Hardware


Nintendo is slowly phasing the original Wii out of its hardware lineup, announcing today that many of the system's online services will be permanently shut down on June 28.

Don't worry, the Wii Shop Channel will still be available for you to purchase downloadable games and redownload previous purchases. The shutdown applies to the following free online channels, which most users probably aren't using regularly in any case:

  • Nintendo Channel
  • News Channel
  • Forecast Channel
  • Everybody Votes Channel
  • Mii Contest Channel

You'll no longer be able to send messages or Miis to other Wii owners over the Internet, either. Nintendo also said that "message/data exchange within some games will be disabled" but didn't clarify which games this applies to, or whether online gameplay in popular titles like Mario Kart Wii or Super Smash Bros. Brawl would be affected (Nintendo refused to comment on this matter in response to an Ars request).

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We already knew a lot about the Wii U based on previous hands-on time with the system and announcements from Nintendo. But now that we have the actual hardware in Opposable Thumbs HQ (read: my Pittsburgh apartment), we've noticed a few things that were a bit surprising. Here’s a quick, picture-filled look at some of those surprises. We’ll have much more Wii U coverage, including an in-depth review of the system and major games, as we get closer to the November 18 North American launch.

There’s a mystery connector at the bottom of the GamePad


In addition to a slot for the charger and a standard headphone jack at the top, the bottom of the tablet GamePad has a mysterious connector at the bottom. The user’s manual says this connector is for "controller accessories," but none have yet been announced. The connector is a thinner than the Wii Remote connector that was used for things like the Nunchuk and Classic Controller. Karaoke launch game We Sing doesn’t use it either—the microphone that comes with that game plugs into the USB slots on the base system. Curious...

UPDATE: Thanks to former Ars writer Ben Kuchera for pointing us towards yet another mystery connector on the back side of the GamePad, as shown above. The female screw hole in the middle of the controller's back ridge is very similar to the kind you'd see on a camera tripod, though the ridge would seem to get in the way of the base for most such tripods. The screw hole, and the divots next to it, line up with the mystery connector at the bottom in such a way that it looks like it could be used to secure a bulky accessory that latches in to both connectors and sits flush with the back of the GamePad. Our best guess at this point: an expanded battery pack to extend that three to five hour battery life...

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We already knew a lot about the Wii U based on previous hands-on time with the system and announcements from Nintendo. But now that we have the actual hardware in Opposable Thumbs HQ (read: my Pittsburgh apartment), we've noticed a few things that were a bit surprising. Here’s a quick, picture-filled look at some of those surprises. We’ll have much more Wii U coverage, including an in-depth review of the system and major games, as we get closer to the November 18 North American launch.

There’s a mystery connector at the bottom of the GamePad


In addition to a slot for the charger and a standard headphone jack at the top, the bottom of the tablet GamePad has a mysterious connector at the bottom. The user’s manual says this connector is for "controller accessories," but none have yet been announced. The connector is a thinner than the Wii Remote connector that was used for things like the Nunchuk and Classic Controller. Karaoke launch game We Sing doesn’t use it either—the microphone that comes with that game plugs into the USB slots on the base system. Curious...

UPDATE: Thanks to former Ars writer Ben Kuchera for pointing us towards yet another mystery connector on the back side of the GamePad, as shown above. The female screw hole in the middle of the controller's back ridge is very similar to the kind you'd see on a camera tripod, though the ridge would seem to get in the way of the base for most such tripods. The screw hole, and the divots next to it, line up with the mystery connector at the bottom in such a way that it looks like it could be used to secure a bulky accessory that latches in to both connectors and sits flush with the back of the GamePad. Our best guess at this point: an expanded battery pack to extend that three to five hour battery life...

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments


We usually have to wait for a new piece of hardware to actually be on the market before we can link to the obligatory teardown showing the internal components. But Nintendo has beaten the iFixits of the world to the punch this time around, hosting an official, picture-filled discussion of the Wii U's internal hardware as part of its regular "Iwata Asks" interview series more than a month before the system hits stores.

Nintendo's focus is the Wii U's multichip module (MCM) which contains both a multicore CPU and GPU along with on-chip memory, all on a single substrate component. Positioning all of these chips so closely together reduces latency and power consumption, the Nintendo engineers explained. This in turn keeps the size of the hardware down, a priority for the team.

Despite the advantages of the MCM design, combining components from chip-makers Renesas (RAM), IBM (CPU), and AMD (GPU) on a single component was a challenge. When defects became apparent during the testing process, isolating which piece of the MCM was responsible proved tougher than with a more spread-out design. When the component manufacturers would insist that another company's chip was responsible for problems, Product Development Deputy General Manager Ko Shiota said he forced each company to design a robust testing regimen to "prove your own innocence."

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We usually have to wait for a new piece of hardware to actually be on the market before we can link to the obligatory teardown showing the internal components. But Nintendo has beaten the iFixits of the world to the punch this time around, hosting an official, picture-filled discussion of the Wii U's internal hardware as part of its regular "Iwata Asks" interview series more than a month before the system hits stores.

Nintendo's focus is the Wii U's multichip module (MCM) which contains both a multicore CPU and GPU along with 2GB of on-chip memory, all on a single substrate component. Positioning all of these chips so closely together reduces latency and power consumption, the Nintendo engineers explained. This in turn keeps the size of the hardware down, a priority for the team.

Despite the advantages of the MCM design, combining components from chip-makers Renesas (RAM), IBM (CPU), and AMD (GPU) on a single component was a challenge. When defects became apparent during the testing process, isolating which piece of the MCM was responsible proved tougher than with a more spread-out design. When the component manufacturers would insist that another company's chip was responsible for problems, Product Development Deputy General Manager Ko Shiota said he forced each company to design a robust testing regimen to "prove your own innocence."

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So we were sent a Wii Classic Controller Pro, the $20 update to the first-generation Classic Controller for the Nintendo Wii. Does it look more "pro" to you?

The controller is laid out very similarly to the first Classic Controller, with the exception of the fins coming down from the bottom of the controller. These fins are thinner than they look in pictures, and they take some getting used to. The idea here is to give the player a better grip than the SNES-style original, but in practice they never seemed to be positioned where we'd like them.

The black controller is also glossy, which means it looks like a mess of fingerprints within seconds of being taken out of its box. It also looks goofy as hell hooked into all my white Wiimotes. You can buy a white version of the controller for the same price if you're into a matching home theater set up.

As nice as the controller is, it never really seemed to fit perfectly in my hand. The Z-button is now placed behind the L and R buttons, giving you two triggers on each side, much like a Dual Shock 3. This also took a little while to get used to. For some odd reason it always felt as if it was going to fall out of my hands.

If you already have a Classic Controller, there isn't much reason to upgrade to the Pro. If you don't, however, head to your local game store and try them both out before making your purchase. More choice is never a bad thing.

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