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There are a lot of things I’d love to tell you about the Wii U. I’d love to tell you how the Miiverse social networking service lets you play games and exchange messages with friends. I’d love to tell you how the GamePad’s built-in camera works for video chatting with other Wii U owners all over the world. I’d love to tell you about the transfer process for content from your old Wii, or how the new system handles old Wii retail games, or how easy it is to expand the storage space with a USB hard drive, or what the sign-up process for the new Nintendo Network ID is like, or how functional the Web browser and free video apps are, or how the new eShop compares to other digital download services.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you any of that. As of mid-day Saturday, mere hours from the system's North American launch, Nintendo had not yet pushed out a promised firmware update to activate all of these features (and maybe a few that I’m not aware of). (Note: Nintendo did push the firmware update at about 6pm CT, five hours before the company's embargo on reviews of the hardware was set to lift. We'll have reporting on the extra features as soon as we've tested them.)

As a result, this first review of the Wii U is going to be necessarily incomplete. While I can offer an extensive review on the Wii U hardware and the unique new touchscreen GamePad controller (Ars reviewed some of the system's big launch games earlier this week as well), I can't yet offer an opinion on many of the system's promised features.

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Metroid series of games, and Nintendo is celebrating in muted style. Nintendo of America's official Twitter account reminded us to log into the 3DS e-shop to download the free version of Metroid Fusion we were promised as ambassadors, but that was it. Fans took to the cause with gusto, however, and a wave of fan-made art and musical projects have spread across the Internet.

Nintendo's lack of enthusiasm for one of its core franchises isn't surprising; Metroid has always been an odd duck among the company's games. Besides, Nintendo is busy worrying over the success, or lack thereof, for the 3DS and paving the way for the upcoming Wii U

No new Metroid games have been announced, but the upside is that Metroid remains one of the few series that Nintendo has not beaten into the ground. That's just fine: the game's hero, Samus Aran, has always been a loner.

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I'm standing in front of my television, and as I lift both hands to the air, palms facing inward, the crowd goes wild. They stand and cheer. This is what it has come to: adulation for no effort. It's like I've just received a holy affirmation, and I'm ashamed to admit how good it feels. And this is just a menu in Kinect Sports. The Kinect whirrs to life when you turn your system on. It looks down at your floor, and then up to your face. It knows what your room looks like. My TV was on power-saving mode one night and came to life when I reached for a soda. The Kinect saw my arm movement and assumed I wanted to play. It's like a lost puppy.

My wife is uncomfortable with our television these days, as there are no less than three cameras or sensors facing us when we watch something; it's like facing a firing squad. The PlayStation Eye goes on the top of the television, the Wii sensor goes into a slot under the screen but above the base, and the weightier, mechanical Kinect goes on the TV stand. When the system is turned on there is a green LED that lights up on the front, as well as what appears to be a very weak red laser from the left-most sensor. That's the IR projector that the hardware uses to see in the dark. If Microsoft was right and I am the controller, I pray my system never becomes weaponized. Let's take a look at hardware that claims to be the future of our living rooms.

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Ubuntu 10.10, codenamed Maverick Meerkat, emerged from its burrow this month with some important changes. The user interface got a lift from some theming improvements and a new default font. Usability got a nice boost from a wide range of design improvements and feature enhancements in the Software Center and Ubiquity installer. Canonical's effort to clean up the notification area took another step forward with the addition of playback controls in the sound indicator menu. The latest version of GNOME is included, with a handful of minor improvements, and the F-Spot photo manager was replaced with Shotwell.

One of the most significant changes in Ubuntu 10.10 is the introduction of Unity, a totally new netbook environment that has some promising design characteristics. Although Unity is an impressive offering, it has some kinks that need to be worked out before it will be ready for mainstream adoption.

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The PlayStation Move is Sony's answer to the motion control trend. It uses a digital camera called the PlayStation Eye to track the movement of a new controller stuffed with gyroscopes and sensors and magic—all of it topped with a glowing plastic ball.

It's been over a week since my Move review hardware arrived, and I've played games with a variety of people just to gauge their reactions. When holding one of the Move controllers for the first time, everyone seems to have one instinctive response: they give that ball on the top a good, hard squeeze, like it's a clown nose.

The ball doesn't light up until you have the PlayStation Eye turned on and a game begins. Then it glows brightly, and the changing color of the ball often provides in-game information. The glowing ball also adds an extra helping of surrealism to some titles; playing archery, it was almost distracting to have that glowing pink orb so close to my face. During dark sections, I could see the glowing ball reflected on the screen of my television.

The ball sometimes cycles slowly between different colors. At other times it pulses. You can feel the motor inside the force feedback mechanism move in time to the light, as though you're holding the heart of some mechanical, bio-luminescent beast. If you have kids, you are screwed during play time; anyone from the ages of ten on down will gravitate towards that glowing ball, and they won't want to let go. My baby wants to gum on it constantly, while my older kids wave it around like they're at a pre-pubescent rave.

The PlayStation Move is here, ladies and gentleman, and it's pretty damn great.

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The Nintendo Wii has enjoyed amazing success this generation, bridging the gap between hardcore and casual gamers. The low-cost console's innovative motion controls expanded the audience for games, and it looked as if Sony and Microsoft would never catch up in the United States. Both Microsoft and Sony ultimately decided that there's something to the whole motion control thing, however, and have announced products that will soon see them following in the Wii's footsteps.

Sony's entry into the motion control race is the Move, a collection of devices that work together to create motion controls that are more precise than what Nintendo can offer, with games that enjoy high-definition graphics and better frame rates than the Wii can deliver. Microsoft's motion effort takes a different tack, using a sort of camera that will sit under your television and allow you to interact with your games by moving your body and waving your hands. In essence, Microsoft's Kinect makes you the controller. Make no mistake, the Move and Kinect are me-too products. It's no coincidence that both motion control schemes follow on the heels of the Wii's success. The question is how well each product will engage with the Wii's strengths and weaknesses in order to carve out its own success.

After looking at the final pricing from Microsoft and Sony, playing many games on both technologies, and getting a feel for what both companies are after, we've come to this conclusion: Sony's strategy is going to offer more to a wider variety of gamers. That's not to say that it will be more popular, sell more, or make more money for third-party developers—it's just that for our audience, Sony is the better bet as of this moment.

Here's why.

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During a press event at the Game Developers Conference, Sony finally showed its motion controller to the gaming press. Welcome to the world of the PlayStation Move.

We were shown a number of videos and demos, and they all looked uncomfortably similar to what we've already played on the Nintendo Wii. Even the models, with a focus on females and families, made it look like we were in the realm of Nintendo. The reveal of the secondary controller with an analog stick—a product that again looked like a direct rip-off of a Nintendo product—drew either ambivalence or titters from the crowd. At a cocktail mixer directly after, we were able to get our hands on the Move directly, and play through the offerings.

How did people react? There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the product, and people were talking about similarities to Nintendo titles and about the price of the product in hushed tones. There were jokes made about the look of the Move; many people compared it to a certain sexual toy. Others placed the glowing orbs on their crotch, to mimic testicles. In short, there wasn't a lot of love for the Move at the launch.

But we've played the games, handled the hardware, and given the whole thing a long think, and we believe that the Move may not flop, although it could have had a stronger first showing. Here are the things we like about the hardware, and where Sony may have gone wrong.

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