Impressions of U: What is “Next-Gen”?

So, a little time has passed since the Wii U’s launch. Reviews of the system are up, and everyone is sounding off on their opinions. As I’ve spent more time with the system, the thought crossed my mind of doing a follow-up to my original impressions article. However, my opinions are pretty much the same as they were then. Instead, there’s something else I want to talk about today.


What I really want to talk about here comes from a discussion I heard on the most recent episode of IGN’s GameScoop podcast. The discussion was about whether or not the Wii U could really be thought of as a “next-gen” console. To my surprise, some people on the podcast actually tried to make an argument for t NOT being so. After having had experience with the console since the day of its release, I want to address this argument and give my two cents on it.


The Wii U is, in my mind, the very definition of next-gen. What goes the term “next-gen” mean, exactly? Well, let me say that it does not exclusively come down to visuals. Once upon a time, yes, but not anymore. We’ve moved past that stage in video game evolution. Back when the Nintendo 64 and PS1 came on the market, you got whichever you preferred, or often both. Why? Because 3D gaming is something EVERYONE wanted. It was just the clear next stage in gaming. Once that was achieved and refined, the next step after that wasn’t so clear, so consoles became a little more variant. You have the PS3, which pumps out the highest graphical capabilities. You have the Xbox 360, which offers the most ergonomic controllers and best online interface, while the Wii offered us the most creative controls. Is there a clear superior among these three? I would argue not, but let’s hold on to that thought for a moment. The point is, these consoles are all thought of as part of a specific “generation” – one that is now coming to a close. What’s interesting is that each console achieves this title in a different way.


Of course, let us not forget the literal definition of “generation” ; the separation of one group from another, newer group by time. It has been 6 years since a new console’s release, therefore the separation of time defines the Wii u as “next gen”. But that isn’t enough for us. We need to feel that there’s something new to offer. And who has worked to provide new forms of gameplay more than Nintendo? Between the Wii, DS, and now the Wii U, Nintendo knows the direction they want to take gaming.


So what makes some people think of the Wii U as something less than “next gen”? Well, it largely seems to come down to the matter of console power. Graphics and processing are, of course, important to gaming, and when watching a console in action for the first time these are the first things that stand out. The Wii U is more powerful than an Xbox 360 or PS3, but only slightly. To some people, this fact is a turn-off. Is this illogical? It may surprise you to know that it is not.


Think back about what we’ve already said; how the idea of advancement in games can be achieved in a variety of ways, all of them equally viable. That equal viability is what justifies the opinion against the Wii U. Now, let me make something else clear: It justifies the opinion, but not the argument. Confused? Stay with me.


Everyone has a favorite current/previous-gen system. Mine used to be the Wii, but I have since shifted to the 360 because of its ergonomic controls and online interface. Depending on what you value most in your gaming experience, you may lean towards the 360, or the PS3, or the Wii U. It all depends on what you look for in your gaming experience. You can’t say the Wii U is NOT advanced because it doesn’t have better graphics than the 360 or PS3, any more than you can say those consoles are inferior for having not originally had any kind of motion controls.


So is the Wii U a truly advanced system? Certainly. Advancement comes in many forms, and we should never count any of those forms out. Whatever the next Xbox and Playstation bring, they will bring new advancements in their own ways. Nintendo has openly made it their mission to innovate in controls, putting more focus on how we play games than what we see when we play. Those who have renounced the Wii simply put more value in other aspects of gaming. So what’s the one truly objective way to judge whether a console is “next-generation”? It’s very simple. Does it show advancement from its predecessor in some way? Then it is “next-gen”. Case closed.

Jay Petrequin started writing at HeyPoorPlayer in the summer of 2012, but first got his start writing for It's Super Effective, a Pokemon podcast that happened to be a reflection of two of his biggest interests: pocket monsters, and making people listen to him say things.

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