Monday, December 21, 2009

Is there a Wii hardware revision coming in 2010?

We've all heard the speculation about Wii HD in 2010 or a new console in 2011. On the surface it seems unlikely. The Wii is still the best selling console worldwide and common logic says you keep selling a console that is making you money.

However, if you look closer at Nintendo's home region, there seems to be some possibility of some sort of hardware revision coming in 2010.

What appears most likely is a revision adding HD capability, possibly bundling Motion + and the CC Pro and possibly some sort of memory solution. This would lead to HD games becoming more easily ported and would also lead to unified controller in the hands of every Wii buyer, something I have argued is important. I don't expect any radical chance to the system specs.

Possible reasons for a hardware revision

1. Nintendo's own words

Nintendo has admitted to studying high definition.

Here are some quotes from Nintendo's most recent financial briefing:

During the firm's recent financial results briefing, Genyo Takeda, general manager of Nintendo’s Integrated R&D Division, said that the industry’s shift to high definition “appears a natural flow", although he stopped short of confirming HD support for future products.

“Since our division has been reviewing and developing a number of hardware, we are looking into many different things, including HD and SD… However, we have not come to the stage where we can announce which is the most appropriate means. Since an increasing number of the TV sets at home around the world are becoming HD today, it will be natural for a machine to be able to generate graphics that people will be accustomed to see on HD televisions. Since the ordinary TV programmes are now shifting to HD, moving to HD appears to me a natural flow.

“Regarding the question of SD or HD, it must depend on each software. For example, we have to ask ourselves if HD is really necessary to develop Wii Fit. Won't HD be better for the games like Pikmin? The developers should choose the most appropriate graphical format depending on the software they make. To Nintendo, our theme is how we can prepare the SDK library to cater to the needs of the developers, with which the developers can more easily develop their games.”


Obviously this is not conclusive of anything, but this shows that Nintendo has HD on its mind and is communicating to investors that it is aware of the rising HD penetration rates.

2. Nintendo has a history of such revisions

This doesn't need much explanation. In many ways Nintendo has tried to replicate the success of the DS with the Wii, giving many of its biggest DS games Wii versions. It would follow that Nintendo would try and repackage the Wii and gain sales similar to what it has done with the DS.

3. Nintendo has faltered in its home market.

Worldwide Nintendo is still doing very well. However, for most of 2009 it has struggled in Japan, and since September has lost momentum to the PS3. Nintendo is still a Japanese company and they want to win their home region. If Nintendo decides that software alone is not enough, a hardware revision could happen.

4. Nintendo's lineup for 2010.

The first three arguments were more general. This is specific. As of now, December 21st 2009, the Wii's 2010 lineup looks incredibly sparse.

First party wise, we know of Reginleiv in February, a niche title from a niche developer, and that's it for dated software. We know Galaxy 2 is coming, and we know WiiRelax is presumably on its way, in addition to Metroid: Other M.

But that is basically it. Additionally, there are still many games from Nintendo's 2008 Japanese conference still not dated.

To further add to the sparse lineup, many Nintendo franchises have not appeared on the Wii at all- Star Fox, Kirby, Pikmin, F-Zero, and 2007 franchises that should have been announced for second iterations have not been unveiled- Paper Mario, Mario Party, and Fire Emblem.

The situation is even worse third party wise. Right now there are 2 relatively high profile games announced for 2010, both from Capcom- Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles and Basara 3. That is it. Now, either 3rd party development has dropped off a cliff or software is being held back. I think its unlikely to be the former because games coming out in 2010 were presumably in development in 2007 and 2008 when the Wii was still generally selling very well.

Add it all up and you have a simple conclusion- there are literally dozens of games and franchises from Nintendo that should be announced but haven't been. There is also basically no known 3rd party software announced. Nintendo hasn't had any conferences since E3 2009 in late May. It wouldn't surprise me if we are getting some sort of upgrade in 2010 which would explain the lack of software announcements. Of course, it also wouldn't surprise me if Nintendo just doesn't have anything in the pipeline and 2010 is going to wind up being the worst year in the Wii's history.

Nothing left to do but find out.

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