LOS ANGELES — At the E3 gaming expo, Nintendo held a press conference to reveal the next generation of its Wii game console. Called Wii U, the new console will feature greater interaction through a controller that has a 6.2-inch touch screen.
"It's a system we will all enjoy together, but is also tailored for you," said Nintendo of America president Regis Fils-Aime, during the presentation here. The focus on making a console that has something for everyone is where the name came from. It's a Wii for you, whoever you are.”
"What we haven't achieved yet is a game platform that is satisfying to all players. That is what we want to create," said Satoru Iwata, global president of Nintendo.
The new controller takes all the benefits of the motion-based gaming introduced through the Wiimote and adds a touch screen to increase functionality. The D-pad, dual analog sticks, triggers and other buttons are all there, but with a display in between. The whole assembly resembles a rather clunky tablet.
Not a gimmick
While it seems like a gimmick at first, Nintendo said the touch screen on the controller introduces an enormous range of possibilities for gaming.
“It's infinitely complex, and yet completely simple," Fils-Aime said. "You won't need to give up gameplay when someone comes in and wants to watch TV."
In such an event, it's possible to transfer the game to the Wii U controller and continue playing, even when the TV is showing something else. The Wii U controller syncs with the console regardless.
Another interesting scenario is using the controller screen as a secondary display, similar to the one in the Nintendo 3DS handheld console. It can display the player interface, inventory or other information without cluttering the main gameplay view on the TV.
Asynchronous play is a huge benefit to secondary screens. Different players can perform supporting actions while the main action takes place on the TV.
The Wii U controller can display what is happening on the TV, useful for taking a webpage with you if you leave the living room, or even use the camera for tracking or for augmented reality games, in which players can interact with the real world in their games.
Release date undetermined
There are games that can be played entirely on the controller screen, but Fils-Aime emphasized that this is not another portable gaming device to compete with the Nintendo 3DS. In fact, the interaction with the Wii U console makes it that and so much more, although you won't be taking this with you on a vacation.
The concepts and capabilities are still being discovered at Nintendo, and the company stressed that the Wii U is still not near release. It will be released sometime next year, but Nintendo did not give specifics. There are demonstrations on the E3 show floor of the kinds of interactions that might be possible with Wii U, but the hardware is little more than a prototype.
The Wii U controller is supposed to be backward compatible with current Wii games and the Wiimote. In fact, several proposed features would closely integrate the Wii U controller with the Wiimote, some scenarios involving multiple players using different controllers, others where the player uses the Wii U controller to display information while using the Wiimote to control the game.
It's not clear if the Wii U controller will be usable with current Wii consoles or only with the new console. Regardless, it's clear that the Wii U controller is the star of the show.