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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

35%

I'm intrigued, I'd probably give them a try

31%

Hm, not sure, but would think about it if they ever happened

12%

I'm not really convinced, but wouldn't entirely rule them out

7%

Bleh, I don't like the idea at all

14%

None of the above

  1%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (40)

ivanmata

#1

ivanmata said:

It would be great to have a Hyrule Historia copy with some video clips of the making process.

SyntheticPerson

#2

SyntheticPerson said:

The media stuff would be cool, but the problem I would have is that reading text on a screen gets tiring after a while. That is why the Kindle works great: e-ink. Unless they had a peripheral that you could hook up to read the text, I think it wouldn't be too great an idea.

SyntheticPerson

#3

SyntheticPerson said:

Besides, I like my games machines for gaming. Start adding in two many things and it ruins the whole thing. Look at the XBone. The key feature is television. Which is ridiculous.

ThomasBW84Admin

#4

ThomasBW84 said:

Some of you are making me sad...

I know you want games, we all do. This is an EXTRA!

Sleepingmudkip

#5

Sleepingmudkip said:

maybe if they added guilds and official nintendo magazine(nintendo power) on the wii u thin im in

TreesenHauser

#8

TreesenHauser said:

Ever since the Wii U's inception and reveal I thought apps such as eReaders would be great on there. I'd definitely go for it.

Daggo

#9

Daggo said:

Could be like those Marvel Infinity comics with better interactive options. I'd surely give it a try.

Dinosaurs

#14

Dinosaurs said:

The DVD-quality resolution of the gamepad i think is not great for many text applications. If the resolution were at least on par with retina-quality it'd be more ideal.

I myself would find it hard to sit still long enough for this type of app on the Wii U. With the gamepad in my hands I'd need more continuous control input lol

ajcismo

#16

ajcismo said:

How about some graphic novels? I'd gladly pay for The Killing Joke or Year One for example.

Araknie

#17

Araknie said:

Let's firstly see how the go on the 3DS, it's the second time they launch them in there and the first time didn't go well.

SetupDisk

#18

SetupDisk said:

@ThomasBW84
This would be great. Also maybe as an eshop game dl or "preorder dl" bonus they could offer some great digital manuels of classic franchises. Of course they wouldn't have the content of a full book but it's a lot cooler than a reskin.

th3r3ds0x

#19

th3r3ds0x said:

Honestly I think it's a bad idea with maybe a few gaming related items at best. There are many far better devices that are far better suited for this. The idea of having to be near my WiiU to view the content is also a deal breaker. I love my Wii U, as a game system. I'll use my ipad for the other stuff. Nintendo needs to get the games out already! :)

SetupDisk

#20

SetupDisk said:

As for the quality of the text I browse all the time on my Wii U, sometimes with my tv off to give it a break and have no trouble reading the text.
Another thought I just had is this might be a way to get Grandpa involved again. Besides ebooks right now you can go to a lot of news sites just on your browser. I have a 50 inch tv. Imagine how much more comfortable that would be for an older person to read news articles when you can zoom in from the comfort of your couch without having to use a laptop but a gamepad instead or instead of a keyboard and mouse sitting close in front of a tower pc.

Sampras

#21

Sampras said:

It's funny (or sad) how some people get a knee-jerk reaction against reading! 999 is heavy in reading but everybody loves it. Besides, comic books, manga are books and the minimally literate crowd don't mind them. In short, it's how entertaining and tailored to the Wii U console that would determine how people will receive it.

EaZy_T

#22

EaZy_T said:

The resolution on the gamepad is fine for reading text, I explore the web on it quite often. I'd be curious to experience multimedia "books" on Wii U.

JonSpangler

#23

JonSpangler said:

As someone alluded to, brink the Marvel Comic app to Wii U. It has AR supported special features already in their print issues with talk about adapting them to digital versions.

Captain_Gonru

#26

Captain_Gonru said:

@feline2
Given the timing of its conclusion, I had half-assumed we would see some sort of Nintendo Power rebirth or, "e"-birth (see what I did there?) on the Wii U. Still surprised it hasn't happened.

ouroborous

#27

ouroborous said:

if they make stuff like hyrule historia and the new megaman book available then i would be interested

mozie

#29

mozie said:

@Subie98 :me too, ill use my kindle fire for that thank you, bought a wii u for games which unfortunately are seriously lacking atm and an ebook aint gonna cut it.

Subie98

#30

Subie98 said:

Its a creative idea but I just dont want it for a gaming console. Its like someone else said, it's like the xbox one, too many things going on isnt a good thing either.

stillwinds

#31

stillwinds said:

I love my Kindle for reading, and my consoles for playing games. I'd rather not have them try do each other's job.

I'm guessing that these will be some sort of flashy, point-and-click style games (like 999 or Ace Attorney). How else would you attract the gamer demographic?

ramstrong

#32

ramstrong said:

I love ebooks. But the point of Kindle and 3DS is that they are portable. 3DS+ebook=Greatness. The WiiU? Unless they put ebook on Gamepad and have a special carrying bag with it, I'd hate it.

Now, if you're talking about 3D Zelda movie, machinima-like, then that's different. :)

thatguyEZ

#34

thatguyEZ said:

am i the only one who thought of visual novels when the read this? nintendo has like non whilst the PSP has tons of good ones. i don't have a PSP and i hate trying to find translated VN torrents on the web, so i think the big N really needs to get on the action.I know this is kinda a niche area but still, so it Etrian Odyssey. so please make it happen nintendo. ;D

suburban_sensei

#39

suburban_sensei said:

The thumbnail for the article makes me want to pick up Hyrule Historia. Anybody that has it, recommend it? Interactive books would be kind of neat, if priced decently.

Chabbox

#40

Chabbox said:

@ThomasBW84

Well, it's arguable that nothing really can be an extra at all. If you take the idea of 'effort' and you take it from EBooks and put it into gaming, then more effort goes into gaming. It's a simple logical concept, meaning that more effort goes into games rather than books. And that's a win. The Wii U is a CONSOLE not a Kindle. That's a fact.

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