E3 2011: Nintendo Unveils New Console – Wii U

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The rumors have been confirmed. Nintendo does, in fact, have a new platform coming out, and it’s called the Wii U.

Nintendo just announced the successor to their wildly successful Wii game console at the E3 2011 expo in Los Angeles, California. Building upon the brand recognition garnered by the current generation, the Wii U depends upon yet another revolutionary new kind of controller.

Nintendo Wii U

Aside from featuring a 6.2-inch touchscreen, the controller will sport a d-pad, two joy sticks, four buttons, and two triggers. In terms of hardware, it will also feature a camera, speakers, a rumble feature, a microphone, and built-in accelerometer. It’s meant to be held like a tablet, but Satoru Iwata explicitly mentioned that it’s “not designed to be a portable video game machine.”

The system itself is a small white box not much bigger, and not much different than, the Wii that came before. Unlike the Wii, however, this system seems to offer the substantial graphics capability that the Wii lacks – some game footage that was shown looks comparable to anything you might see from Microsoft or Sony, though it’s worth noting that everything is almost assuredly pre-rendered. This was a sticking point for so-called “serious gamers” who demand high-end graphics from their games, and that was something that Nintendo simply couldn’t deliver. 

Nintendo Wii U

The uses for the new touchscreen controller range from predictable to imaginative. At the press conference, Nintendo showed off a highlight reel after the announcement of the Wii U that showed a number of applications, such as using the rear facing camera to aim the throw of a baseball, having the user’s inventory showing up on the screen, or using the touchscreen as a drawing pad. More creative were ideas like setting the controller down on the floor and having a golf ball appear on it so the player can take a swing at it—which the built-in camera would then detect—and have the ball appear on the TV.
Nintendo Wii U

Other inspired ideas include mounting the controller on the Wii Zapper peripheral and having the display show a zoomed-in scope view, or having the gameplay immediately shifted to be displayed on the touchscreen if the TV channel is changed. “You won’t have to give up your gameplay when someone else comes in the room and wants to watch a TV program,” said Satoru Iwata.

Surprisingly, a number of “hardcore” titles made appearances during Nintendo’s reel of upcoming titles for the platform, including Dirt, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Ghost Recon Online, Tekken, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, and Metro: Last Light. This is, of course, a rather drastic turn from the intentional wide-spread appeal that Nintendo pushed so hard for with the original Wii.

Nintendo Wii U

Perhaps most intriguing to potential buyers, however, is that the Wii U will be backwards compatible with all games and peripherals for the original Wii. Indeed, Nintendo also showed off some ways in which the Wii U could be used in tandem with the classic Wii, such as having other players use their Wiimotes to shoot up at a space ship, while the player with the Wii U looks down and fires on them using the touchscreen.

IBM is unsurprisingly providing the chips for the new game console, continuing its role as a longstanding manufacturing partner in the gaming industry. The new chips will be built along a 45nm process at the company’s new chip fabrication facility in New York state. IBM was unwilling to go into any great detail as regards the exact specifications of the chip, but noted that it takes advantage of substantial amounts of the semiconductor giant’s “unique embedded DRAM”. 

Nintendo did not provide any availability or pricing details at the press conference, but given the hardware that’s packed into that controller, it probably won’t come too cheap. The company will have to take care not to price the system too high, as it will compete against Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3, both of which can be offered more cheaply now than when they were first introduced. The latest rumors suggest a second half 2012 introduction.

Check out our image gallery here for more shots of the new system, including some unique new gameplay scenarios.

[Updated with more pictures, new information @ 14:37]




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