As Wii U shares launch lineup, rumors of cable cloud-gaming service swirl

September 26, 2012

Nintendo announced Wednesday that it will debut with 23 games in its launch lineup for the Wii U.

The next-generation console from the embattled company will be out in time for the holidays. The games announced Wednesday are heavy on ports from other consoles and titles from Nintendo itself. They include darker, more complex titles such as “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” “Arkham City Armored Edition” and “Assassin’s Creed III,” but also games such as “Just Dance 4,” “Epic Mickey 2” and, of course, “New Super Mario Bros. U.”

The company also named several titles that will arrive by the end of March, including “Wii Fit U,” “NBA 2K13” and “Mass Effect 3.” The console will cost $299 and will be in stores on Nov. 18.

The news comes as chatter grows about the possibility of cable companies jumping into the streaming game business, courtesy of a Tuesday report from Bloomberg. The article said that cable companies are trying to strike a deal directly with game developers to stream games directly to consumers’ televisions.

Such a move would challenge the big three console makers — Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo — for dominance in the living room just as those companies are building out their own video offerings.

In fact, those who use Microsoft’s Xbox spend more time watching video on the device than they do playing games. In June, the company unveiled its plans for SmartGlass, a feature that would let users take video from their Xbox onto tablets and smartphones and also use mobile devices as a second screen for games.

The Wii U has the capability to show video both on the television and on the console’s tablet controller. Gamers can also use the tablet as a sort of smart-TV, thanks to a feature called Nintendo TVii. Gamers can use the tablet to navigate through live television, movies, sports and recorded DVR programs, while also hooked into social networks.

All of the three major consoles connect to users’ Netflix and Hulu Plus accounts — a boon to those who have cut the cable cord. Microsoft and Sony also support Amazon Instant Video, a feature that’s coming to the Wii U, as well.

That’s seen as a threat to cable companies, said Peer Schneider, the executive vice president of content publishing at IGN Entertainment. “I’m sure cable companies have been talking a lot about how to turn the tables,” he said. Because the companies wouldn’t have to fight to get into consumers’ homes — they’re already there — they are well-positioned to take on the market.

But, Schneider noted, streaming games come with a whole host of other issues to consider.

One, of course, is latency, not only with games but also with voice chat, social interaction and all the other features that come with today’s most popular games.

Lagging connections, he noted, make or break a player in first-person shooters or real-time strategy games, currently the most popular games out there.

And, since Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo make games in addition to consoles, cable companies would have to negotiate with them or do without key titles.

“You won’t be seeing ‘Halo 4’ without input from Microsoft,” Schneider said. Plus, he noted, console makers such as Nintendo have been working on making games that work specifically with proprietary hardware.

“Consoles are not that easy to replace,” he said. “They do a lot of things and they do them really well.”

Here’s a full list of titles due on launch day:

Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Skylanders Giants, Transformers Prime, Wipeout 3, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition, New Super Mario Bros. U, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Nintendo Land, SiNG PARTY, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed III, ESPN Sports Connection, Just Dance 4, Rabbids Land, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, ZombiU, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Game Party Champions and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition.

Related stories:

Nintendo Wii U gets a price, release date

E3 2012: Wii U aims to distinguish itself from the pack

E3 2012: Nintendo details Wii U, focuses on third-party games

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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