Monday, April 25, 2011

Wii successor confirmed for 2012 amidst first fakes

Nintendo has confirmed that a Wii successor will be unveiled at E3 in Los Angeles in early June and released in 2012, as expected. On the Japanese website's investor relations page, a brief notice was published today in the form of a PDF document entitled Wii's successor system:

Nintendo Co., Ltd. has decided to launch in 2012 a system to succeed Wii, which the company has sold 86.01 million units on a consolidated shipment basis between its launch in 2006 and the end of March 2011.

We will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo, which will be held June 7-9, 2011, in Los Angeles.

Sales of this new system have not been included in the financial forecasts announced today for the fiscal term ending March 2012.

The last sentence implies that the launch date will be no earlier than April of next year.

Recapping on all rumours so far, the system appears to:

  • be called Stream and bear the codename Project Café
  • feature a tri-core PowerPC CPU by IBM, an R700 series GPU by AMD and at least 512MB RAM
  • be capable of outputting 1080p resolution
  • be capable of stereoscopic 3D (contested by another source)
  • feature motion controls
  • feature a controller with a 6.2 inch HD touchscreen, to which content is streamed from the console, also bearing two analogue sticks, a camera and eight buttons
  • be backwards compatible with Wii software as well as with Wii controllers
  • feature a Blu-ray drive (contested by another source)
  • be already be in the hands of various developers, including Ubisoft, Activision, EA and Rockstar
  • get ´Grand Theft Auto V´, developed by Rockstar, perhaps even for launch
  • get the successor to ´Donkey Kong Country Returns´, developed by Retro Studios 
  • cost between 350 and 400 US-Dollars

In the meantime, various images have popped up purporting to be internal Nintendo documents.The first one appeared on someone's TinyPic account.

Under the headline Innovation reinvented, the text reads:

Project Café is simply the most developer friendly SDK the industry has ever seen. Deliver unparalleled next generation performance at current generation costs. It doesn't get any easier than this.
  • Easy portability from PC, Xbox360
  • Anytime live update past release
  • Integrated M-Live framework

The image itself could, in theory, be genuine. The design of both the alleged presentation slide and the console appear professional enough. But I cannot imagine what kind of presentation such a slide might be from. I do not believe that Nintendo visits publishers with an interest in their top secret SDK to show them a PowerPoint presentation that is designed to convince them of the kit. They do cost money, obviously, but I do not believe that you need to convince a publisher with corny sales slogans like "It doesn't get any easier than this".

Also, if such presentations really were made, they would likely feature lots of technical details and not the general mumbo-jumbo you find in the first paragraph. Lastly, the second bullet point appears to be not too well worded. Okay, even the brief financial statement above contains a syntax error (it should read "of which the company has sold") but I would assume such slides to be compiled with more care. There is no real evidence to go by, but I believe the image to be fake.

On to the second piece. In the following collage of images being sent to TechnoBuffalo, we see the outline of the same console, along with more text.

Here, the text reads:

Screen stream takes the 1080p image and pushes each rendered quarter to the player's personal TV screen.

If the first image was slightly dubious, these ones are doubly so. Any kind of presentation would use renders rather than simple outlines. Such basic images are only ever used in patent documents. This is surely a fake.

Of course, we are free to speculate what the controller may look like and many mockups are circulating, from serious suggestions to plain humorous. In my mind, the idea that we will get a standard, pre-Wii controller with a touchscreen slapped onto it is obviously wrong.

Such a standard controller with an HD touchscreen would not only receive gaming content streamed from the home console, it would have to double as a handheld console to justify the high price. And if so, these sales would cannibalise sales of the DS line. The same is true of a standard tablet setup, though perhaps to a lesser extent.

For this reason alone, I cannot see the controller being a standard setup. Also, remember how we knew the basic elements of the Revolution controller in 2005 but noone actually thought of it mirroring a remote control. I am sure that Nintendo will surprise us in a similar manner this time. Either the 3DS is the Stream's controller or the controller will take a very different shape to whatever we can imagine.

EDIT The following images have surfaced via Wii HD Rumors. They show the same console design present in the other images above.

I continue to believe that they are fake. Firstly, this cannot be a development kit. Such units look more functional and have less of an emphasis on design. The Dolphin (the GameCube dev kit) looks like an ugly PC and the Wii's dev kit is a simple black box with open LEDs. So this can only be a design prototype for the final console, if real. But judging by the hardware specs the size is too small, while the Nintendo logo, from a design perspective, is far too big. Also, it is very early for a final design to be shown to anyone, even internally. Only very few people within Nintendo are privy to this and it is near impossible that one of these privileged people shares photos such as these.

EDIT Now, another photo of the alleged console has surfaced, courtesy of Wii 2 Blog. Here it is. Thanks to Spazer for the heads-up.

The image has apprently been sent to the blog accompanied by the following information. 

This is not the final design, this unit does not have a working drive or final parts. The unit powers on and is an internal test kit that is no longer being used because more complete units have now been distributed. The design is close to what we will see at E3. The colour scheme does not necessarily reflect that of the final model either.

 The blog author continues:

My source said that the photo was taken by a friend of his who sent the picture to him. His friend does not work directly for Nintendo, but she “has access to early kits.” Lastly, he told me that the final kit will probably be thinner and more detailed.

These words practically prove that these units are all fake. The claim is that the source does not even work for Nintendo. It is obvious that noone outside of Nintendo will have seen any of the final design prototypes. Not a single person. This is true of NCL in Japan and more so of Nintendo of America. Ask yourselves the simple question: would anyone at Nintendo of America even need to see such prototypes? Of course not. And it is way too early to show the design to accessory manufacturers.

The claim that it is an "early kit" is also misinformed. Early kits are development kits and bear no design whatsoever. These are purely functional units. Design prototypes are something different altogether and it is highly likely that even NOA president Reggie has not seen one of those yet.

EDIT Since there have been assertions that the unit shown here could actually be the dev kit, allow me to make this point very clear: dev kits are purely functional units. Have a look at the Wii dev kit right here. This is the GameCube's dev kit. Notice any design kinks? No? No, you wouldn't. Also, this thing is way too small for a first generation dev kit. Compare it to the first PlayStation3 dev kit. Even the PSP dev kit is bigger than this alleged unit. You can check out more images right here. To suggest that this could be a dev kit is just really misinformed and that is being polite.

I have also come across another image in the style of the very first one, this one bearing the logos of both IBM and AMD. It originates from an image sharing website and originally shows a collage of images.

The text is cut off, but there is mention of the terms Streamplay and StreamWare, as well as of N-Live middleware. The collage of three images with the outlined console and controller above, though, mentions Screen Stream instead, while the sister image to this new one almost definitely makes note of an M-Live framework. How many different technologies with similar names could be at work here? Clearly, there are way too many technical terms flung around. Also, most of these are trademarked within software development. This alone should unmask at least some images as fake.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wii successor details, to be announced within two weeks

A Wii successor will be announced within the next two weeks and properly unveiled at E3, according to rumours from various reliable sources. If all details are to be believed, the console will be capable of 1080p output, feature an all-new controller with a built-in screen and be backwards compatible. It is apparently slated for a late 2012 launch.

Here are all the sources. Game Informer started off the round of rumours.

The company will unveil it at E3 this summer if not sooner.We have confirmed with multiple sources that this new home system is capable of running games at HD resolutions. There are conflicting reports, however, as to whether its graphics will be comparable to those on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – meaning it could surpass or fall short of those systems. (...)

Nintendo is already showing publishers the system in an effort to get them interested and allow them plenty of time to start developing titles in anticipation of the system's reported late 2012 launch. 

CVG added details about a new controller with a built-in screen. This may relate back to Nintendo recently revealing that they had toyed with the idea of a separate 3D screen for the GameCube.

What's most exciting about the Wii successor however is its all-new controller, which industry sources have indicated is not simply an upgraded Wii Remote, and will even feature a built-in HD screen.

Our sources did not specify whether or not the controller displays will feature any other functionality, such as that of the DS's touch screen, but it's easy to imagine the sort of innovation an extra screen could bring to Wii 2 games.

"Nintendo's plans sound unreal," one source said. "Publishers are already planning launch titles and it's all very exciting.

"The hardware is even more powerful than current HD consoles and backwards compatible with Wii. The controller will be all-new and has a HD screen on it."

We're told Nintendo plans to launch the Wii successor in late 2012

Kotaku and IGN then heard that, indeed, the system will be more powerful than the current competitors (which in  my mind is a given, anyway. Even the Wii is more powerful than PlayStation2 and the original Xbox by most standards). IGN also added more details.

Our sources have said the the console is significantly more powerful than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and that Nintendo's intent is to recapture the hardcore market. Another source said it is capable of 1080p resolutions.

Nintendo is reportedly showing the console to publishers to garner interest for a late 2012 launch.

Additional sources tell IGN that Nintendo will release a pre-announcement this month with a full reveal expected at E3 and that the console will be backwards compatible with current Wii software.  

Now, I believe that a separate screen integrated into the controller would be the biggest news here, if true. As mentioned above, Nintendo had this idea before and it is obvious that the company strongly believes in 3D technology while not believing in glasses. So the built-in screen might not be an extra screen, as CVG interpretes. It might be a proprietary solution for stereoscopic visuals. What such a controller might look like is another question. I am badly trying to get the image of the Nintendo On out of my mind...

EDIT Now, British gaming magazine EDGE has weighed in on the debate. These comments seem to undercut any speculation about stereoscopic 3D.

Ubisoft, Activision and Electronic Arts have had development units of the new hardware for months. They have also claimed that the system retains motion control, with capabilities that are “better than Move”, meaning that they boast higher fidelity. We do not yet have word on whether or not its motion-controlled solution introduces a camera.

EDIT According to even more rumours by, Nintendo will include a Blu-ray drive in the Wii successor.

Sources have revealed to that Nintendo are looking at including Blu-ray as the main optical drive. This would be a natural progression from the Wii which uses DVD, but it isn't clear if Nintendo would enable BD movie playback on the new console or whether they would just use it for data as they do with DVD on the Wii. This new device could be the internal successor to the Blu-ray enabled Wii that was rumored for release in 2010.

EDIT There is another crazy rumour relating to Nintendo's next home console. According to the French gaming news site who confirmed the above rumours and added the codename Project Café to it (this time translated by my good friend over at GoNintendo), Rockstar (´Grand Theft Auto´, ´Red Dead Redemption´) is already in possession of development kits. Also, they are said to be working on GTA V for the console, which may even make it for launch. The launch is still slated for late 2012 with June a possibility for Japan. At E3, we should expect tech demos and some games.

I have not yet reported about the details added by the French site, because I have not yet found the time to confirm whether they really did blow the lid off the hardware specs of Sony's Next Generation Portable (NGP), as it is claimed. They also added nothing new, apart from the codename Project Café, which sounds unusual for a Nintendo codename (compared to previous ones like Dolphin, Nitro, Revolution or Project Reality). I will look into it as soon as I can.

EDIT Whoa, this post just keeps growing, eh? Now, Kotaku is adding more detail, noting that they have heard that the Wii successor will be compatible with Wii remotes, as well as with that new touchscreen controller.

Nintendo intends for many games on its new console to be controlled with the same kind of arm-swinging and controller tilting made capable by the Wii Remote. Think of it this way, hypothetically speaking: a new Wii Sports could use the Remote; a new Zelda could use the screen-based twin-stick controller. (...)

The 6.2-inch screen will receive data wirelessly from the Nintendo console and presents an array of options, from putting the player's inventory or map on the controller screen, to allowing players to combine it with the controller's camera to snap photos that could be imported into a game or even turning it into some sort of glorified viewfinder (we're unclear about whether the camera on the controller points at the player or can be outward-facing; we've heard both — maybe it swivels?).
The controller screen could even run a separate app. Consider a bad co-op idea from us as an example, though not a recommendation: one player zips through mini-games that run on the screen-controller. Succeeding in each keeps the player using the Wii Remote alive — in a game running on the TV in the same room. (...)

In fact, you could think of the new Nintendo console as turning your living room into a glorified mega-DS.... your TV is the upper-screen; your controller is the lower touchscreen.

Also, I have been wrong above, noting that French site 01net added no more than the alleged codename Project Café. They also detailed system specs:

  • multi-core IBM PowerPC CPU
  • ATI R700 series GPU
  • at least 512MB RAM

And a recent Fudzilla article backs those claims up, as well as adding plenty more detail.
From the whispers we hear, we expect the new Wii2 to be powered by an IBM Tri-core PowerPC CPU that we expect to be clocked at the same speed or slightly higher than the CPU in the Xbox 360. The GPU will be again powered by AMD and sourced from the ATI R700 family, featuring a shader unit version 4.1 support; and we expect GPU to have access to 512MB of RAM. (...)

Depending on the exact clock speeds, we suspect that the Wii2 will have performance that is close to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 or maybe slightly better, but that is hard to say. We are expecting the use of 32nm and 40nm chips for Wii2. Despite a lot of talk about the possibility of the Wii2 using AMD’s Fusion technology, our sources tell us that it isn’t happening because it is simply just too expensive at this point.

The biggest question is storage, and that does not seem to be one that is going to be easy to answer. Sources say that Nintendo is at least resistant to adding a hard drive and we prefer to stick with flash memory. (...) Expect no change on the disc front. It will continue to use DVD-ROM drive and we are told there is no chance that the Wii2 will offer Blu-ray support. (...)

We are also told that it will arrive next year, but a release is more likely for April than March of 2012. From the latest that we are hearing, we don’t expect any new console from Microsoft or Sony before 2014; so Nintendo will be on their own with a console that is said to be not much more than equal to or better than the current generation offerings from Microsoft and Sony. Still, as one of our shadow dwellers said, it is still much better than what they have to work with today, which could lead to some very interesting releases from Nintendo for the platform.

Plus, another article by the same author claims that Retro Studios (´Metroid Prime Trilogy´) have a sequel to ´Donkey Kong Country Returns´ in the works for the Wii successor. With so many details out already, I cannot help but be reminded of the Xperia Play, the industry's worst kept secret. Perhaps the Sony Ericsson mobile will have to forfeit that title.

EDIT Right, this is getting ridiculous. IGN has added Stream as a potential final name for the system which may sell for up tp $400. They also confirm the system specs noted above and add further details regarding size and manufacturing. The first retail units will apparently leave the manufacturing plants in six months already. Nintendo may want to stock up on inventory before selling them, though, which will also affect the price.

Most intriguing is the assertion that the system will offer stereoscopic 3D at least as an option, although no details are given as to how this may be achieved technically. We all know that Nintendo does not believe in glasses. So the additional screen may be a proprietary 3D screen, after all.

According to sources with knowledge of the project, Nintendo's next console could have a retail price of anywhere between $350 and $400 based on manufacturing costs, and will ship from Taiwanese manufacturer, Foxconn, this October, putting the earliest possible retail release anywhere between mid-October and early November.

However, Nintendo could also opt to build up a sizable supply of the system and allocate more time for software and games development by launching in early 2012. Similarly, Nintendo could attempt to lower the retail price of the system with lower profit margins to make the price more alluring. Since the manufacturing is taking place in Taiwan, the earthquakes and tsunami that hit Japan last month will not impact the console hardware as previously expected. (...)

The system will support 1080p output with the potential for stereoscopic 3D as well, though it has not been determined whether that will be a staple feature. In terms of the design of the console itself, the overall size will be comparable to that of the original Xbox 360 and the system is likely to resemble a modernized version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). (...)

Finally, Nintendo is considering naming the console Stream, though it is potentially one of several names currently being vetted by the company. 
The potential name Stream betrays what Nintendo sees as the central feature of the console, streaming content to the proprietary screen on the controllers. Alongside the option of 3D visuals, the controller in question may not be a controller as much as a central display unit which is simply detached from the console which does all the work. You may hide the console similarly to a subwoofer in a loudspeaker setup whereas the central display unit may become the focus point of the gaming experience. I am thinking of a similar setup to the imaginary technology shown in a 2007 Ubisoft trailer.

In this context, think back to Physical Optics Corporation being involved with a Videogame company for at least four years. The company has since updated its 3D display website with a portable solution.

What all these leaks prove, at least, is that dev kits have indeed been in the hands of various developers for some time and that the system is almost ready to be publically announced.