Nintendo gave us a first look at its final Wii U vision tonight, christening its tablet controller the Wii U Game Pad and announcing a traditionally-styled Wii U Pro Controller.
AT A GLANCE
Nintendo chose to focus on the high-level concepts of the Wii U, putting games coverage off until its core E3 conference.
The Wii U’s tablet controller’s final form was shown, complete with analog sticks and under-stick buttons. It’s called the Wii U Game Pad. A black one was shown.
The Wii U will have its own classic-style control, the Pro Controller.
MiiVerse, the Wii U’s main network, was shown. Players will be able to swap status messages, share game content, and connect to each other.
President Satoru Iwata explained that the Wii U is intended to connect people through devices, not just connect them to their devices.
Wii U Game Pad
The tablet controller has been named the Wii U Game Pad and has, as rumoured, two analog sticks rather than the circle pads shown at previous events. The two analog controls feature under-stick buttons, like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, upping the total number of inputs.
The back of the controller and the button layer have been redesigned for comfort, and the Game Pad now includes an NFC reader-writer – like those used for PayWave credit cards and smartphones – which Iwata suggests will be used with “cards or figures”.
The controller works even when the Wii U console is not available; Nintendo president Satorua Iwata stressed that while existing WiiMotes can only turn the console on, the game pad can be used independently of the TV in some instances. The Game Pad also functions as a full-featured TV remote control.
The controller was shown being used as the main monitor for Wii Fit and a Mario game, something Nintendo engineers call “asymmetric diversity”. A black version of the Game Pad was seen in the following video.
Iwata confirmed the Wii U will support existing Wii controls, including the Wiimote, the Nunchuk and the balance board. The Classic controller was not mentioned, but a new controller, the Wii U Pro Controller, was debuted; there’s a screengrab of the new peripheral below.
MiiVerse and Nintendo Network
MiiVerse allows for messaging, content sharing, and other socila features.
MiiVerse is native to Wii U and works with all games. Opening MiiVerse does not disrupt gameplay.
Although it won’t be available when the Wii U launches, MiiVerse and the Nintendo Network will eventually be available from web-enabled devices – the 3DS, PCs and mobiles.
MiiVerse and the human connection
A concept video was rolled, showing a player seeking help from others online directly through the Game Pad. The controller asked the player’s mood and prompted him to post a status update after a failed boss fight.
“Guess I’m not alone after all,” the actor commented when he received a number of sympathetic responses.
During the video, we got a glimpse of something Iwata called MiiVerse. This space is the first and last thing the player sees when the console is activated or deactivated, and is “a place where Miis from around the world can meet and connect”. Iwata mentioned that players can meet Miis from their home territory or preferred language.
The Mii-based social network is “as native to Wii U as the Wii U Game Pad”, can be opened at any time without disrupting gameplay, and will be compatible with all Wii U games.
Iwata admitted that MiiVerse – and the whole concept of a console network – is not new, but said Nintendo’s take is distinctive in a couple of ways. The Game Pad allows players to easily read text material from the network thanks to its handheld display, for example, and the touch pad makes it easy to type or even send handwritten messages and doodles.
The messaging and status update area looked similar to Sony’s LiveArea for Vita, and Iwata also confirmed players will be able to transfer game content through MiiVerse, as with near.
MiiVerse will be available via the Nintendo Network on “any web-enabled mobile device”, including 3DS and even PC, but not at the time of Wii U’s launch. The Wii U’s web browser was shown for the first time, working on both the Game Pad and TV screen.
“I believe when you hear from Nintendo this week, there may be several times when you say to yourself, well, that’s certainly something unique, and hopefully you’ll be thinking about unique in a good way.”
Speaking from a seventh floor conference room in Nintendo’s Kyoto HQ, Iwata said the room’s single decoration, a piece of Japanese calligraphy, displayed the company’s motto since its earliest days: “creating something unique”.
“I believe when you hear from Nintendo this week, there may be several times when you say to yourself, well, that’s certainly something unique, and hopefully you’ll be thinking about unique in a good way,” Iwata said.
Saving all game details for the full E3 press conference, Iwata chose to focus on the high-level sconcepts behind the Wii U. The president said there is some confusion as to whether the Wii U is a “simple evolution of Wii or something entirely different”, and that the answer is “both”.
“Wii U does what we did, only better, and at the same time, it’s entirely new,” he said.
The Wii U is designed to continue Nintendo’s Wii goal of turning the living room into a playground which connects those sharing the space, but also, “connects people living room to living room” much more effectively. Nintendo’s aim with the Wii U is to introduce a piece of technology which unites, rather than divides, Iwata explained, showing an image of users ignoring each other to focus on devices – “together alone”.
“New technologies in general have made life easier and more efficient but we have to wonder what this will mean for the nature of human relationships moving forward,” Iwata said.
“Even with no-one else in the room, you won’t feel alone,” he added, describing Nintendo’s solution to the “together alone” problem as “together better”.
The presentation was broadcast on Nintendo Japan’s website and Facebook. As noted on Nintendo’s Facebook page today, the event gave the public an opportunity to “learn more about the Wii U console”. You can watch the presentation in full below.
Nintendo’s full E3 press conference takes place Tuesday, June 5 at 9.00am PDT/12.00pm EST/5.00pm UK.
For a full run-down of our E3 content next week, take a look at this.