When you think of innovation on the Wii you naturally think Nintendo given their creation of the Wii, peripherals and continuing success with AAA titles. So when we were presented the uDraw GameTablet for the Wii by THQ at gamescom today there was naturally some scepticism. THQ Creative Director Luis Gigliotti took us through the demonstration of the uDraw GameTablet and the three launch titles.
The GameTablet is a white rectangular handheld tablet which features a pressure-sensitive stylus to enable pin-point control drawing precision. The Wii Remote docks into the left hand side of the GameTablet and has an indented space to allow access to the trigger button. The unit is sturdy, light and manufactured from high quality materials. The stylus cannot detect the angle at which you are holding it, however, based on the demonstration we observed this is not an issue at all. There is plenty of functionality between the pressure-sensitive stylus and motion sensing capability of the docked Wii Remote to enable a wide range of new and enhanced applications.
When THQ pitched the idea to Nintendo they received a terrific response and the full support of Nintendo. This partnership was so strong in fact that Nintendo brought their hardware design and manufacturers to the table.
Within a year they were able to create a viable GameTablet that is solid, slick and most importantly will come in at an affordable price point. Even more surprisingly Nintendo authorised the saving of the created images directly to the SD in the Wii. This is a first that many developers have begged for access to on other titles and is sure to stir up a hornet’s nest amongst the development community. For consumers it is excellent functionality so you can pop out your SD card and easily print the pictures.
The GameTablet will ship with the uDraw Studio software bundled. The software looks simple and intuitive yet comes across as a highly flexible drawing creation tool. You can see just how far you can go with uDraw Studio in the video below. There are plenty of built-in tutorials to help you improve your sketching skills or for the kids they can just doodle and make use of the included stencils. The user interface is a clean simple design which makes it accessible to the widest audience possible.
Next up you will be able to purchase Pictionary which is a remake of everyone’s favourite boardgame. You can play through in standard mode or turn on the Mania mode. We played through a couple of rounds and it was a lot of fun. The additional mode does crazy things like limit the amount of ink you have available to draw with, rotates the image whilst you are drawing or makes you draw without lifting the stylus from the tablet, to name but a few. This adds a freshness to the Pictionary experience that is bound to go down well with family and friends.
Lastly there is Dood’s Big Adventure which takes you through 60 levels where you get to customize everything from the characters, enemies and even the world. For instance you might need to draw a trampoline and then bounce on it to get past an obstacle. One example was shared with us where you need to draw a fan and then twist the GameTablet as though it was the fan to propel your character who is holding a balloon to another platform. There are a wealth of opportunities and this game has a lot of potential.
The GameTablet will launch in the US during November 2010 and sadly much later in Europe around February 2011. The reason for the delay launching in Europe was not given, however, we can only speculate that it probably has something to do with having sufficient stock of the hardware rather than the usual challenge with translating the software into the numerous European languages. The GameTablet will come bundled with the uDraw Studio software and is set for a recommended retail price of $69.99. The other two launch titles of Pictionary and Dood’s Big Adventure will sell for $29.99 each.
The GameTablet could very well be the accessory to jump start the next wave of Wii buying much like the Balance Board and Wii Motion Plus have done. The main challenge here is with only three titles announced and THQ holding all the rights, potentially barring other developers from developing for the GameTablet, the success of this product is in the balance. The GameTablet itself is a hardy device which could enable games like Scribblenauts to come to the Wii and many more but will THQ figure out the right licensing model to ensure the proliferation of software that will in turn ensure the proliferation of the Gametablet? I certainly hope so and look forward to continued innovation from THQ who are demonstrating how to effectively partner with Nintendo to create the future gaming experiences.
GC 10: David Kassan Paints with uDraw