDR and bump mapping.Let´s leave the discussion about the GPU and physics to one side for the moment and concentrate on the caricature / profile aspect. This one is further supported by another source. The Game|Life blog interviewed Nintendo producer Katsuya Eguchi:
The Wii will also feature a hardware physics processor, with built in 32 Mb of dedicated RAM, enough to take the load of the IBM CPU. A headset will be available either included in the package or sold separately.
The article also mentions that Nintendo will sell SD memory cards ranging from 2 GB to 7 GB. No price has been mentioned.
He told me that players would be able to create their own facial caricatures to put on the players in Wii Sports, then use them in other games. (...)This would suggest an internal camera, possibly hidden next to the SD card slot. I expressly asked Iwata why we haven´t seen what´s under the flap. He told me that he was sorry to disappoint and that there was only an SD slot underneath. Mind you, he would say that.
One of the most important parts of the story (is) the fact that the caricature-making and profile-storing process is part of the hardware.
3.) The dev kit story
Go Nintendo has published a picture of what appears to be a black Wii console (still bearing the old Revolution logo on its side). Codename Revolution misquoted Go Nintendo and went on to call it an SDK. Just to clarify: It´s not an SDK. I have seen the dev kits that were shipped to Ubi Soft Paris in early April and they are about twice as big as the final console. It looks like one of those mini PCs, is also black but it has a conventional tray disc drive. It´s not self-loading like the Wii drive and it does not have that blue light. Instead, it has a small LED bar that is chasing around in a circle (if you can picture that). So whatever this is (fake or real), it is not an SDK. It´s not that important, but just so you know.
4.) The instant messenger story
Codename Revolution has come across a patent that specifies a messenger service like AIM or MSN for Wii. Here is their story:
According to the latest United States patent (7056217) filed by Nintendo (planned six years ago) and is now published on June 6th, 2006 it states the following:This would further support the profile story above. The patent can be found here.
Title: Messaging service for video game systems with buddy list that
displays game being played
Description: (...) The messaging service client provides the user with an opportunity to create a user profile that is stored in the memory of network server…The user profile may contain any desired user-specific information including, but not limited to, an alias, first name, last name, gender, age, city, state, favorite game, favorite food, favorite sport, hobbies, recommended URL and notes. (...) Users may also be provided with the capability of including in their profiles customized faces (images) made up of various user-selected features (e.g., a particular nose, mouth, mustache, etc.) in order to enhance the “persona” of the user. These customized faces may be included with messages. Users may even be provided with the capability of including in their profiles digital images of their own faces generated, for example, using a digital camera…
5. The browser details
This isn´t rumour, it´s proper news. But all the better, right? Cubed3 has interviewed Scott Hedrick from Opera about their browser´s inclusion in the Wii.
The Opera browser is saved to the Flash ROM on the Wii console, and does not require a separate memory card as Opera for DS does. The browser can be launched in only a few seconds, immediately delivering a great user experience. (...)It is just possible that Mr. Hedrick told us about Wii launching in November there. He might have meant to say ´no later than November´, but November itself would be in keeping with Iwata´s comments during my E3 interview. He said that Nintendo is in no rush to launch the console and that they would only release it once the launch library is sufficient.
Opera has worked closely with Nintendo to achieve a breakthrough experience, especially in terms of incorporating the revolutionary Wii remote into the browsing experience. (...)
Nintendo’s network-centric approach with WiiConnect24 will enable rich new services and capabilities, the full extent of which Nintendo has yet to reveal. For Opera, WiiConnect24 presents more interesting opportunities rather than challenges.
Opera has long been working with set-top box manufacturers, for example, that use Opera to create Web-based user interfaces. These IP-based set-top boxes are always connected, like Wii, and can be easily and dynamically updated with live content or new menus. (...)
The latest version, Opera 9, even includes small Web-based applications called Widgets. We have announced that Opera Widgets will be available on devices and it would be cool to see them on Wii. (...)
Navigating the Web with Opera on the Wii will be as easy if not easier than using Opera on a desktop. For Opera desktop users, surfing on the Wii will be a very familiar experience. Opera will be integrating its unique rendering technologies to compensate for the lower resolution of TVs and the added distance of the user from the TV screen.
Nintendo’s vision is to expand the appeal of its products to as large of an audience as possible. We aim to make a browsing experience that leverages the intuitive capabilities of the Wii remote, ensuring that anyone from an experienced gamer to your grandma can surf the Web on Wii. (...)
Based on Opera 9 for Devices, the Wii browser will be not only able to
surf the full Internet, but execute Web applications using technologies such as AJAX. In addition to the ability to use advanced services such as Google Maps, third parties could theoretically develop Web applications specifically for the Wii. (...)
In addition to being a full Web browser, Opera also serves as a presentation engine for devices, such as set-top boxes. This means that you it is possible to create dynamic Web-based applications and user interfaces using Web technology running on Opera – avoiding the use of native code such as C++ Nintendo has not released information on its specific use of Opera, but one can imagine the possibilities of what a browser can deliver to a game on a console that is always connected beyond simply browsing the Web.
I believe Nintendo announced that Wii will be available in November 2006 and will cost less than $250. You will not have to buy Opera as an external item, as it will be available within Wii upon purchase. There is not a separate cartridge as there is for the DS.
6.) The tip of the iceberg story
Now, you all have read this by now, I guess. GameDaily Biz interviewed an ATI spokesperson and got some pretty cryptic replies:
Wii games will (not) simply look like GameCube titles using a unique control method. Nintendo already told us that the hardware being used at E3 was not finalized. Moreover, during the show GameDaily BIZ met with ATI, which is providing the "Hollywood" GPU for the Wii, and John Swinimer, Senior Public Relations Manager of Consumer Products, emphasized that the Wii architecture is capable of producing far better results than what we've witnessed thus far. "I think what you saw [on Wii] was just the tip of the iceberg of what the Hollywood chip can bring to the Nintendo Wii," he said.Now this is a truly weird quote. Swinimer might have been keen to emphasize that the Wii GPU is a significant advance on the Gamecube´s chip. After all, he is an ATI PR exec. But this comparison goes far, far beyond that. What could he possibly mean by that? Again, take into account that Wii game development has been well under way for about a year, so the E3 versions cannot be too far off from the final product. So, in my mind, this could relate back to the alleged physics processing capability of the ATI chip, see point 2.) above. Of course, this could also relate to a different means of displaying those graphics. But I would like to make this absolutely clear again: I do not regard such technology as likely. It´s merely a possibility.
7.) The PS3 architecure flaws story
Of course, this is not a Wii rumour story. But The Inquirer carried a story that, if true, would greatly affect the Wii´s future. As such, it was met with shock, disbelief and cynicism by other media outlets. I am in no position to take sides here, not being too technically minded. But here is the upshot of the story:
On the flight to Japan, my row-mate said (...) that the RSX can only write about half as much vertex data as it can fetch, not an ideal situation by any stretch, but survivable. Then came the horrible news, RSX appears to be limited to setting up 275 Million triangles/second, anemic compared to the 500+ million in XBox360. When asked about this apparent thumping dished out by MS, the reply from one notable ISV relations boffin was a terse 'What a Piece of Junk'. (...)Harsh words that are reminiscent of former Sony developer Josh Robinson´s critical review that got him fired. In my interview with Factor 5´s Julian Eggebrecht, I was assured that all the talk about PS3 development being unnecessarily difficult was grossly exaggerated. He might have to say that, of course. However, there was not even an off-the-record indication that there was anything to those rumours. That is all I can say about this story.
Cell appears to be pretty badly broken. For main memory, it looks like Cell has about 25GBps of main memory bandwidth, and RSX is about 15-20GBps. Achievable bandwidth is between about two thirds of that and nearly 100%, clearly the elves in the caves surrounding Rambus central did something right with XDR. That is the happy news.
For local memory, the measured vs theoretical bandwidth is missing, I wonder why? RSX is at a solid 22.4GBps for both read and write, good job there green team. Then comes the blue team with Cell. Local memory write is about 4GBps, 40% of the next slowest bandwidth there. Then comes the bomb from hell, the Cell local memory read bandwidth is a stunning 16MBps, note that is a capital M to connote Mega vs a capital G to connote Giga. This is a three order of magnitude oopsie, and it is an oopsie, as Sony put it "(no, this isn't a typo...)".
If you can write at 250x the read speed, it makes Cell local memory just about useless. That means you do all your work out of main memory, and the whole point of local is, well, pointless. This can lead to contention issues for the main memory bus, and all sorts of nightmarish to debug performance problems. Basically, if this Sony presentation to PS3 devs shown to us is correct, it looks like PS3 will be hobbled in a serious way.
In my mind, the rumours about the Wii containing both a camera and microphone must be true. I am also inclined to believe that the camera will allow for mugshots that are then turned into caricatures and integrated into certain games. Such a visualized profile system makes a whole lot of sense for a console that is meant to be used by up to four people at one time, who may be of greatly differing ages.
A messenger system makes just as much sense and goes some way to explaining the still largely mysterious standby mode. The possible browser functions that do not have directly to do with browsing are an interesting hint in this respect, too.
Finally, I believe that we are finally getting closer to the ´last secret´ that I, for one, still expect and it most likely has to do with the functions just mentioned. In fact, when some people speculated after E3 that the Wii will double as an Voice over IP video phone, I immediately thought: "That´s it!" And I may very well still be correct on this one, in one way or another.
Sources: Moz la Punk forums, Digital Battle (through Codename Revolution), MTV, Game|Life, Go Nintendo, Codename Revolution, Cubed3, GameDaily Biz, The Inquirer