Excitement and confusion at Nintendo's Wii U reveal
Is it a console with a controller or a controller with a console?
You can rely on Nintendo to do things differently. We knew we were here at the company's E3 press conference for a new console and all the new ideas it would bring with it, but we didn't expect it would kick off with a full orchestra playing Zelda sound effects at the request of Shigeru Miyamoto.
Now in its 25th year, Nintendo started the show with a mini Zelda celebration, announcing that The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was available from the 3DS eShop today, the Ocarina of Time remake is due next week and Four Swords will be available as a free download. On top of that was a new gold Wiimote to celebrate the release of Skyward Sword this holiday and two CD soundtracks of classic Zelda music will be made available this year - one for free to those that sign up for Club Nintendo.
President Satoru Iwata then took the stage to tease the Project Café unveiling, talking about Nintendo's desire to change who plays games, where they play games and how they play games. Nintendo wants to create a platform for all players, offering deeper game experiences with a wider appeal - more so than the Wii. And just as we expected a big reveal, we were passed over to Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime.
Reggie was all about the 3DS, showing footage of six titles that are available on the E3 show floor. Star Fox, Mario Kart, Super Mario, Kid Icarus Uprising and Luigi's Mansion 2. After a montage of third-party titles like Resident Evil, Ace Combat and Cave Story, he touched on recent eShop announcements and the addition of the Virtual Console service for 3DS, offering Game Boy and Game Boy Color classics for purchase.
And then it was time for the big reveal. Previously known by the codename Project Café, Nintendo's next hardware was officially christened the Wii U. A lot of the rumours had been correct - this is a controller with a 6.2 inch screen, accelerometer, touch screen and microphone, and which connects to HD TVs with claims of no latency issues.
But the message didn't come across as clear as it needed to. The Wii U works with the normal Wiimote and other peripherals - was this just a tablet peripheral for the Wii? Its own screen was showing high resolution images that can be transferred to the living room TV with the flick of a wrist, and games can be played either on a TV screen or the tablet's own screen seamlessly. But this isn't a portable device either, said Iwata. And there was only video footage that hinted of a new console base unit sitting by the TV itself, Nintendo chose not to show the entire console on stage.
There was little in the way of new game announcements for the system either. Nintendo confirmed a new Smash Bros. title is in the works to be played across 3DS and Wii U, and a TT Games Lego City title, but the software on the show floor at E3 and shown during the presentation are just concept ideas to highlight the formats features. Not games, just demos.
What followed was a talking heads video of EA Sports' Peter Moore, Warner's Martin Tremblay, Ken Levine, Frank Gibeau from EA and THQ's Danny Bilson all praising the system as revolutionary, before a solid third party roll-call of titles: Darksiders II, Tekken, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Dirt, Metro Last Light and Ninja Gaiden. But everything you're going to see this week at the convention centre is "just a first pass," said Fils-Aime.
And with that he handed over to another third-party partner, with EA's John Riccitiello taking the stage and noting that it's the first time he's been invited to speak at a Nintendo event. For a company that has been criticised in the past for not doing enough to help partners achieve success on their hardware, it was a clear statement from Nintendo. Riccitiello spoke briefly of the potential for the device and its "innovative new controller" and the ability to download content to it, to participate with a global community and be able to play games such as Battlefield which would be running DICE's Frostbite engine.
Then we were back to Fils-Aime, summing up the system and the vision to reach new audiences. But there was no detailed talk of any specifications for the tablet or clarity on how the console unit works. It was an exciting reveal with a great buzz in the air, but many left feeling confused - and no doubt intrigued - as to what exactly the Wii U is and can be.
For detailed hands-on impressions of the Nintendo Wii U, head over to our sister site Eurogamer.net.