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Dual-screen duels: Wii U vs SmartGlass vs Cross-Play

We keep tabs on the future of gaming tablets....

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Wii U GamePad

Seemingly forever doomed to be a generation behind the competition in terms of technology, Nintendo has had to once again think outside of the box in order to get people's attention.

With Wii U they've achieved this by considering the conundrum from a different perspective. Everyone may be in agreement that tablets and smartphones are going to be mainstays of the living rooms of the future, but only Nintendo has stopped to consider the question: how can families use them to interact with one another, rather than ignoring each other?

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Thus the Wii U GamePad is first and foremost a social device, modelled after the tablets seen in Japanese karaoke houses. Already we've seen that Wii U games, like their Wii predecessors, are heavily weighted towards multiplayer shenanigans, and we expect this 'play together' philosophy to bleed into the way apps such as Netflix and YouTube are integrated onto the console. Remember that video last year, in which a YouTube clip of a parrot was 'flicked' onto the TV screen? That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Another point to consider: while the resistive touchscreen will frustrate those used to multi-touch devices such as iPads, it's worth noting that such screens allow for greater drawing accuracy than their capacitive brethern, meaning popular scribbling games such as Zygna's Draw Something could easily make a new home for itself on Nintendo's new console.

What the Wii U lacks in technical prowess, then, it more than makes up for in intelligent and purposeful design. Images of families laughing and socialising together over parrots and pictionary are far more aspirational - and easier to market - than the sedentary lifestyle projected by the competition.

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The Wii U GamePad also holds one other huge advantage over its rivals - it is permanently, irrevocably part of the console's design. For Wii U developers, implementing the touch-screen into the very heart of their games' design isn't a gamble at all - it's the most natural thing in the world they could do.

Nintendo has taken the gamble so the developers don't have to, just as they did with motion-controllers on the original Wii all those years ago. That is why in our opinion Wii U is, in the long run, likely to yield better results than either SmartGlass on Xbox 360 or Sony's Cross-Controller experiment, despite running on inferior tech. It isn't just part of a console. It is the console.

With that said, it's clear that all three companies are on the right track, even if they've taken different routes to get there. Attention will now shift to Xbox 720 and PS4, whenever they may poke their head above the parapet, and whether they can prove that Microsoft and Sony are as confident in their touch-screen tech as Nintendo are. The major players all have winning hands - all they need do now is play them into your hands.

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