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The Future of Nintendo: How Wii U might be Nintendo's biggest gamble yet

And Everything we know about Wii U so far...

Nintendo have a way with consoles. Specifically, that way involves announcing an exciting new format with a metric ton of potential, and then hiding it behind a Wizard Of Oz-style curtain, leaving everyone guessing for months of end. While we seem to know a bit more about Ninty's latest platform than we did about the 3DS - and Wii U's iPad-like controller is certainly easier to describe to another person than glasses-free 3D - we're still in the dark to an alarming degree.

How powerful is it? When's it going to launch? And how does it compare to PS3 and Xbox 360? It seems that every other headline involves some industry bigwig claiming that it's more, less or equally powerful to the established HD formats.

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Annoying these headlines may be, but you can see why they persist. Wii's technical shortcomings have been keenly felt over the last few years, as Other Format games grow better and better looking, and as Nintendo's stake in multi-format releases plummets like a Branson-powered balloon. We want top-tier third-party games like Call Of Duty, Assassin's Creed or GTA, and not hobbled, feature-cut versions either. That's going to depend on how Wii U compares to Sony and Microsoft's platforms - and how it weighs up against their next-gen iterations, which are expected to be announced at next year's E3.

BATTERING RAM

So, how powerful is Wii U? We're not going to give you a full set of technical specs here, mainly because one hasn't been released, but the prevailing consensus - based on leaked documents and consultations with Derek Acorah and his 'spirit guide' Sam - is that it will have at least three times as much RAM as the current crop of HD consoles.

1.5Gb of RAM would offer a significant performance advantage over PS3 and Xbox 360, so we fully expect Wii U versions of multi-format titles to equal the 360 ones or even surpass them, if developers get to grips with the new architecture in time. For the first time in a long while, Nintendo may gain a substantial lead in the (groan) 'console war', which should put gamers' fears about a lack of third-party support safely to rest.

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However, while the focus in the news has been on Wii U's graphical clout, it's clear that Ninty's focus is on social networking - an area they've paid little attention to in the past. If you own a 3DS, you'll already be aware of how they're playing catch-up.

SpotPass and StreetPass are wonderfully innovative communication tools, even if they only truly work in Japan or, in the West, at designated nerd gatherings such as Comic-Con or the city of San Francisco. There's also a limited achievement system, quietly bundled in a firmware update, and currently restricted to the Mii Plaza.

Accomplishments, as they're known, are going to have a much bigger presence on Wii U, where many developers are now listing them next to Achievements and Trophies on press releases. If these aren't supported by every Wii U game we'll be massively surprised - we'll even do our 'massively surprised' faces. Accomplishments aren't the only, er, accomplishment Nintendo are hoping to, um, accomplish though - they're also set to radically redesign the notion of Miis.

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