Ahead of the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) taking place this week, Nintendo lifted the lid on the final version of its Wii U controller, while Nintendo President Satoru Iwata explained the broader reasoning behind the new console and its tablet controller.
Iwata began by elaborating that while new devices had made life easier and more efficient, they had also led to a phenomenon being dubbed ‘alone together’, in which families tended towards being in the same room, but disconnected from one another while focused on their own devices.
According to Iwata, this raised questions about what this would mean for nature of human relationships moving forward.
Connected to everything
With this in mind, he elaborated, the company had focused its attention on creating a greater connectivity between players, whether they were in the same room or different parts of a home. To this end, the Wii U controller has been designed to serve as a catalyst for more connected experiences.
The controller, which is officially being called the Wii U Game Pad, has undergone a redesign to make it more ergonomic.
Additionally, as expected the GamePad will serve double duty as a tablet in its own right, enabling people to send and receive messages on the 6.2” touchscreen while in the middle of a game. While the general layout of its controls remain the same from the prototype that was shown at last year’s E3
, users will also be able to depress its navigation sticks.
Additionally, the company confirmed that the controller will feature motion and gyro sensors as well as a Near Field Communication (NFC) reader and writer, which Iwata hinted will be used to scan actual physical objects into one’s game.
This was an innovation that worked very well in Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
, in which action figures were scanned into the game, and which then enabled players to access new characters and new regions of the game’s world.
The production version of the Wii U GamePad, in comparison to the prototype design (upper right).
The touchscreen will further accommodate a stylus, enabling it to be used for drawing and handwriting.Furthermore, the Wii U GamePad will have a TV function button, so that it can be used as a TV remote.
However, the more interesting part of the pre E3 stream
was how the GamePad can be used to interact with the large screen as well as the existing Wii controllers. The GamePad was shown functioning as a catcher’s mitt in a baseball game for example, and being used in conjunction with the Wiimote in a golfing title.
This apparently was only a taste of what the company has up its sleeve and which we expect to see more of during the case of this week’s unveiling's.
Mii, Wii and U
Finally, the company announced Mii Universe, which expands on the Mii Plaza from the Wii, and will serve as a hub for players to send messages, images and drawings to each other.
Additionally, players will also be able to use it to share screenshots from the game with one another. Iwata further hinted that Mii Universe would in time migrate to other devices, including the 3DS, as well as other non-Nintendo devices running on the iOS and Android platforms.
To the point
Iwata did make brief mention of the upgraded graphics sported by the new console; whether these will be comparable to the current Xbox 360 and PS3 graphics or supersede them though, is still very much up in the air. Rather, he reiterated that one of challenges that Nintendo had set for itself was to create something that would help unite people rather than divide them.
While the Wii U is certainly looking unique and interesting, we suspect that its success is still going to rest on what titles Nintendo will showcase this week, and whether these provide enough impetus to compel gamers to invest in yet another system.