At the Nokia Center in downtown Los Angeles this morning, Nintendo announced the Wii U, its next home console.
While the hardware itself wasn’t shown, the Wii U’s new controller was highlighted. Much like a tablet, the Wii U’s controller features a 6.2” front touchscreen, DS-like stylus capabilities, a camera, two analogue sticks, four face buttons, two bumpers, two triggers, an accelerometer, and rumble pack.
This feature list highlights the new console’s design manifesto, or what Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata called creating a “deeper and wider” entertainment experience. This is reflected in the console’s name: the inclusiveness of “we” is now to be matched by the more immersive personal experiences of core titles: “Wii U”.
The Wii-like features such as motion control, touch screen play and the stylus point to Nintendo’s desire to grow the wide casual consumer base established by the Wii.
With these features, Nintendo hopes to create a strong bond between games, TV and the Internet.
The button and stick layout imitates those found on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, meaning that developers will be able to launch their core titles on the system.
While the 6.2” screen means that players can switch between playing on an HD TV to playing in their hands, Nintendo US CEO Reggie Fils-Aime was at pains to state that the wireless Wii U controller is not a portable platform.
Following the unveiling of the console itself, Nintendo presented third party publishers and developers who are onboard with the Wii U. THQ’s Danny Bilson described it as the “Swiss Army Knife of Controllers,” and enthused about the asymmetrical gameplay opportunities. Creative Director at Irrational Games and the mind behind the BioShock games, Ken Levine, described the Wii U as “a full hardcore console gaming experience.”
Several third-party titles were confirmed for the Wii U next year. These included Darksiders II, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online, Aliens: Colonial Marines, DiRT, Metro: Last Light, Tekken and Ninja Gaiden 3.
EA CEO John Riccitiello then took the stage in person to discuss Electronic Arts’ portfolio in relation to the new console. Without confirming any EA titles, Riccitiello speculated as to what could be done with titles such as Madden Football wherein play calls could be made on the touchscreen. “Imagine Battlefield 3,” he continued, “with that breakthrough controller,” and with the online services being offered by both publishers and Nintendo.
Riccitiello concluded that the Wii U was “a better console than we’ve ever been offered by Nintendo.”
On the E3 showroom floor, Nintendo will be demonstrating eight conceptual games to showcase the new hardware including a title called New Super Mario Mii. This game will see the player’s Mii avatar playing alongside the Nintendo mascot. Masahiro Sakurai, the creative mind behind Nintendo exclusives Kirby and Smash Bros, is confirmed to be working on a new Smash Bros game for both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS handheld. The title will feature cross-platform gameplay.
There’s much to be revealed about Nintendo’s Wii U, but the press event has already highlighted some potential pitfalls. The Wii U’s controller doesn’t look cheap. Families or friends looking for couch cooperative gaming should expect to pony up a considerable deposit for additional controllers.
No hardware specifications for the console were revealed, but a graphics demonstration – and strong support from developers and publishers already working with the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 – suggests that the Wii U is technologically on par with existing consoles. As the core gaming community already owns these consoles, Nintendo has yet to provide them with a reason to switch to their new console.
Both Microsoft and Sony showed no signs of moving away from this console generation, but it’s inevitable that they will in the years ahead. That means that the Wii U’s core gamer compatibility has a limited life span.
Nonetheless, the controller does have the potential to create some truly innovative core gameplay experiences in the next four to five years, should third party publishers decide to implement it. The home entertainment options that the console appears to offer are also exciting.
Reggie Fils-Aime concluded, “Our presentation this morning is just the beginning.”