iPad 2 and AirPlay Make Nintendo’s Wii U an Unnecessary Console

When Nintendo introduced its follow-up to the incredibly successful Wii console, titled Wii U, it brought current-generation graphics and a controller that is only unique in the console industry. Nintendo is still betting that the controller, dominated by a 6.2″ resistive touch-screen surrounded by traditional buttons and motion sensors, will be seen as innovative once customers can get their hands on it despite a fairly lukewarmly-received demonstration at the E3 Expo. Though the system is certainly unique in how video can be wirelessly streamed from the console to the controller, enabling games to be played exclusively on the controller (which has little internal hardware) without the need for a television while also giving developers and users the option of having both the controller and a television working independently. Trouble is, a 2012 release date may be too little, too late for Nintendo.

With iOS 5, Apple introduces similar functionality into a multi-purpose device that millions already have: the iPad 2. The iOS 5 introduction of wireless AirPlay allows users to transmit video to a television cable-free. In this instance, the actual processing is being done on the controller, the iPad. Similar to the functionality of the Wii U controller, this not only allows for a mirroring of the iPad’s display but also something different to be displayed on a television and the iPad.

Quickly stepping in to test out the new AirPlay functionality, developer Firemint implemented the feature into a beta version of Real Racing 2. In the early build, the game itself is displayed on a TV while a map and motion controls make up the complementary iPad experience. Proving that a powerhouse app can use AirPlay to great effect, we are not too far-off from seeing the trend continue, especially as the Wii U is marketed.

If the current power of the iPad is not enough for a game, then cloud gaming can fill in the gaps. OnLive, which processes games on its own server farm while sending a synchronized video stream of the game to devices so that it is irrelevant how powerful the device actually is, had already been preparing similar dual-display functionality for its upcoming iPad player app. Once the app is released later this year, developers can make full-blown console/PC games playable on a tablet while also adding touch-specific controls and complementary displays on a television and tablet.

If developers are creating a Wii U version of the game anyway, it would not take much work to port it over to a service such as OnLive or optimize it for the App Store so that users can have a similar experience with devices that they already have.

Interestingly enough, there are unique multiplayer scenarios for a Wii U controller when used with multiple Wii remotes. However, even this can be extended to the iPad with the iPhone and iPod touch replacing Wii remotes, because after all, how many people do you know that don’t have an iOS device?

For all intent and purposes, iPad 2 can take the place of a Wii U. Though the Wii U does have a hardware advantage going for it, the iPad will likely take another performance leap in the next iteration before Nintendo’s new console is released. By the time it launches, parallel tablet and television apps/gaming will not be a new thing. Who knows how much of an effect such a version of Angry Birds could have on the living room gaming scene within the next few months?