First things first; the following is pure speculation. I have never seen a Project Cafe devkit, I’ve not signed a Wii 2 NDA and nobody has told me anything about a console called Stream.
I’m writing this because when it comes to new gaming hardware I am a turbo nerd who enters unparalleled levels of arousal in the run up to a big-announcement E3, especially when it comes to new Nintendo hardware because they usually blow all minds.
So, letting my imagination run away with itself, here are my top tips for possible features of Nintendo’s new baby:
AR in your living room
One of the most striking features of the 3DS is the AR technology. In case you don’t already know, the console comes with AR games built in and a stack of Nintendo themed playing cards to use with them. You simply place a playing card somewhere in the real world and point the handhelds stereoscopic camera lenses at it.
The system uses the card as a reference point in order to magically project virtual elements into your real world through the 3DS screen. Better still; the surface the card is on can be warped, folded and transformed to become part of the landscape of the game, blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual in the process.
With Nintendo’s new console apparently packing a 6 inch touch screen on the controller itself, it’s easy to imagine how this concept might be taken even further (assuming the controller also has a rear facing camera).
Instead of using a playing card as reference, the controller could use the entire surface of your TV. The fact that your TV is self illuminating makes it easy to track in almost any lighting conditions (in the same way as the glowing ball on the Playstation Move controller) and the relatively large surface area means entire scenes could potentially spill out of your TV and invade your living room.
Throw in gyroscopes inside the controller itself (like the 3DS has) and you have some intriguing possibilities for interaction – you could even have friends and family walking between the controller and the TV to interact with the game world on your behalf.
Even if this isn’t one of the main features Nintendo push, as long as the controller has a screen and a camera there’s probably very little to stop developers from creating these sorts of AR experiences.
Also consider this; the 3DS already has the necessary hardware for the job, and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen Nintendo allowing their handheld console to enhance the experience of their home console or act as an additional control device (I’m thinking Gamecube and GBA here).
3D without glasses
The 3DS screen is brilliant. It provides an astonishing sense of depth without any blurring and, as Nintendo loves to point out, it doesn’t require special glasses. Could the screen on the new home consoles controller use similar tech? If so, how might this combine with AR? Maybe we’ll discover games which project out from your TV in glorious 3D through the controllers screen?
Stream to tablet
One of the rumoured names of the new console is Stream, and we’re pretty confident that it will involve streaming content to the controllers screen from the console. When you think about it the potential here is quite staggering; consider the following facts:
- People talk about cloud gaming services like OnLive being the future, but the infrastructure just isn’t there to make it work big time yet
- Nintendo have concerns about the iPhone / Android market and have publicly stated very recently that they think cheap apps are damaging to the industry
The main problem with OnLive is latency. If you are too far away from a server then the quality of experience is going to suffer, or maybe not work at all. Of course in your own home you could probably stream HD content straight from the console to the controller, useful for times when the Missus has The Only Way is Essex on TV and you want to be able to play your favourite games. But even more broadly, what if your console can serve your games over the internet? If you are within the local vicinity of it (i.e. the same town or city) as you probably will be most of the time, then latency would still be relatively low. Better still, the small screen on the device means the video being streamed is also lower resolution compared to OnLive meaning you could potentially stream full games using the full grunt of the home console to the screen while out and about.
If the controller turns out to be a swish tablet design which looks at home next to an iPhone but with massively more impressive gaming performance then you could have a recipe for an aggressive Nintendo sucker punch to counter what it sees as a threat from smart phones with cheap apps. Nintendo games on the Nintendo controller/tablet would look and perform like the premium experiences they are and make cheap apps look, well, cheap.
What if Nintendo goes even further and sets up a network of hotspots to serve games from when out of range of your console? What if other peoples console could share the grunt of serving your game?
Okay so I’m not really taking into account all the technical and practical hurdles such as how the controller would connect to the net. As I said, this is all just pie in the sky speculation, but then Nintendo is a pie in the sky kind of company. If the rumours are true and Nintendo is planning to recapture the hardcore with its new beast, then don’t be too surprised if come June you’re casting aside your apathy towards the Wii and are once again a disciple ready to worship at the Nintendo altar.