Wild Wild Tech

The video game industry is currently in a state of buzz, rumors, and excitement. The release of Portal 2 has spurred inspired reviews, angry reviews, and confused consumers.  Two new Pokémon titles have injected a dose of life in the series, and the potential sequels have joined the growing list of titles that the 3DS “needs.” However, one rumor has risen above all of the news, gossip, and game releases.

In June, the world is expecting Nintendo to unveil the follow-up to its immensely popular Wii console. The system is currently known as “Project Café”, and reports indicate that this will not be a simple upgrade from the Wii, but another attempt by Nintendo to innovate, inspire, and change the landscape of the entire industry.

As previously rumored, the new system is expected to output high-definition graphics, but the actual power of the machine is still a big question mark. Aggregating various rumors puts the power of the machine even on par with the current Xbox 360 or more powerful than the or PlayStation 3. Once again, though, Nintendo is not relying on pure horsepower to win over customers.

Like the Nintendo Wii, the big speculation about the upcoming system is how the controller will be designed. Crazy or not, the rumor mill is at full power when it comes to Nintendo’s new control scheme. The new controller will supposedly include a six inch touch screen (possibly HD), and people have been describing it as “an iPad with buttons”. In addition, the motion control aspect is expected to remain, though more buttons will probably be added, and there might even be a front-facing camera. Or, potentially, none of that could be correct.

The biggest story about Project Café is that Nintendo has supposedly filled in outside developers on the console. This is a big departure from what happened with the Wii, a console that was highly successful, but also suffered from a lack of third-party developer support. If this is true, then Nintendo has taken a big step towards competing to get big titles for hardcore gamers.

Still, these are all just rumors. Sure, they sound exciting, but no one really knows what to expect. This is a company that has a history of innovation, and has absolutely no problem with abandoning a successful formula just to try something new. Still, the idea of a controller with a six inch HD touch screen, buttons, motion controls, and a camera sounds completely insane.

Some of these rumors address problems that Nintendo really needs to solve, such as the addition of HD output and beefing up the horsepower of the console, as well as working to get third-party developers involved. However, we still have no clue what the online strategy for the company will be. For a company that has pioneered the industry in so many ways, they currently lag far behind in the online arena.

Perhaps the most important factor of all might just be the simplest one: the release date of the console. If Nintendo is debuting it in June, it will most likely ship well before Microsoft or Sony introduce the successors to their current consoles. The Xbox 360 used this strategy, and it turned out to be a blessing that helped them again an edge over Sony’s PlayStation 3. However, the Sega Dreamcast also used this strategy. The system was great, but cursed due to where it fell in the release timeline.

It will be interesting to see how things work out for Nintendo and Project Café. If the company can continue to innovate, reach out to other developers, and develop a stronger online strategy, they will be tough to beat. If they falter on any point, the system could struggle to find a market. One thing is for sure though: You won’t catch me betting against them.