Images and tidbits of information are starting to leak out concerning Nintendo’s next major console release. The console will be the first Nintento has released since the Wii came out in 2006. It’s codenamed “Project Cafe” and is expected to hit stores in time for Christmas 2012.
Nothing that we’ve heard is confirmed, so don’t get too attached to anything that you see or read about this top-secret project. It’s quite possible that everything that has come out so far is an elaborate hoax. Then again, much of what we’ve seen and heard makes perfect sense.
Let’s start with this image. It is allegedly a concept drawing for the new console. We recommend expanding it to full size and taking a close look.
IGN did a mock-up of the controller. This image is definitely not real, but it gives a good indication of what the controllers could end up looking like.
What we see in the images above appears to be a clear move away from the look and feel of the Wii (and, in particular, the Wiimote). Gone are the long, rectangular Wiimotes and in their place are controllers that look very similar to those of the Nintendo GameCube. The key difference is that these controllers have LCD screens. This wouldn’t be the first gaming system to use controllers with screens in them (the Sega Dreamcast did that back in the late ’90s), but it would be a marked change from what Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are doing with their consoles today.
If we read the text in the image, we see evidence of how these screens are to be used. For 4-player games that divide the screen into quarters (like Mario Kart), the controller’s LCD screen could be used to mirror your quarter of the screen. This could potentially be very useful in games where it’s currently possible to cheat by peeking at your opponent’s screen. For a game like Madden, it would be fantastic to be able to select your plays without your opponent seeing what you’re doing. For RPGs and similar games, it would be useful to display maps or inventory lists on your controller.
It also seems possible that these new controllers will allow gamers to play games even when they’re not in the same room as the TV. They could be taken to a bedroom or the bathroom and used much the same was as the Nintendo DS and iPod Touch are used for gaming these days (admit it–you play games when you’re sitting on the can). The console would be needed to do actually run the game software, but it’s not crazy to think that it could stream games to each controller via wifi.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of what we see in the leaked image, a few thoughts jump out. The first is that it would be a bit unusual (albeit hilarious) to see Nintendo move away from motion-based game soon after Sony and Microsoft finally caught up (with the releases of the Move and Kinect, respectively). The second is that controllers with LCD screens are probably going to be very expensive.
Project Cafe isn’t expected to hit shelves until late 2012 (probably in time for Christmas). It will be the first of the next-generation consoles to hit the market (new models of PlayStation and XBox aren’t expected until 2013 at the earliest). It will also probably have a unique name that, given Nintendo’s eclectic history of naming consoles (Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii), will come right out of left field.