Sources: Nintendo privately demos Wii HD hardware

Veteran games journalist John Davidson reports today that a select group of incredibly lucky developers have seen, touched and commentated on a new hardware offering from Nintendo, unofficially dubbed “Wii HD.”

The hardware is scheduled to arrive in 2011, and is “characterized as similar to ‘the shift from Game Boy to Game Boy Advance,’ where familiar, key elements were left intact while the core hardware was made more powerful.” Reading between the lines (and the article), that means better visuals, a stronger online presence (as in DLC, WiiWare and Virtual Console, not Halo 3 multiplayer).

This isn’t to say Nintendo is suddenly abandoning its core strategy, however. While visuals may be getting a bump, sources stressed the focus of the system will remain on how people interact with it, instead of the hardware and processing power under the hood. Further supporting Davidson’s sources is the money trail. From 2003 to today, Nintendo’s research and development budget has exploded from a modest $34 million, to $370 in 2008. From 2007 to 2008 alone, the R&D spending has tripled. That’s a whole lot of spending on new Pokemon games, if this rumor proves to be incorrect.

The “new interface” and WiiWare bits are what got me all hot and bothered, not so much the HD. Thoughts?