Strange new Wii U console has AMD graphics


— 5:25 PM on June 7, 2011

You know how, sometimes, you'll dream about something completely absurd—maybe building a go-kart with your ex-landlord—that seems to make perfect sense until the moment you wake up? Well, watching Nintendo introduce its next-generation Wii U console feels exactly like recalling one of those dreams:

We're looking at a traditional set-top box, complete with HD output, which interfaces in strange and somewhat confusing ways with a handheld controller that has a 6.2" screen. The controller looks like a pudgy Sony PSP and... you're apparently supposed to put it on the floor to play the new version of Wii Golf. Also, you can play Mario on it when your TV is switched off. Or something. I'm really trying here, but Nintendo's explanation isn't exactly helping:

In single-player games:
  • The new controller can display information on its screen that does not appear on the TV.
  • The information and viewpoint can also change in the new controller based on the orientation of its gyroscope.
In multiplayer games:
  • The player using the new controller can have a different experience than those looking at the TV. This will offer a wide variety of competitive and cooperative opportunities.

If, like me, you're hoping a video of Wii U multiplayer in action might help clarify things, prepare to be disappointed. What is happening? What are those people doing? Are they supposed to be having fun? Jeez, and I thought traditional controllers had a steep learning curve for newbies.

The hardware aspect of the Wii U is, mercifully, less confusing. IBM announed earlier today that the console features a 45-nm, multi-core Power processor with embedded DRAM. AMD also chimed in, saying the Wii U's graphics duties are handled by a "custom AMD Radeon HD GPU" with a "modern and rich graphics processing core" and multi-display support. We tried to get more details from AMD, but the company is keeping specifics under wraps for now.

According to the spec sheet on Nintendo's Japanese website, the set-top part of the console measures 1.8" x 6.8" x 10.6" and has 1080p HDMI output. Judging by the gameplay footage that's been released, I'm guessing the Wii U is no faster than the current crop of consoles from Microsoft and Sony.

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