June 8, 2011
Nintendo Shows Off New Wii U At E3 Expo
Video gaming titan Nintendo provided the world with a glimpse of its second-generation Wii console at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"Wii U" builds on Nintendo's record of hardware innovation with a controller that resembles a tablet computer touchscreen with toggles and buttons geared toward hit action and shooter games, in what the company hopes will reel in hardcore gamers.
But early reviews of the Wii U were mixed at best. Many analysts said the new device falls short of being a game-changing platform. While the original Wii console has been hugely popular for Nintendo, it has faced pressure from rivals offering blockbuster action games.
But there were some positive reviews as well. The innovation of the controller caught some by surprise. The controller could appeal to gamers who play longer and more intensely.
"The controller is a breakthrough," Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia told Reuters. "Overall, Wii U looks good, but I have to say I wasn't blown away."
The company did not put a price on the new system, scheduled to go on sale between April and December 2012, but "hopefully they will price it at $299 and not more. My guess is the extra controller will cost $99," Bhatia said.
He added that the first games available for the Wii U should be modified versions of ones already available for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Wii U will have a set-top box similar to the original Wii console, a 6.2-inch touchscreen controller with front-facing camera and familiar Wii remote and motion detector that the original console came standard with.
Nintendo said the new system will be able to broadcast high-definition video and can be used to make video calls and browse the web.
"Up until now, home console games had to occupy the TV screen in order to be played," said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. "The new controller for Wii U, with its 6.2-inch screen built in, means you won't need to give up your gameplay when someone else comes in the room and wants to watch a TV program."
The Wii U console will use proprietary high-definition optical discs, 1080p HDMI output and internal memory that can be upgraded with USB and SD technology. The prototype controller was demonstrated in a number of ways, including displaying a player's inventory in a "Legend of Zelda" game, offering an alternative way to play a chasing game, being used as a shield from incoming attacks in a first-person shooter game and showing the image of a teed-up golf ball on the ground before it was struck to a putting green depicted on a TV. The controller was also shown being used to browse the Internet.
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime noted that the controller is not meant to be a portable gaming device and said the system was named Wii U because it is "unique, unifying and maybe even utopian."
Nintendo also announced several titles that will be released for the Wii U. "Smash Brothers," "Tekken," "Assassin's Creed," "Batman: Arkham City," and "Metro: Last Light" were among the games announced.
The Japanese gaming giant said another plus for the touchscreen controller would be to allow for switching game play between the TV and the controller, for instance if someone else wants to watch TV.
Wii U is "an interesting new concept" said Dan Pearson, a staff writer at Gamesindustry.biz. "It is a hybrid between a handheld with elements of tablet design but also has all the traditional controller elements."
"Initially people may be confused by the controller but so were they when the first Wii was unveiled," he said.
"Nintendo has been under fire for chasing casual gamers and it is good to see them trying to win back core gamers," said Pearson.
In an attempt to lure hardcore gamers to Wii U, Nintendo also unveiled game like "Ghost Recon," "Aliens," and "Battlefield 3." The gaming giant had surrendered hardcore gamers to Xbox and PlayStation in the past.
"There are so many developers already responding to creating new games for the videogame system we are proposing with Wii U," said Iwata. "It can satisfy all tastes with deeper gameplay actions."
But with more than a year before it hits the market, Nintendo could still make more modifications to the Wii U.
"It's smart for a number of reasons. There are two levels of interface, the touchscreen for casual gamers and the buttons for more core types," Ricardo Torres, editor-in-chief for popular games site gamespot.com, told Reuters. "They have a lot of games core gamers care about."
"It's like a sandbox for developers. It's up to them to decide the experience that works best," he said.
"It seems Nintendo heard the voices of the hardcore gamers," Irrational Games studio co-founder Ken Levine, told AFP.
But hardcore gamers aside, Nintendo is also credited with opening up video gaming to mothers, seniors, and other "casual" gamers with the introduction of motion-sensing controllers that came with the first Wii console launched in 2006.
Both Microsoft and Sony launched their own motion-sensing devices last year to compete with Nintendo, which, despite lagging sales, remains the top-selling console system on the market. Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move both offer more power and richer imagery and even more complex action.
Wii U is expected to be the answer to rivals PS3 and Xbox 360, with its cutting-edge high-definition graphics and creative new play styles allowed by the tablet-shaped controllers.
"More than anything, I'm looking forward to new styles of play we haven't thought of before," said Nintendo videogame legend Shigeru Miyamoto. "There won't be a shortage of ideas."
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