The processor is the heart of any machine. In these days of high performance graphics cards it is certainly not the only indicator of gaming performance, but it is the headlining feature. Microsoft made a huge song and dance about its triple cored 3.2GHz PowerPC processors, Sony jumped up and down about its much vaunted Cell processor. Nintendo said nothing.
Well technically that is not true. It said “Broadway” is the processor at the heart of the Revolution and that it was developed in conjunction with IBM, but that doesn’t help us much. Where are the clock speed and cache details? To be honest, if there is any other reason than the Revolution’s chip would look poor in comparison to its rivals then I have yet to come up with it. To launch the Revolution without specing the main part is like presenting a birthday cake with candles and no cake. The optimist in me says Nintendo was going to announce, but freaked when it saw the oomph behind the Xbox 360 and PS3 and is now working on an upgrade... Convinced?
Anyway, let’s continue the party without cake. Supporting the unknown core of the Revolution is 512MB of internal flash memory and the “Hollywood” graphics chip from ATI. Be prepared to cough into your cornflakes/coffee/corn beef sandwich here because Nintendo didn’t define this either! Yup, no processor or no graphics information at the launch of a next generation gaming console. There's no cake AND no candles! There will be wireless gaming controllers though, so that’s something to get excited about!?!
Incidentally, if you are wondering where the great variety of images are, well so are we. This is all there are: same angles, same pose. No controllers, no rear shots, nadda. Sony issued a full palette with the PS3, Microsoft has a zoomable, rotateable 3D model of the Xbox 360 at the console’s official site. Go figure.
Now I said with both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 that it didn’t matter how powerful the consoles are, it is the games that will determine its success. Nintendo is no different and it can bring out a few big guns in this department: Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong, Metroid. All these franchises will be expanded with Revolution-only editions of each game. That is an important feather in Nintendo’s cap, even if a few are starting to look decidedly long in the tooth.
Less comforting is the relative silence of independent developers. Where’s my Quake IV or Call of Duty 2? I want Need For Speed and Unreal 3. Perhaps games designers just haven’t got their hands on a Revolution yet, but that would be just as worrying.
Perhaps aware of this lack of announcements, Nintendo rolled out “The Secret Weapon”. This amounts to downloadable access to 20 years of original Nintendo 64, SNES and even NES titles. A cool gesture indeed, but I want my next gen console to be about the future, not the past. Speaking of which, the Revolution release date is very much in the future: it’s not due until mid-2006. This gives the Xbox 360 and PS3 seven month and three month head starts respectively.
In sum, it appears we’re looking at another GameCube here, perhaps worse. Simply put, the Revolution unveiling left us cold. So how is Nintento hoping to succeed? Will it go for a cheap price like it did with the GameCube? Does it believe Mario and Luigi still have enough pulling power alone to make gamers buy a console? Does it believe we can patiently wait a full year without charging out and buying the Xbox 360 or the PS3?
Nintendo may have these confidences, but I have my fair share of doubts.