Nintendo’s “Project Café” – Here Comes the Wii 2
All of the current generation gaming consoles have been out since about 2005 (or 2006 in the case of the PS3). Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 focused heavily on performance, each outpacing their predecessors (the original Xbox and PS2) significantly, achieving roughly 300 million polygons per second in performance. Nintendo, on the other hand, chose to focus on revolutionizing the console interface, making the Wii only slightly faster than the GameCube, obtaining about 100 million polygons per second. The Wii wasn’t anywhere near the league of performance found in the Xbox 360 and PS3, but Nintendo still had an advantage. Neither Sony nor Microsoft intends to replace their current consoles until well into 2015. Nintendo has something prepared for 2012: “Project Café.”
Back in 2005, achieving the kind of performance found in the PS3 and Xbox 360 was very expensive, but gaming console hardware isn’t much different from PC hardware; and, as we all know, PC hardware evolves fast.
Rumor has it that Nintendo plans to use a Radeon R700 based core in its upcoming platform. The R700 is something PC gamers are very familiar with as the core used in the ATI HD 4870, the first video card to break the 1 TFLOPs barrier. What does all this mean? It means that Project Café holds the potential to provide well over twice the performance of any current generation console. Odds are that Nintendo will be using a somewhat watered down version of the R700 in order to optimize power consumption, but it should still maintain over 500 million polygons per second in performance.
For starters, Project Café is expected to bring HDMI connectivity (finally) and full HD gaming up to 1080p resolutions, a huge step up from the Wii’s 480p limitation. It is unknown whether or not Project Café will feature 3D video settings for those with some of the new 3D HDTVs. It definitely possible Nintendo may include this functionality (as seen in the Nintendo 3DS), but it’s looking unlikely.
In the usual Nintendo fashion, Project Café should be completely backwards compatible with both Wii and GameCube titles (though it’s unknown if it will feature legacy controller and memory slots). N64 and Super Nintendo cartridges certainly won’t fit anywhere in it, but Project Café will likely have an online store similar to the Wii Shopping Channel where you’ll be able to purchase downloadable games and content.
Just like the Wii’s motion based controller, Project Café is expected to bring something new as well. In this case, it’s a controller with an integrated touch screen. Rumor is that it will resemble a modernized SNES or GameCube controller but will also feature a 6-inch touch screen; though fitting a 6-inch screen on a controller seems difficult. Supposedly, the console will be able to stream a game directly to the controller’s screen wirelessly, meaning you can play without even needing a TV.
The controller is also expected to have many motion sensing capabilities, even outperforming those of the acclaimed Six-Axis controller by Sony as well as the PlayStation Move motion controller.
It’s about Time
Our current consoles are all over 5 years old now (that’s like 135 in technology years). All of the stale hardware was starting to make game developers like THQ uneasy, but Project Café will offer a fresh pot of performance for developers to dive into.