Talking Point: Why Interactive eBooks are a Perfect Fit for Wii U
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
They can include video, audio and even games themselves
So, new ideas for the Wii U, how about those? It's our topic for the community's next "Your View" feature over on the forums, and something we considered ourselves in terms of brand-new types of games for the system. Of course with Wii U it's all about games right now, as they'll ultimately be the key to selling millions of systems and seeing off the "Wii U is doomed" viewpoints out there. While games are vital, that doesn't mean that Nintendo should abandon the idea of expanding the functionality and variety of the Wii U's features, especially to make use of its dual-screen setup.
That's where eBooks come in, but before you go "bleh, eBooks" and bail, hear us out. We're not talking about plain-old novels that have just been digitised, but we're talking about interactive, multimedia experiences that are increasingly popular in the market, and could be hugely relevant to gaming culture.
Today brought more news of a rather impressive upcoming Mega Man art book, packed full of concept art, interviews and enough illustrations to make eyes almost pop out of heads. From a Nintendo perspective we only need mention Hyrule Historia, which sold impressively and had fans scrambling for the collector's edition. These kind of books are big collectibles, of course, but just like many are interested in 'going digital' with their game collections, there are legitimate ways to do the same with books and to offer something unique that utilises the Wii U hardware.
Ultimately, it's all about the GamePad to TV setup, and the Wii U's obvious abilities to run HD video and high quality audio with ease. Interactive eBooks are becoming fairly popular on tablet devices and, to an extent, smartphones, and many of the ideas already seen could be prominent. As you read you come across video features that expand upon a particular area of a book, illustrations are easily expanded to full screen, while audio readings, descriptions and even mini-games are common. Various children's classics have received this interactive treatment, naturally, but there have also been autobiographies and fictional novels that have utilised multimedia to accompany the core text.
So why would this fit Wii U like a glove? To start with, there's scope for a potential eBook app on the system to focus on publications focused on game culture, such as art books and franchise histories; some content could even be exclusive to the platform. Imagine a History of Mario or History of Sonic the Hedgehog title that not only shows concept art and video interviews, but has links to play small sections of retro titles in any given franchise. If you're learning all about Super Mario Bros. on NES, why not tap a button and play through an excerpt of first World before returning to the book? Throw in standard goodies with video and audio clips to expand on what's in the text, and what you have is a multimedia history of any given gaming subject, rather than just text and images; not to mention the fact these kind of titles could be easy advertising for the Virtual Console.
Simply put, eBooks catered to the system could truly shine, beyond their contemporaries on dedicated eBook devices and multi-functional tablet devices. The GamePad would be perfect for casually enjoying the eBook on its screen, of course, but opening up to incorporate both screens opens up some opportunities for interactions between the two, but also for sharing an eBook with others. All of those goodies we've mentioned — playable games, video, audio, animations etc — can transfer seamlessly and look gorgeous on a TV screen. That book sharing in a living room space would be fairly unique; you can hook tablets to TVs, of course, but the Wii U offers seamless TV display with no hassle.
Naturally, we can wonder whether this kind of application would succeed and sell enough products to make it worth Nintendo's and other publisher's time. Sony revealed its Wonderbook series for PS3 with great fanfare at E3 2012 — it had a J.K. Rowling exclusive, no less — but admitted in the Spring that last year's releases “could have sold better”. We'd suggest that the struggles of that concept are the disconnect between how many like to read or "experience" their books, and how Wonderbook works. Using AR (augmented reality) and a Move controller for motion controls may look like fun for children, in theory, but it perhaps struggles to satisfy any particular desire. It doesn't seem to have the freedom or sense of full control that a game might offer, but it's not relaxed like reading a book. Sony's concept isn't particularly suitable for lounging back in a comfortable seat, which is perhaps the typical way to enjoy a book, whether the classic physical kind or an interactive newcomer on a device.
But that's where the Wii U can find a middle ground. There's no wand waving or camera-based AR to hook up, but it could also be more enticing, in terms of multimedia and actual interaction, than a printed text or bog-standard text-only eBook. Think of any gaming culture collectible book you've bought, or something you read as a child or with kids of your own, and picture it on the GamePad and / or TV with interactive moments. Reading Wizard of Oz but love the film? Read a chapter and then watch a section from the film. Loving that copy of Hyrule Historia? How about viewing a hi-res image of that artwork on a 40-inch HD screen, listen to a track from the Zelda Orchestra to match the game you're reading up on, or try out a dungeon from The Legend of Zelda to see what it's all about.
Just this week we read about an eBook app coming to 3DS in Japan, and we're doubtful this will ever come to the West in any form — a Western publisher would need to make it happen. But then it's not needed, as it seemingly does little that a smartphone or tablet can't. Some of what we've suggested for Wii U, however, could potentially have legs. Would it sell systems on its own? Probably not. Would it be a fun app to increase the value of the system to its owners, whether enthusiastic gamers or families? We think so.
Have we convinced you? What do you think? Sound off and let us know in the poll and comments below.
Would you be interested in interactive eBooks on the Wii U? (145 votes)
Absolutely, the idea sounds great
I'm intrigued, I'd probably give them a try
Hm, not sure, but would think about it if they ever happened
I'm not really convinced, but wouldn't entirely rule them out
Bleh, I don't like the idea at all
None of the above
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