Wii U: The Tiny, but Necessary, Final Piece of the Puzzle

This entry is part 6 of David’s series on The Future of Gaming. Click for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.

Now, this part’s going to be rather short. Really, it is. I’ll try to drag it out as much as I can, but there’s just not that much to say about this. I contemplated not giving the Wii U’s relevance to the future of gaming its own article, just because it’s not so much a cornerstone as much as it is the last link in the chain. I’m giving it its own article since the last one’s going to be plenty long as it is, but really, if the future of gaming is a 500-piece puzzle, then smartphones and OnLive are the first 499 pieces, while Wii U is just the one that completes the puzzle.

What is it about the Wii U that I’m talking about? Motion gaming? No. Touch gaming? Nuh-uh. Multiple screens? Nope. Casual gaming? Covered, and done better, by smartphones. The games themselves? Good guess, given that the game library is always the most crucial piece of a new release, but that’s now what I’m referring to here. Head tracking? Oh wait, they’re still not doing that even though it’s been shown to be possible, easy, and awesome.

No, I’m referring to an under-appreciated, almost overlooked, element of the Wii U’s E3 presentation. But before I talk about the feature, let me try to stretch this article past the height of the ad over on the left and set up why this feature is needed, somehow without giving away the next one.

What has the problem been so far with marrying OnLive to smartphones? What’s the major problem with real gaming on smartphones in general? The experience. Tiny screen, no controller, terrible sound. Streaming the screen content from OnLive doesn’t solve any of these problems. It’s still a downright subpar gaming experience.

Now, if only the receiving device could then redirect the incoming video signal to a different source. If only the receiving device could effectively become the “cable box”, responsible for receiving and interpreting the incoming video stream and sending it to a real television set. If only we could stream the contents of the screen not only over the internet to the device, but also within the same room to a screen.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s the first thing featured in the Wii U E3 trailer. The Wii U has the capability to stream the contents of the video signal of the game it’s playing from the console itself to your wireless controller. I’m not sure of the technology, though I’d anticipate the latest version of Bluetooth. It’s possible that this shouldn’t be at all surprising — after all, if we can stream it over the internet, millions of miles apart, we should certainly be able to stream it within the same room. But until recently, the technology just has not been in widespread use. It might be a bit overly kind of me to give the Wii U full credit for this, given that when I bought this Sager-brand laptop from Xotic PC (not a paid endorsement, I just had a great experience with both the company and this brand), I was given the option of a video card that could wirelessly transmit to an external display across the room. But in my eyes, it’s the Wii U that is bringing this technology to the forefront and sealing the deal for this view of the future of gaming.

That’s right, the Wii U has supplied the final feature to this puzzle. I don’t have any comment on the practicality of the Wii U’s usage of the technology — I can see its usefulness, but I don’t think it’s going to be the console’s killer app. But the technology underlying this feature is the final puzzle piece to our future of gaming. The ability to stream the contents of your screen, within the same room, immediately to a different receiver is the last thing needed to make your smartphone the ideal receiver and retransmitter of the video signal you receive from your new cloud gaming service.

But now I’m starting to give too much away. Tune in next week when we pull it all together and unveil the Future of Gaming.

(Image credit Wii U E3 trailer.)

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