The Wii U is addressing the question of how a secondary smaller screen could be used in conjunction with a larger screen to play interactive games. This is a very good question, one that I have thought about for the better part of 10 years. Sony made some interesting attempts at this concept with their PSP and its connection to the PS3.
The big picture concept is that many games could benefit from the addition of a second screen allowing a player to utilize as a part of the game experience. An example would be with a racing game, being able to use the second screen to view your rear view mirror. Or during a game like Splinter Cell having the ability to use the second screen for your gadgets that let you see under doors or stick video cameras to the wall.
In these examples and more, the player can use both screens to get valuable information relative to the overall gaming experience. Nintendo’s demo’s of the Wii U integrate much of this philosophy. The Wii U controller acts as a secondary screen allowing consumers to use the screen both alone and in conjunction with what is happening on the screen.
Nintendo is absolutely on to something. In the same way I thought Sony was on to something with the PSP to PS3 integration. The question is: with the rise of things like smart phones and tablets, is the Wii U offering all that unique to Nintendo?
The simple answer is no.
The Paradigm Shift
I believe we are on the brink of a fundamental shift in how our screens interact with each other. Through the Internet and software we are already seeing this reality come true. Nintendo can execute this Wii U plus Wii Console experience because they will create the hardware and the software to make it happen. The problem is the rest of the market can do what they are doing through software and utilize already existing screens in a consumers life.
Apple’s iPad already lets you play certain games where the addition of iPhones can function as second screens. My favorite example of this is Scrabble. If you have Scrabble on your iPad, and the appropriate software also on your iPhone, you can use your iPhone as a secondary screen to manage your Scrabble letter tiles. This is just one example of many.
Google has demonstrated a number of ways that Google TV could interact with an Android phone or tablet. The examples shown weren’t video game related but there is nothing but software engineering standing in the way of accomplishing it.
Don’t get me wrong the Wii U is very cool and I look forward to getting my hands on it. My point is that in nearly every example I saw showcasing how the Wii U would work, I made the point that any number of people could do many of the same things. Companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Sony – just to name a few.