Video game industry analyst Michael Pachter has an interesting theory about Microsoft's Project Natal. Pachter thinks the launch of Microsoft camera-assisted control system will act as a spoiler for an HD Wii, predicted for release in 2010.
"We do not see Project Natal as a Wii killer; rather, we think that Microsoft intends to introduce it at the same time as the launch of the Wii HD, and hopes to hold off Nintendo’s plans to encroach on Xbox 360 turf after 2010."
Pachter also said that his company sees Natal as less a game control scheme than as an "easy-to-use dashboard control scheme."
Woah, back up a sec there, Pachter. I'm no professional analyst or anything, but I'm going to go ahead and look into my crystal ball anyway: I don't think there will be a Wii HD in 2010, if ever. If the success of the Wii has proven anything, it's proven that most people (not gamers, now; regular people) don't care about having the most advanced graphics. It might be a huge deal to you that Wii games are only 480p, but trust me, your mom and your 8 year old brother do not care. As long as the Wii is seen as the Fun, Happy, Goodtime console (and that's how folks view it), I don't know why Nintendo would change their strategy and end up making a more expensive system. Instead, look for price-cuts next year when sales flag, as well as Wiimotes that integrate the MotionPlus coming standard with all Wii's.
Also, how much do the markets for the Wii and 360 really overlap? Why would Nintendo be targeting the 360's market, when they could just introduce more unlikely segments of the non-gaming world to the Wii instead? I don't see it like the 360 trying to hold onto its market share from the Wii. It's just the opposite: Both Microsoft and Sony are desperately trying to grab some market-share from Nintendo. Each is trying to out-Wii the Wii. The Wii is not trying to out-hardcore its two competitors. Why enter an expensive, three-way fight for such a small part of the consumer base?
Of course if Nintendo is trying to pair some of Microsoft's consumers away, I'm not sure it would work. Just as your mom likely doesn't care about technical advancement and won't buy a 360, Johnny Hardcore Gamer isn't going to buy a Wii over a 360 just because it's HD... unless there are more games that cater to his gaming needs, of course. But the place Nintendo would likely start (if going after the hardcore was their strategy) would be with a robust and free online network.
So, in summary: I don't think we'll see a Wii HD in 2010. The next, full console re-launch for Nintendo will feature HD, of course, but that's some years off. Also: I think we'll see Project Natal on the market in November 2010. Feel free to disagree with in our comment section, as always.