June 7, 2012 at 6:28 PM ET
Nintendo is trying hard to convince gamers that they should want to buy a Wii U this coming holiday. To do that, the Japanese game giant needs to convince them that having a controller with a touch-screen built into it will make playing video games more fun ... a whole lot more fun.
And so at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this week, Nintendo hosted no less than three press presentations showing off the Wii U, its distinctive GamePad controller and the games that will make use of the controller's touchscreen. Meanwhile Nintendo has been putting the machine into the hands of thousands of people in the L.A. Convention Center — hoping that to play the Wii U is to understand it ... and love it.
Part of the Wii U's problemis that, despite the three E3 presentations, there's still a lot Nintendo hasnot told us about the machine. The Wii U is supposed to launch this holiday seasonand yet Nintendo has yet to reveal important technical specs not to mention itsprice. And those details matter ... a lot.
The other problem is that the Wii U and GamePad ... are something new. But as Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told me in an interview, the company has been here before.
"When we first showed the Wii in 2006, there were a lot of questions, a lot ofskepticism," he says. "But once people put the Wii Remote in their hands, they got it."
Not only did they get it ... the Wii went on to break worldwide sales records.
"We believeas people pick up the GamePad and see how it changes the gameplay experience, they will getit too," Fils-Aime says.
In-Game editor Todd Kenreck agrees. Check out what he thought of the Wii U after he got his hands on it.
Of course, most gamers can't attend E3 and try the GamePad for themselves.
However, that doesn't mean we can't get a look at how some of the forthcoming Wii U games will make use of the GamePad controller — a device with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, motion sensor and two thumbsticks, that not only controls games per usual on the TV screen, but acts as a secondary, independent window into your video games. (It can operate as a TV remote to boot).
At E3, Nintendo and some third-party publishers have been showing off trailers highlighting some of the games they have in the works. And while I'm keen to see the machine's final price and specs, some of these Wii U games make me think it really will be worth picking up. Here's a look at some of the most interesting games revealed — and a look at how they'll use the GamePad:
Fils-Aime expects this Mature-rated game to be one that helps really sell the Wii to gamers. Indeed, this is one of the Wii U games I'm most excited about (though perhaps that's because I have a love of killin' zombies. I mean, who doesn't?)
Check out the trailer Ubisoft revealed at E3, and you'll see how "ZombieU" has you hold the GamePad up and use it as a sniper scope. The GamePad also acts as a scanner — its smaller screen revealing where the undead are hiding. You can even shake the GamePad to push zombies off you. Anything that lets me get more up close and personal in my fight against the fetid horde gets high marks from me.
"Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition"
If anything will help sell the Wii U to a more hardcore game audience it's this special edition of the best-selling "Batman: Arkham City" game. Is it the Wii U's killer app? It might just be.
Using the GamePad to manage and access Batman's inventory of weapons just makes good sense. And using it as a kind of steering wheel for the Batarang just looks like good fun. Check out the trailer for a look at a few more nifty GamePad tricks.
"LEGO City Undercover"
Nobody knows young players like Nintendo and this is exactly the kind of game that is going to make gamers like my 5-year-old son want a Wii U. It's also worth mentioning that kids these days have grown up with touchscreens. So using a touchscreen on a console game controller should be very intuitive for them. They can use it to scan for criminals in the game and manage their characters' costumes, among other things. Looks like good LEGO-style fun.
"Wii Fit U"
Ok, I confess I'm not that psyched about this game. The Wii Balance Board is gathering dust under my couch as we speak. And the people in this trailer do not make me want to ... sweat. That said, the Wii found a huge audience with its fitness games. And fitness nuts may find this title intriguing as it looks like it'll use the GamePad to make your workout more amusing as well as add additional data about how many calories you're burning. But what I think this game really needs is more zombies.
I have loved "Scribblenauts" ever since it first appeared on the Nintendo DS. And the newest installment in this word/adventure franchise seems a great fit for the Wii U. You'll be able to use the GamePad as a tablet for building your own personal creations and then see your creations come to life on the TV screen.
I'm excited to see the return of Nintendo's plant-like Pikmin. This adorable adventure/real-time strategy franchise looks to be getting a delightful new HD life. I like how the Wii U's touchscreen GamePad will give players an intuitive way to manage the massive horde of tiny creatures as they take on tasks the big, big world.
"New Super Mario Bros. U"
And, of course, there's Mario. In this interview, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and developer Takashi Tezuka talk about how the forthcoming Wii U game will let players work cooperatively to run the famed plumber through some fantastical obstacle courses.
As they explain, one player will control Mario on the main TV screen, while another uses the GamePad's smaller touchscreen to place helpful blocks and knock back enemies. In fact, they point out that, with the GamePad, up to five players will be able to play cooperatively at once.
Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+. And for more video game news and reviews be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page right here.