WiiU – Hands-on impressions and hardware photos

Tuesday, 7th June 2011 19:11 GMT By Keza Macdonald

Keza MacDonald was one of the first journalists in the world to get hands-on time with WiiU, Nintendo’s next console, at E3 this morning. We have shots and impressions inside.

Nintendo WiiU

Announced this morning at Nintendo’s press conference

Coming 2012

Streams games to a 6.2” touchscreen controller

Compatible with all Wii hardware

I KNEW it wasn’t going to be a GameCube controller with a touchscreen smacked down in the middle. I knew it. When Nintendo unveiled Project Cafe this morning, it still managed to surprise everyone, despite the months of supposed leaks, rumours and speculation. Just after the press conference finished, I headed into a back-room to get my hands on the new controller and test out Nintendo’s demo software.

As Reggie took great pains to point out in the presentation, these aren’t games. They aren’t even demos of games in development. They’re demonstrations of what the Wii U can do. The only disappointment in Nintendo’s press conference was the lack of any first-party games announced for the new console (and, indeed, the lack of a true third-party big hitter). That’s information that we’ll be drip-fed in the year to come –  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if next year’s Nintendo presentation focusses on a launch-line up, giving us ample time to digest the implications of the tech.

The controller

The first thing you notice about the Wii U controller is how incredibly light it is – far lighter than an iPad. It’s really surprising when you pick up it. That 6.5” screen is covered in plastic like a DS screen, not glass like an iPad screen, but it’s extremely clear, and the picture quality is just as good as on the larger HD TV screen in front of me.

To the touch, it feels more like a DS screen than anything else. It’s comfortable to hold, and your fingers easily find the two analogue sticks and the buttons. The console unit itself was hidden inside the pod, connected to the pad by a giant wire for the purposes of the demonstration. We’re told that the form of the console itself is still being decided upon, and the controller prototypes aren’t quite final.

Battle Mii

This spaceship combat demo was easily the most impressive thing on the floor. Two players run around on the screen with Wii remotes, using the B button to blast away at a spaceship controlled by a third player using the Wii U controller.

If you’re the third player, you control the spaceship by tilting the controller, using the left analogue stick to strafe and the right to rotate and fly upwards or downwards. It’s a bit of a mind-fuck at first, but once you start really moving with the controller rather than twitching tentatively, it really works.

As the spaceship you’re both chasing the space-men on the ground with your own laser and trying to avoid their shots with skilful piloting. There’s absolutely no lag or interference between your movements on the small screen and where you appear to your opponents on the larger screen – this isn’t like those first Kinect demos, where the promise of the technology was rather obscured by lag.

It’s a tensely competitive little game, lasting just five minutes, but it shows the complexity and subtlety of control that the WiiU controller is capable of. This ain’t no Wiimote.

HD Experience

HD Experience is a passive demo that shows Link fighting a giant spider boss. On the screen we see Link walk through a church-like temple, using the analogue stick to control the camera and take in the lighting and level of detail. Then the boss emerges, and Link draws his sword for the fight. The scene then repeats at night-time, giving us the chance to see the differences in the scene.

Graphically, this equals anything we’ve seen on the current generation, and it knocks the Wii into a ditch and steps on its face. On the controller, there’s a crisp and clear map screen showing Link’s position and the direction he’s facing, but you can’t actually control anything with the touch screen. As a graphical tech demo, HD Experience impresses, but it’s not showing us much that we haven’t seen from other consoles – even if a Zelda that looks this good is enough to send fans into paroxysms of joy.

New Super Mario Bros Mii

There’s not much to say about this except that it’s New Super Mario Bros, in HD, with Miis in little dungarees leaping alongside Mario. It looks lovely – as you’ll know if you’ve ever run them through an emulator on a high-end PC, most Wii games do look lovely in HD. Playing on the smaller screen is just the same as on the big screen, and you can use a combination of Wii remotes and Wii U controllers for multiplayer.

Shield Pose

In this cute musical demo, a pirate on a boat orders his minions to shoot arrows at you, challenging you to use the Wii U controller as a shield and catch them. The cardboard cut-out pirate captain shouts out directions, and after two or three beats you raise the remote and block the arrows as they fly towards you.

It plays like a Rhythm Tengoku minigame – flicking your eyes between the two screens quickly feels natural, and the rhythm element adds a cute gameplay kick to what would otherwise be a very simplistic demo. I can imagine this tech being put to excellent use in a more robust Samurai Warriors/Dynasty Warriors-like adventure, where you use the buttons and analogues for movement and swords and move the controller for your shield – or even a firstperson combat game like Ryse.

Chase Mii

This is a five-player chase game very reminiscent of Pac Man Vs on the Gamecube, which used the Game Boy Advance link cables to have one Pac Man on the Game Boy and three ghosts on the screen. That was also designed by Miyamoto, incidentally, whose experiments with GBA linking were surely a precursor to the Wii U.

On the screen as chasers, the screen is split into four, and you have to co-ordinate with each other to catch the fifth player, yelling out where he is in the arena when you see him. When you’re on the controller as the chase-ee, you see a top-down view of yourself on the left and a map of the whole arena on the right, showing where all the other players are and what direction they’re facing.

The experience changes hugely when you’re being chased rather than chasing, switching seamlessly between competition and co-operation. It’d make a hell of a good Mario Party minigame.


None of these demos except possibly Battle Mii could stand up as an actual game, but they’re designed to show off what the Wii U can do in a quick, easily understandable and digestible way, especially in multiplayer, so that’s to be expected. What they do show is how this controller could be put to use in other, larger games, and how it changes the way you think about what the controller actually is.

This is exciting technology, people. When someone starts showing some actual games, we can expect to be very impressed indeed.

For every detail on WiiU’s reveal today in LA, hit this. Full a Nintendo E3 press conference report, detailing 3DS and Wii announcements, hit this.



  1. Mike

    Launches: 2012
    Size: Approximately 1.8 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide and 10.5 inches long.
    New Controller: The new controller incorporates a 6.2-inch, 16:9 touch screen and traditional button
    controls, including two analog Circle Pads. This combination removes the traditional
    barriers between games, players and the TV by creating a second window into the
    video game world. The rechargeable controller includes a Power button, Home
    button, +Control Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons and ZL/ZR buttons. It includes a
    built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, rumble feature, camera, a microphone, stereo
    speakers, a sensor strip and a stylus.
    Other Controls: Up to four Wii Remote™ (or Wii Remote Plus) controllers can be connected at once.
    The new console supports all Wii™ controllers and input devices, including the
    Nunchuk™ controller, Classic Controller™, Classic Controller Pro™ and Wii Balance
    Media: A single self-loading media bay will play 12-centimeter proprietary high-density
    optical discs for the new console, as well as 12-centimeter Wii optical discs.
    Video Output: Supports 1080p 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i. Compatible cables include HDMI,
    component, S-video and composite.
    Audio Output: Uses AV Multi Out connector. Six-channel PCM linear output through HDMI.
    Storage: The console will have internal flash memory, as well as the option to expand its
    memory using either an SD memory card or an external USB hard disk drive.
    CPU: IBM Power®-based multi-core microprocessor.
    Other: Four USB 2.0 connector slots are included. The new console is backward compatible
    with Wii games and Wii accessories.
    Note: Details are subject to change.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. onlineatron


    Is there a console portion, or is it just a controller? If it’s just a controller, how have they managed to port games like Arkham and Darksiders II to it?

    #2 4 years ago
  3. onlineatron


    Ah, so there is a console?

    Confusion easing.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Patrick Garratt

    The console was hidden when Keza played it. It’s inside the pod you can see there.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Mike

    It’s a brand new console with a BC controller.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Mike

    Here’s a pic of the machine:

    #6 4 years ago
  7. onlineatron

    So the controller works with the Wii, or do you have to play Wii games through Wii U to stream them?

    You know, I consider myself a ‘hardcore’ gamer, someone who’s in tune with all the latest news and can comprehend most gaming announcements… But here, I’m befuddled. Imagine how less involved gamers are going to be!

    #7 4 years ago
  8. KAP

    So theres an actual set top box too then? why didnt Nintendo show that in the conference?!

    What a fucking fail!

    #8 4 years ago
  9. earlyrock

    @9 Reggie said it was ‘just a box’ and felt they didn’t need to show it. The controller is the main deal.

    #9 4 years ago

    Marketing fail.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Mike

    This should answer all your questions:

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Patrick Garratt

    I’ve added all the official hardware images.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. onlineatron

    The way they presented the machine was entirely bemusing, but it looks pretty cool.

    I worry that it will become the next generation’s Wii when the new XBOX and PS4 come out, if it’s only designed for ports of this generation.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Razor

    No mention of online services at all is pretty worrying.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. Moonwalker1982

    @ 14

    Yeah you are onto something there sadly.By the time the WiiU comes out, PS4 and the new Xbox might be coming soon indeed. So they either should have made the console MUCH more powerful or they must come with hot Nintendo exclusives. Hardcore exclusives.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. earlyrock

    Again, Reggie said on GameTrailers or hinted anyway that the online services maybe left to each developer to build and run. He said he wanted a much more open environment. So im guessing no standard service like PSN or Live.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. ManuOtaku

    I think the difference between the next sony and microsoft systems with the Wii U will be not that big like this gen, therefore i think for the third party support nintendo will have it for sure even when the new consoles arrive, based on the fact that the leapt will be not that significant like this gen all the games will run at 1080p something that clearly the Wii U can run too, therefore it will be not an issue IMHO

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Telepathic.Geometry

    So hang on, it won’t be backwards compatible with GC games then? FUUUUUUCK!!!

    #18 4 years ago
  19. ManuOtaku

    Thanks Keza for the input on the feelings about the controller and graphics, with 3 impressions you posted, you made me have bigger hopes than before, if thats possible:

    “That 6.5” screen is covered in plastic like a DS screen, not glass like an iPad screen, but it’s extremely clear, and the picture quality is just as good as on the larger HD TV screen in front of me”.

    “There’s absolutely no lag or interference between your movements on the small screen and where you appear to your opponents on the larger screen – this isn’t like those first Kinect demos, where the promise of the technology was rather obscured by lag.

    It’s a tensely competitive little game, lasting just five minutes, but it shows the complexity and subtlety of control that the WiiU controller is capable of. This ain’t no Wiimote”.

    “This is exciting technology, people. When someone starts showing some actual games, we can expect to be very impressed indeed”.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. DrDamn

    Jon Riccoleto (sp?) EA CEO mentioned an “open” online system during his bit at the end. Make of that what you will – EA will absolutely love it though – the big publishers want to control more of this rather than the platform holders.

    #20 4 years ago
  21. xino

    in reality it looks small and compact

    but on those images with white woman holding the controller it looks huge

    #21 4 years ago
  22. Lloytron

    Unsure about this. Doesn’t look too earth shattering, but looks nice.

    Would be interesting to know how much the controller will cost.

    It goes without saying though, day one preorder for me. I just can’t help myself!

    #22 4 years ago
  23. Blerk

    So can you only connect ONE tablet thingy to it at once? For reals?

    And those Wiimotes… are they still going to ship one of those and a Nunchuk with the U?

    It’s difficult to figure out just how they could’ve made this launch any more unclear.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. JonFE

    I do wonder, what’s stopping Sony from creating a similar-to-WiiU experience using a PS3/PSvita combination? Not much I guess…

    #24 4 years ago
  25. OlderGamer


    Not every PS3 owner will own a Vita where as every WiiU owner will have a WiiU controler.

    Plus the cost.

    WiiU will seel for one set price and included a controler.

    To get the same set up Sony would need to sell PS3 AND Vita – and that is expensive.

    I can easily see in house Sony games using PS3 to Vita just for Sony to be able to say they use it. Think Move. But I doubt it would have much of an impact on sales, and I highly doubt that many if any thrid parties would be interested in making PS3 to Vita cross action.

    #25 4 years ago
  26. McLovin85

    Nintendo have officially lost the plot on this one…
    Unfortunately this is another console I won’t be getting from them which is a shame as I love Nintendo but stuff like this is just not for me I guess.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. Bloodyghost

    I have no opinion on the system except how bad it will tank when this gen ends…fortunately its starting to end.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. JonFE


    Sure, initial cost is high, but by the time Nintendo actually releases WiiU, PSvita will already be out and in the hands of several people, who’d probably already own a PS3 as well.

    In that case, developing and announcing a similar feature plus 1st-party games (as you say) that utilize it, they could steal some of Nintendo’s thunder.

    Remember: they don’t actually need to improve on Nintendo’s idea; they only need to weaken its blow.

    #28 4 years ago
  29. frostquake

    Makes you wonder if they were running the WiiU Mote on a Wii Console since they were hiding it?? If they don’t show the WiiU Console then I bet they were running the controller on just a Souped up Wii..LOL..The Graphics that ran on the controller looked Wii’ish

    #29 4 years ago
  30. mojo

    zbh im not sure what seperates the WiiU from an PS3+Vita Bundle?

    Im quite sure sony could to the same thing without a problem with their consoles (should allready work with the psp).

    #30 4 years ago
  31. barchetta

    Hmm. Only one Wii-U controller per console won’t necessarily preclude local multiplayer but may well make for more asymmetric play, unless it is passed around as a secondary device to support standard wiimote play. I guess it is down to the graphical throughput – or rather the lack of graphical grunt – in either the wireless tech or GPU to support HDTV & multiple console screens. Shame though, as that could have been interesting, being able to keep certain information ‘secret’ from opposing players whilst still being able to share a central experience.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. DrDamn

    I was thinking this too. Given the potential costs I think it’s a decent enough compromise. Presumably they will sell more standard controllers (like the WiiU one without the screen). That opens up some interesting possibilities of one player acting as an AI Director on his personal screen and the other players battling off what he throws at them.

    #32 4 years ago
  33. tenthousandgothsonacid

    As a mate of mine pointed out

    “Looks like an Etch-a-Sketch”

    #33 4 years ago
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    #34 4 years ago

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