As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen that I am changing into more and more forgetful, and I used to be reminded of this unhappy reality of life just lately because of Blake J. Harris’ The Historical past of the Future, a e book I have been fortunate sufficient to have been despatched an advance copy of to flick by means of. Whereas the e book – billed because the sequel to the sensible Console Wars – is primarily involved with the evolution of VR agency Oculus and its relationship with Fb, it briefly mentions the Wikipad – a tool which, in 2019, feels prefer it was means forward of its time.
In case you missed it (and do not feel unhealthy, as a result of loads of different folks did as a result of it bought so poorly), the Wikipad was an Android pill which got here with a bolt-on gaming interface. The target was easy: to supply customers the very best of Android-based gaming and marry it with a correct, bodily interface that will overcome the entire shortcomings of touch-based management. Flicking by means of Harris’ e book, it is arduous to not grow to be enamoured with the idea; the workforce behind it was clearly gifted and passionate (a few of the members would later co-found Oculus) and the Wikipad was even demoed with a glasses-free 3D display screen not totally not like the one on the Nintendo 3DS. To sweeten the deal, in 2012 it was introduced that cloud gaming agency Gaikai – co-founded by Dave Perry of Shiny Leisure fame – can be integrating its providers with the Wikipad.
Nevertheless, even earlier than it was launched, the Wikipad appeared doomed to failure. It had already missed its preliminary 2011 launch date by the point it was proven off at CES in 2012, and when it will definitely limped to market in 2013, it had been outpaced by the Nvidia Protect handheld, which was working a extra superior model of the Tegra chipset and had built-in gaming controls as customary. The much-hyped Gaikai integration additionally got here to nothing, as the corporate was acquired by Sony two months after confirming its help for the Wikipad. OnLive help was drafted in as a alternative in 2014, however it wasn’t sufficient to save lots of the product, nor was the ‘glowing’ suggestion of the late, nice Stan Lee.
Wikipad – the corporate, not the system – determined to as an alternative give attention to making a removable gaming controller for smartphones and would later rebrand as Gamevice (a reputation which will probably be acquainted to Nintendo followers, for causes we’ll speak about in a bit).
There are two different issues that, in 2019, I discover exceptional concerning the Wikipad. The primary is that having examine it in Harris’ e book, I used to be gripped by how cool it sounded, completely oblivious to the truth that in 2013, I really reviewed the rattling factor for Eurogamer, certainly one of our sister websites. “The Wikipad actually has its coronary heart in the best place,” had been a few of the phrases I wrote (and subsequently clear forgot about). “However finally there are too many negatives current to make it a worthwhile buy. The gaming interface makes it cumbersome, it lacks graphical energy, it ships with a model of Android which is over a yr previous and the value is just too excessive.” For a tool to sound so cool on paper however be so completely forgettable in actuality is sort of an achievement.
The second notable factor is that the Wikipad, when considered with the good thing about hindsight, appears like some type of long-long prototype of the Swap (one thing I little question would have commented on following the Swap’s first reveal, had I remembered that the Wikipad was one thing that exists). It is a tablet-like system with a touchscreen that’s powered by Nvidia hardware, and it comes with a removable gaming interface (albeit one which does not escape into two totally different controllers, just like the Pleasure-Con). There’s even TV-out functionality, because of the included HDMI-out socket. It is a dead-ringer for Nintendo’s console, however regardless of reviewing the Wikipad all these years in the past, I by no means made the connection when Swap was launched. (Maybe it is time to retire?)
Then once more, I should not be so arduous on myself – there is a good motive that no one remembers the Wikipad: it was horrible. In contrast to the Swap, which is a chic execution of the identical core idea, the Wikipad completely didn’t fulfil its promise. Efficiency was sketchy even for an Android-based piece of hardware, and the bolt-on gaming interface left a lot to be desired, sporting cheap-feeling buttons and flimsy analogue sticks. Most essential of all, the Wikipad wasn’t supported by a variety of must-have video games and, robbed on the final minute of the deliberate Gaikai connectivity, it lacked the USP which might have saved it. The glasses-free 3D model additionally fell by the wayside, and – lastly – the value was just too excessive for an Android pill with a plastic bolt-on gamepad.
Actually, the one motive the Wikipad – and maybe Gamevice – stay in anybody’s reminiscence is as a result of repeated authorized motion the corporate has undertaken towards Nintendo over the previous few years. In August 2017, Gamevice (which, not like your humble scribe, remembered Wikipad existed) sued Nintendo for violating its Wikipad patents with the Nintendo Swap, however would voluntarily drop the lawsuit two months later. Then, in the midst of final yr, Gamevice renewed its declare, stating that Swap violated its patents on ‘attachable handheld gamepads’.
On the time the case went public, america Worldwide Commerce Fee stated it might situation its verdict in round 45 days; we have heard nothing since, which might counsel Gamevice’s try to forestall Swap being bought in North America has failed. For its half, the corporate seems to be doing comparatively effectively, its enterprise little question buoyed by the current recognition of Fortnite (which now comes with full help for the Gamevice on iOS and Android). However it’s exceptional to assume that just about a decade in the past, Wikipad was successfully chasing the identical aim that Nintendo would goal for in 2017 when it launched the Swap, but for a variety of causes, it fell means quick and is now so completely inconsequential that I would clear forgotten it even existed. Nonetheless, these promotional movies positive are one thing.