News Article

Feature: The Potential of Wii U and Amazon

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

More than a games console

Nintendo has been busy with Wii U promotion in recent weeks, with E3 at the core of a number of interviews and reveals about the system and what it will offer on the day it hits stores. Satoru Iwata has spoken about the console and its GamePad controller becoming the centre of the family living room. An image of four family members being together but not together due to their individual gadgets, was at the core of Iwata’s message in the pre-E3 Nintendo Direct broadcast: part of Wii U's objective is to bring everyone together around one source of entertainment.

It seems slightly strange, in that case, that the focus from that point on was on a man who was alone – apart from a certain Non-Specific Action Figure — using Miiverse to communicate with gamers around the world, and then in E3 itself we mostly saw flashy game trailers. Titles such as Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U and Rayman Legends will have a major focus on local multiplayer with a twist, absolutely, but these are only part of the answer when trying to bring people together around the console.

If Wii U is going to truly become the central entertainment source of the living room, then it’ll be apps that will make the difference. Sony and Microsoft have already made significant strides in this way, with movie and TV streaming, as well as music players, already integral parts of those systems. It’s a game of catch up for Nintendo, making the 10 second appearance of video services such as Netflix and Amazon Video at E3 a surprise. The potential for unique features, as is the case with games, rests with the GamePad, and it’s the partnership with Amazon that has significant potential.

A potential Amazon Video app offers obvious opportunities for movie and TV downloads or streaming. The area where Amazon and Wii U can truly shine and make genuinely innovative strides, however, is with eBooks.

Many eBooks currently available are, for the most part, simple text-based affairs with occasional images: a paperback in digital form. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s important to recognise that digital reading is also evolving beyond this simple format. Enhanced and interactive eBooks are becoming more common, with the standard reading experience being integrated with audio and video clips, celebrity narrators and even basic interactive features. The issue that’s faced Amazon is the limited capability of the standard Amazon Kindle e-reader, and the Apple iPad was the most significant major platform for these enhanced eBooks until the emergence of the Kindle Fire tablet, which is still not available in the UK. It’s an evolving industry, yet the most prominent distributor of digital books has actually lagged slightly behind.

While Wii U will take time to establish a significant user-base, eBooks could be a perfect fit for the system and its GamePad controller. The obvious application is for the touch screen to function in a similar manner to a tablet device, a simple way for the existing Kindle platform to be replicated on the console. To stop there would be a pity, however, as the immediate connection between the GamePad and television offers new possibilities that, although perhaps possible on existing tablet devices, could be used in an intuitive and fun way by Nintendo. The concept of group reading can go to a new level.

On one hand, the interactive elements of eBooks can easily be reproduced, and the ability to share content from the GamePad on the big screen can mean that a video, narrative track or music can be enjoyed by everyone else in the room. There’s also an opportunity for the ground between gaming and reading to be closed, which can benefit both young children learning to read and also older experienced gamers who can become more immersed in favoured franchises. As well as the GamePad the system can have accompanying Wii Remotes, so interaction and actually affecting the eBook content in entertaining ways both on the GamePad and television is full of potential.

Sony has actually already shown how reading can be combined with motion controls and augmented reality with its own Wonderbook concept on PS3, and similar ideas could be possible if Nintendo and Amazon share expertise and resources. The potential for educational eBooks that encourage activities and exercises with the Wii U hardware is vast. When it comes to publicity and exposure around eBook products, meanwhile, Amazon is easily the best platform due to its dominance in the industry and the sheer volume of its trusting customers. Painting and drawing, music or even brain training-themed eBooks could attract parents as there’d be substantial learning material alongside fun, game-related exercises, allowing more exposure than that offered in the gaming sector.

Of course, interactive educational experiences hold little attraction for many of us, but there is potential for game fiction and comic book tie-ins to become more dynamically linked to the source material. What if a story-driven game was released with surrounding fiction included, that provides even more context and background to a title's lore? Simplistic mini-games could be included within an eBook, with potential links to puzzles or hidden areas in the actual games. Experiments like these would be rife for abuse with publishers seeking a fast buck, inevitably, but it could encourage reading among those that don’t do enough. Featuring an extensive Amazon app would also provide potential links with Miiverse, where groups can form to socialise about books or, potentially, films or TV shows being bought or viewed on the service. Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube can also make good use of Nintendo's social network in that way.

Some of these concepts could easily be replicated in a retail disc or download, but increasingly tight budgets put the potential success of those releases in doubt. Scaled back experiences with additional reading on offer, at competitive eBook-style prices, could attract audiences looking for a different experience. It’s through sharing creative ideas and expertise with companies such as Amazon, therefore, that the console can stand apart from the crowd. The eBook industry is popular and expanding, so if Wii U can embrace the format and form a strong partnership with the company behind the massively popular Kindle, it could be exciting for us and financially lucrative for Nintendo.

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User Comments (37)

NTELLIGENTMAN

#2

NTELLIGENTMAN said:

Oh so I can't watch any bloody movies or even play CDs on my Wii U, but I can read? THAT'S SO DUMB!!!

baba_944

#4

baba_944 said:

I know many kids who hate reading, but why? If your into fiction movies fiction books are the way to go. Like Sci-fi, nonfiction, etc.

BenAV

#5

BenAV said:

I'm not into books and the only thing I really care about for my console is that it has a lot of fun games.
Still, the more things the Wii U has to attract a wider audience, the better.

Now back to some reading of my own... pages and pages of course notes for my exam later. :(

LittleIrves

#6

LittleIrves said:

I feel like interactive eBooks have a long way to go before they're actually interesting, worthwhile products (reading is already, you know, interactive enough).

BUT: the thing about Wii U mentioned here that's most interesting is the potential for instant Book Clubs or Movie Commentary through Miiverse. I know the same thing can be done via message boards, but having it all in one place — Watch a movie, see what everyone is saying about it — or having a category of WiiU friends who are all reading the same book and can discuss it... that's actually a pretty neat, albeit simple, feature.

Listening to what they had to say at E3, it seems like Nintendo still has some bullets in the chamber w/r/t their larger entertainment offerings. Am very curious to hear what they've got in the works.

Odnetnin

#7

Odnetnin said:

Not that this would ever happen, but I love Amazon, so this would be cool.

PeterW77

#8

PeterW77 said:

I know its not Amazon but I'd love to be able to access my Marvel comics digital subscription from the WiiU and read them on the Gamepad.

MeloMan

#9

MeloMan said:

Love this article. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I'm sure Nintendo will find some kind of way to not take full advantage of this. If the big N is REALLY trying to put it's money where it's mouth is for social gaming/media/etc., then this NEEDS to happen, almost to the T how Thomas put it. I'm hoping though, I myself would seriously get behind it if it's to be.

rjejr

#11

rjejr said:

I read the article and I didn't see 1 mention of the large white elephant in the room - the Gamepad has to be connected to the Wii U to work. Why would anybody make an ebook app for a device that has to be attached to your tv? I could see a limited "game" like Sony's Wonderbook - it would probably actually work better on the Wii U as that E3 presentation was horrific - but I don't see why Amazon would bother making an ebook app for a device that can't leave your house. I do expect Amazon Video to be on there as it is on the PS3, and Netflix is on anything and everything electrical including the Wii and 3DS so that's a no brainer, but ebooks as Amazon sells them today w/ the Kindle app? I don't see that happening.
I do want my Wii U drawing and painting program though, minus the UDraw add-on device.

cfgk24

#12

cfgk24 said:

Amazon are Fab!
Apple are irritating and smug.
Go Go Amazon and Nintendo!

LavaTwilight

#13

LavaTwilight said:

Did anyone else love the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that were so popular in the late 80s? O man how awesome would it be if you could have something extremely similar to that for the WiiU? I also had some Nintendo gamebooks, they were mostly Mario with 2 Zelda gamebooks in the series. What made those different were the puzzles you had at key points of the book and depending on how well you did would depend on the items you got. It was a nice twist and based on the article above I can imagine it working really well with the WiiU!

I love reading and it's my favourite pasttime. People who learn I'm a computer game nut think I'm illiterate and uncultured but I've just finished the unabridged Don Quixote so I would love to get my kindle books on the WiiU! It'll make a purchase of the console just that much more necessary.

SilverArrow

#14

SilverArrow said:

Hey, we don't know if we won't be able to play movies or music on the Wii U. Nintendo SAID that it will be the center of entertainment in the home.

ThomasBW84Admin

#15

ThomasBW84 said:

@rjejr I did specify the concept of Wii U being the focal point in the living room, and examples of eBooks with TV interactivity fit with the limitations of the GamePad. I'm really focusing on the potential for interactive eBooks in particular, and think it could be interesting.

SteveW

#17

SteveW said:

who cares about playing music on the Wii U! seriously! buy a $50 DVD player and you can do both without putting the wear and tear on your $300 Wii U and without making the rest of us pay more for Nintendo to license the codec required for those things, holy cow people

thiagoauler

#20

thiagoauler said:

@rjejr "I read the article and I didn't see 1 mention of the large white elephant in the room - the Gamepad has to be connected to the Wii U to work. Why would anybody make an ebook app for a device that has to be attached to your tv?"

What?!? The connection happens wirelessly! ;)

Noend

#21

Noend said:

You can watch movies digitally. Music digitally. Don't get caught up on not being able to put a disc in to do these things.

Zaphod_Beeblebrox

#24

Zaphod_Beeblebrox said:

We've already got two e-readers in the family (Kindle and B&N Nook). Being able to watch Amazon Prime Instant Video on the TV is the main thing we'll be interested to try. Can't do that with our AppleTV.

lanabanana

#25

lanabanana said:

Cool idea but, Why would someone buy a Video Game Console to read ?!! Come on now!!! lol

Gruntilda

#29

Gruntilda said:

Oh, wow! This could certainly be used in some interesting ways. Pretty neat-o if you ask me.

RaylaxStaff

#30

Raylax said:

Couldn't disagree more with the statement that Amazon are lagging behind in the eBook market, or the suggestion that eInk is becoming an outdated technology when smartphone/tablet style devices are on the rise. The whole purpose of eInk devices is to offer a platform exclusively for reading without the backlit glare, power consumption or pixelated screen of a smartphone/tablet, as though reading an actual book on something very close to paper-and-ink. Its 'basic' level of technology featureset part of the appeal - I don't buy a book expecting sound clips, video inserts and other rich media, I buy a book expecting it to have a lot of prose in it and the Kindle's low-end tech designed to do just that and little more is a big selling point. Smartphones and eBooks are two very distinct technologies.

The Kindle Fire is the perfect example here really, it's a partner to (not a progression of) the eInk Kindle line - people who want a tablet will be well-served to buy a Fire; people who want a reading device are better off with a normal Kindle - buying a Fire for reading on, or a normal Kindle for browsing the internet and playing media, is going to leave you missing the primary advantages of each device.

luminalace

#31

luminalace said:

@Thomas Great read and a great write up!

I hope Nintendo actually pay attention to this article because the Wii U Gamepad has lots of potential for areas outside just gaming!

FiveDigitLP

#33

FiveDigitLP said:

@Vintage
Agreed! That's exactly what I was thinking when I was reading this. I've never bought a Kindle, but if I were to it would be so that I could carry multiple books with me and be able to read them without getting a headache. Sure, I can download a book to my Kindle app on my Android phone, but it's not the same.

Gilius

#34

Gilius said:

This is why Nintendo is great. They've always thought of ideas first. Then, sadly Sony and Microsoft follow right behind and copy Nintendo. Btw, the Zombiu looked really cool. It's convening me to buy a Wii U.

GreenDream

#35

GreenDream said:

I would like to see e-book capabilities in the Upad, but I'm not thrilled with the possibilities of DRMadness from any vendor, including Amazon. Still, it would be nice if PDF files could be read or converted onto it, as an alternative to carrying magazines and books around.

Additionally, the Ustylus could be used to highlight, tab, or edit readable files. These functions would be "exact form" on text documents, and "free form" on HTML documents.

Malkeor

#36

Malkeor said:

Discs? Music and Movies?
Puh leeeze....Netflix/Hulu and insert numerous other digital music services for modern consoles here

Henmii

#37

Henmii said:

"The Potential of Wii U and Amazon"

What a "potential" Amazon has!! Coming up with release-dates and prices...while Nintendo didn't say a thing!! Oh, what potential (sarcasm, sarcasm)!!

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