The iPad has been the target of increased competition over the past year, starting with Amazon's entrance into the tablet arena with the original Kindle Fire and culminating with the release of Amazon's upgraded Kindle Fire HD, Google's Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 and Microsoft's Surface tablet all within the last few months.
And now we can toss Nintendo's name into the arena. While the Nintendo Wii U's main competition may be other video game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo has always focused on a more casual group of gamers than those who flock to those other two consoles.
The Wii U, which was released in North America yesterday, features a new game pad that includes a tablet-like touchscreen. This new game pad will allow not only enhance single-user play by adding new ways to play the game, but also will add a new dimension to multi-play, which can combine players using a more traditional game pad or the old movement-based controls of the original Wii with players utilizing a different form of gameplay via the new touchscreen controller.
But Nintendo's gamble may face longer odds in an environment where many people are playing casual games on their smartphones and tablets. And since the original Wii's release, casual gamers have flocked to Facebook, which makes it easier to connect with friends and family.
Nintendo also made some puzzling design decisions with the system. For example, the Wii U includes a feature called Nintendo TVii, which can search for TV shows, movies and video across multiple platforms like cable television, Netflix and Hulu Plus. It will even serve as a universal remote. And yet, the Wii U's Blu-Ray-like optical disc will not support playing Blu-Ray discs or old school DvDs, which means it won't serve as the center of the entertainment universe for most users.
And if Nintendo hoped to bring in some hardcore gamers, Microsoft and Sony will put a dent into that strategy when they release the next generation of PlayStation and Xbox game consoles.
For casual gamers, the tablet should remain the best overall solution. Not only are the games much cheaper, but the device itself goes way beyond just gaming.