Monday, April 18, 2011

Dissecting the Project Cafe Controller Rumors

The Internet was set ablaze this week when the first wave of reports regarding Nintendo's next-generation console, the Wii 2, hit the web. First reported by Game Informer, and later confirmed by IGN's own sources, the console, which has been code named Project Cafe, will match or surpass the processing power of the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and support a new controller that combines a traditional dual-analog design with an integrated touchscreen display. 

Though many were quick to liken the concept to the Dreamcast, we've since learned that the intended purpose for the display may be far more complex, working simultaneously with the console to bring interactive elements and even stream full games to the controller.

Naturally, such a bold concept raises many questions and we'll likely have to wait until E3 for answers, but in the meantime we can provide some educated guesses based on the information we've obtained, and some old fashioned speculation. 

Again, this is purely based on information provided by IGN's sources, our understanding of console hardware manufacturing, and some speculation; Nintendo has not confirmed or commented upon any of the reports thus far. 

The Display

When reports first broke that the controller would feature an integrated display but maintain physical analog sticks, action buttons, and shoulder buttons, the first, albeit somewhat fantastical thought that came to mind was a design where the entire faceplate was an LCD display, however, we've since been told that the display will instead be a 6-inch touchscreen, likely positioned at the center of the shell. 

The display will also reportedly support touch control, though we've not been told whether or not the display will support multitouch. The display will also allegedly feature HD resolution, allowing for seamless transmission between the console and the controller. Though certainly a possibility, the costs associated with integrating a HD display into the design suggest that the true resolution may be lower. 

Even with the lowest quality components, a controller with an integrated 720p HD or greater display would require an MSRP of $80 or more. Aside from the cost of the display itself, Nintendo would have to use a built-in processor to control the display, not to mention additional chipsets for wireless connectivity. According to sources with knowledge of peripheral production, a controller of that complexity could easily cost $25 in factory costs alone, whereas a wireless Wiimote is estimated to cost Nintendo only $6 per unit. On the other hand, if Nintendo really wanted to push the concept, they could forfeit a portion of the markup to keep retail costs down. 

As previously mentioned, the other lingering question is whether or not the device will support single or multitouch haptic control, which could be used for minigames, creating contextual controls for games being played on the console, or games played exclusively though the controller itself. Again, adding multitouch support would drive up costs but potentially provide a more compelling gameplay experience. 

Working Wirelessly With the System

If the controller is expected to support games and video streamed from the console, there are a number of plausible ways the device could connect with system. Currently, Nintendo utilizes Bluetooth and infrared technology for wireless communication with the Wii, which transmit standard button input, as well as motion sensing and on-screen pointer positioning data to the console. Depending on the capabilities and function of the new controller, however, 2.4GHz wireless technology may be the more realistic solution, as it allows for wireless video transmission.

Stay tuned for more to come.

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