Shocking revelations! Scandalous leaks! Yes, welcome to silly season. It's the collective intake of breath that precedes every console launch. Oxygen-starved minds begin to choke, blurting out nonsense to fill the silence of Nintendo's PR vacuum. You name it, we've heard it: Wii U is six times more powerful than a 360 with a NES sellotaped to it! Wii U has 18 controllers and will cost £4,567! Wii U is made from wood and plays games from a disc carved from ham offcuts!
Now: breathe. Let the oxygen of reason seep in. If it helps your ailing brain, administer a cast iron fact. Wii U, by Nintendo's own admission, will be in stores for Christmas. Nintendo head Satoru Iwata used his recent investor briefing to close the vague post-E3/pre-2013 window. Just as Wii emerged in November 2006, Wii U will hit major regions in late November/early December 2012.
That Nintendo are suddenly forthcoming could be seen as a reaction to the sheer volume of speculation surrounding the console. As this feature explores, Wii U is currently seen, rightly or not, as a machine in flux. It's a console with no apparent specs, no apparent launch games and only the vaguest feature set. Some doubt the device unveiled at E3 2012 will resemble the hunk of plastic shown last year. When further whispers suggest it won't even be called Wii U, you know you've hit critical speculative mass.
The 'name' rumour is worthy of mention. Nintendo is supposedly worried about baffling punters with Wii similarities - the same confusion seen with 3DS and DS. Would sir care for a pinch of salt? For one, Nintendo of Japan picked the name for those connotations: Wii U is part of the Wii family, right down to sharing controllers. Secondly, Nintendo's recent public outings - investor reports, January's CES, an upcoming booth at the Game Developers Conference - continue to drive the Wii U 'brand' (yuk). If a rename is on the cards, they're making a pig's ear of it.
But the fact that the idea was even fielded is important. Rumours may not reflect Nintendo's thinking, but they do reflect the public's. These are stories cooked up by gamers hoping to make sense of Wii U. They give the machine incredi-specs, correct its perceived flaws and imagine a bright online future - all the things we'd change if we could. This feature isn't intended to shoot down flights of fancy, but to show how 'boring' reality may just trump them...