The wait is finally over. After months of speculation over the details of Nintendo's next console, the company has finally lifted the curtain on their upcoming hardware. Previously referred to as Project Café, the next Nintendo console is dubbed Wii U. No, it's not a new community college; this is how Nintendo is entering the HD age. This is only an initial reveal – no price point was mentioned, unfortunately – but we did get a brief glimpse at some upcoming Wii U software, and its incredible controller.
There was a pervasive theme throughout Nintendo's conference: how can the company make a console that applies to "everyone?" While the Wii certainly found success in tapping the casual market, it struggled to grab more mainstream, hardcore gaming fans. The Wii U, with its 1080p HD visuals and what appears to be an impressive third-party developer line-up, is clearly looking to draw some of the core market share away from Sony and Microsoft.
So, what's the Wii U all about? Here's a quick rundown of what Nintendo showed us during this morning's press conference.
It might sound a little strange for me to start with the controller, but this rather wonderful looking peripheral was the star of Nintendo's show this morning. The controller features a 6.2-inch touchscreen, two analog sticks, the same assortment of buttons you would expect to find on a Wiimote, a microphone, a speaker, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and a front-facing camera. The controller works as a sort of streaming connection to the console itself, so if for instance someone else in your house wanted to watch television, you're able to continue your game right on the controller's screen.
Streaming your game's isn't the Wii U controller's only use, though. What really impressed me were the examples of how the controller can interact with different games in a number of ways. One of the videos showed someone swiping their finger towards the television, launching a throwing star that suddenly appeared in the game. Another video illustrated how the controller is used in "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword," using the screen as a sort of secondary monitor where your inventory, etc. can be accessed.
The controller also has the ability to play stand-alone, touch screen mini-games like a quick match of Othello, or even connect to friends for video chat.
Strangely, the console was barely mentioned during today's press conference. It only appeared – outside of the above press release image – in the background of some of the videos shown during the event. Exact details are a bit slim, but as you can see, it looks an awful lot like a Wii. The Wii U is completely backwards compatible, not only with Wii titles, but with the Wii nunchuck and Wiimote, as well. The controller compatibility is particularly important, as I can't imagine the touch-screen controller will come cheap.
Other than the console's 1080p HD output, built-in flash memory, and ability to accept SD cards, we don't yet know much about the Wii U unit.
During the press conference, Nintendo announced that eight "demonstration" games would be playable on the E3 showfloor; including a prototype Mario-themed game called "New Super Mario Bros. Mii." The company continuously reiterated that the games were merely prototypes, but we did get a brief glimpse into some upcoming third-party titles.
As of now, it looks as though "Assassin's Creed," "Batman Arkham City," "Ghost Recon Online," "Darksiders 2," "Dirt," "Aliens: Colonial Marines,"Metro Last Light," "Tekken," and "Ninja Gaiden 3" will all make appearances on the Wii U. That's a pretty hefty line-up of huge, core games. The games were revealed during a video reel where developers praised the innovative technology behind Nintendo's new console. "BioShock Infinite" designer Ken Levine also appeared in the video, but there was no immediate indication that we'll see a "BioShock" game on the Wii U.
There's still a lot we don't know about the strangely named Wii U, but rest assured we'll make a point to check out the new console on the E3 showfloor this week. I'm most interested to know how much the Wii U is going to cost, and while we probably won't find out this week, I have a sneaking suspicion that my wallet will be considerably lighter after its launch. The expo starts today at noon.