Up until around midday yesterday, E3 was running smooth as you like. As then Nintendo pulled a major cat out of the bag by announcing that they would be showing off a special pre-recorded broadcast by president Satoru Iwata at 11pm GMT, showing us a bit more on the new Wii U console. Around 80,000 people watched the stream live on Nintendo’s website, including myself to see what new tricks the Wii U has to play with. The video has since been re-uploaded for those who missed it, but if you don’t particularly desire watching Iwata talk for half an hour, here’s the main headlines summed up from the video:
- The Wii U tablet, the focus of much attention when the console was revealed at last year’s E3, has undergone a slight change in aesthetics. Most importantly, the circle pads have been replaced with two analogue sticks which can be clicked in, a NFS system has been added on the left hand side, some of the menu buttons have been moved to the right hand side for easier access (including one which lets the tablet act as a tv remote), and the back of the tablet has been modified to be more ergonomically friendly. Check out the image below for a before and after screenshot. In homage to the original NES controllers, the tablet has been officially named as the ‘Wii U Gamepad’.
- Most surprisingly, Iwata then revealed an entirely new controller in the form of the ‘Wii U Pro Controller’, which closely resembles a hybrid of the current PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers. The idea is that the Pro controller will allow for simultaneous two to four player games to be played on the Wii U, as only one Gamepad can be connected at any one time. All accusations of design stealing aside, this controller will allow the Wii U to function as a games console for those who do not desire the gimmick of the tablet screen, and will probably be the controller of choice for games like Mario Kart and the next Super Smash Bros. Good decision on Nintendo’s behalf
- The big change in Nintendo’s strategy for the Wii U however, is connectivity. The Wii was highly effective at getting people together to play in the same living room, but its capacity to connect beyond that was awful (the internet connectivity in particular is woeful compared to PSN and Xbox Live). The Wii U looks to change all that, with the big marquee being the all new ‘Miiverse’. Acting like an enormous forum using Mii’s, gamers can see what other people are playing, share thoughts and offer tips on games by leaving messages (which can be typed on hand drawn using the Gamepad’s screen) and connect in several other ways. Crucially, it will not just be limited to the Wii U, as the service can be accessed also on the 3DS, PC and *gasp* smartphones – for those of you who may be unaware, that is an enormous change in strategy as Nintendo are usually fairly secular in how they operate with other companies. The Miiverse will be at the forefront of Nintendo’s first real push into the online market; Iwata’s concluding note on the subject was that it will be the first thing people see when they switch on the Wii U console.
- In other stuff, the Miiverse concept was demonstrated by one of the most poorly acted sequences I have ever seen, notable only for the appearance of a grandad offering help on how to beat a zombie, and the ‘Non Specific Action Figure‘. Within seconds of thier appearance both were trending and will no doubt have turned into a meme in the time I have been asleep overnight. Go to 12:40 in the video link above to watch the segment in full.
It was a crafty move indeed by Nintendo to get this information out ahead of Microsoft and Sony’s conferences (which in case you need reminding start at 5:30pm and 2:30am GMT today), as on Wednesday they can now focus almost exclusively on games that will be available on the Wii U. Expect a new 2D Mario, a new Zelda, a new Metroid and several other surprises. It should be a cracker