The Past Year’s Gadgets Were Boring… Except for the Wii U

This has been harped on by plenty of people particularly around Christmas when so many get into their “I must buy all of the things” mood and look for something, anything, to buy their best friend’s neighbor’s cousin but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. When it comes to innovation in consumer gadgets this year didn’t have much to offer, at least as far as I could tell. Everyone released their latest version of the phone/tablet/phablet, we were given even more devices that connect to Netflix/Youtube/Pandora, and cars were given one-button interfaces to be more iPad-like (goody?).

The one exception in my mind was the Wii U. I try to get myself one thing a year just for fun and this year it was unquestionably going to be the Wii U. Why? Well, because nothing else looked interesting (oh sweet, my iPhone screen can be 1/2 inch taller and 1/4 inch thinner), and because I’ve always been a sucker for Nintendo games – especially Mario.

So I got the Wii U on day 1 and immediately loved it. The asymmetric gameplay in Nintendo Land is really interesting. It’s fun playing games where one player does something on the tablet screen while four others do something else using the standard old Wiimotes. For instance in Mario Chase one player using the tablet runs away from up to four others using the Wiimote. The player using the tablet uses a map to see where the other players are and try to avoid them while those using the Wiimotes have to look for the player to chase without a map.

It’s also great being able to play on the tablet screen. You can easily switch between the two depending on if someone else wants to use the TV. I especially took advantage of this with New Super Mario Brothers U.

Another interesting feature of the Wii U is the Miiverse. Miiverse is a social network specifically for Wii U. You can post short messages in communities for each game about your progress, what you liked, what you didn’t, ask for help, whatever you want. Plus you can post screen captures for the game and pictures you draw on the tablet. The pictures are black and white but the detail some people are able to put into them is just amazing. Scrolling through these posts can be a lot of fun.

While the games out now are fun they largely don’t take advantage of the technology as much as they could. This isn’t shocking as software always lags behind new hardware. I’m looking forward to the new games coming out this year and to the new innovation it brings.