Is it a tablet? Is it a controller? No, wait, it's the Nintendo Gamepad!
When Nintendo introduced the Wii U tech demo at an E3 two years ago, many people were confused at first. Is the Wii U a tablet add-on for the Wii? That's the biggest question Nintendo has had to answer as it tries to launch the Wii U.
There are tablets everywhere, now. The ubiquitous iPad, numerous Android products, all have served to raise the prominence of the tablet in consumers minds. Everyone knows what a tablet is. So at first blush it's easy to think that the Nintendo Wii U Gamepad is "just another tablet".
Ironically, while the Gamepad looks like a tablet with controls added to the sides, it is fundementally not a tablet at all. It has a touch screen, but no computing innards. What is displayed on the screen is actually a clever subterfuge, so complete a deceit that you can't believe that this thing isn't really a tablet.
Until you're out of range of the Wii U console.
Then you realize that this glorious device, this technical marvel, this Gamepad thing that you hold in your hands is not a tablet, nor a handheld. It's an incredibly well executed wireless controller with a screen. You have been experiencing the local version of Onlive, streaming a game to your hands, with no latency. Everything you have been seeing on the Gamepad, interacting with, playing with, has been an elaborate trick accomplished with wireless streaming technology developed with blood, sweat and tears by the engineering teams at Nintendo.
How should you feel at this moment of epiphany? Betrayed, perhaps? This tablet that is not a tablet, this purveyor of all things Mario and Zelda, this companion that sits on the couch next to you, has been unmasked. It is not what you thought it was.
I know how I will feel. I will feel like Nintendo has given me a true next-generation game system. One that does not compete with the others by besting them in specs, but by innovation in experience.
My bold closing statement is this; the Gamepad screen is the first gameplay innovation in the console space since motion control.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Come by tomorrow for "1 day out from Wii U... the games!"