New Wii U console unveiled with focus on controller

Six inch touch screen dominates wireless tablet, but base-unit and specifications remain secretive

Speculation over the nature of the new Nintendo console has been clarified somewhat at E3 today, with the platform holder revealing a tablet-style controller for the new hardware.

Now known officially as the Wii U, rather than by the codename of Project Cafe, the console is focused on its brand new style of controller, seemingly taking in ideas from tablets and THQ's U-draw device.

The controller features a six-inch touchscreen which dominates its surface, but also has two analogue nubs, a d-pad, four face buttons, four shoulder buttons and a camera.

The innovative hardware was shown streaming content from a console, but that console was not shown in any detail. However, a TV isn't necessary to access content via the device, which can stream directly to the controller instead.


The tablet is not designed as a portable gaming device, though, and Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata made clear that streaming distances will not allow players to travel with the controller.

The device was shown being used as a board to play Go, as a motion controlled pointing device, as a screen on top of a Wii-blaster gun, and as a graphics tablet.

Heading up the list of game announcements for the machine was Traveller's Tales' LEGO City Stories, but any fears of another console which ignores the 'core' audience were quickly allayed by a showreel of third-party developers showing off titles which included Ninja Gaiden 3, Metro Last Light, Colonial Marines, Batman: Arkham City, Darksiders 2, Assassin's Creed, and Ghost Recon Online.

A press release from Nintendo has clarified that each Wii U console will support one of the new touchscreen controllers and up to four Wiimotes. The system is fully backwards compatible with all Wii titles and peripherals.

"Wii U redefines the structure of home entertainment by fundamentally changing how the TV, the game console and the Internet function and interact together," said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.

"The experience enabled by Wii U and the new controller takes players deeper into their games, while reaching out wider than ever before to be inviting to all kinds of gamers."

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Latest comments (22)

Laura Greenfield Studying Biomedical Science, Middlesex University10 years ago
Worst. Controller. Ever.

Unless you're 5 and still live and share a TV with your parents
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Doug Paras10 years ago
Or you have Room-mates, or you have a Girlfriend/wife, or you have Children.
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Robert Nash Character Artist, FreeStyleGames10 years ago
I'm sold. I'll finally be able to play all my wii games while the mrs has Eastenders on my poor telly
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Show all comments (22)
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University10 years ago
I really like the idea, just disappointed there was little more than proof of concept. I guess they were just getting the announcement out to appease shareholders and hook in more third party support. Where EA go, others will follow.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game10 years ago
They idea is interesting, but the actual controls (as in the nubs and buttons, rather than touch screen) look uncomfortable to use. It may also be unwieldy splitting attention between screens except the ones where the controller is overlayed. However, this is a judgement based on not having played it, so I am more than prepared to be proved wrong. Still, I don't really like styluses, so I'm not enamoured by the fact it seems to use one in a picture I saw elsewhere.
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Jan Almqvist Senior Artist, Playdead10 years ago
I'm gonna give it the benefit of a doubt. Yes, it looks awfully big etc but I think nintendo has done really well with it's controllers after NES. I'm sure it'll be comfy to hold etc...

They didn't really show any compelling software though but I'm guessing we'll se more about that, and its actual power, later on in the year. That bird demo looked ok even if the stream was pretty crap quality If it can play current gen multiplat games at 1080/30 or a solid 720/60 with AA etc then I'm sold. But if it's just barely more potent or just about the same as the current gen we will need some serious exclusives. That Zelda showcase looked really sweet, for instance.

The gaming potential is pretty big though if it gets proper 3rd party support. I doubt we will see it but I would love for instance Mass Effect on this baby where you'd have the normal screen on your telly and the "tactics screen" on the controller along with a schematic of the level section you're in. It would be very nice to command your squad using the touch on an overhead view. There are like a million very cool ways this controller setup could be used in pure hardcore games but there's just no way they will get that support unless they start buying developers off like Msoft and Sony (to a lesser degree) have done very well for years in order to give their customers the best stuff and to gain marketshare.

So, Nintendo wins it for me this year simply because they showed something new with potential and didn't have creepy child actor rejects reciting lines. FIST BUMP!
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Antony Cain Lecturer, Teesside University10 years ago
A console that might be able to give a half-decent RTS experience! :)
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Matthew Martin Associate Producer, Playground Games10 years ago
It'll be interesting to see what developers can do with this. Shame nintendo didn't have anything other than prototypes to show. It kind of reminded me of when you could hook up your GBA to the gamecube for pac man etc. Nintendo also didn't mention pricing for the new system or controller, that'll really test if it could be as mass market as the wii has been. I don't see the controller being cheap. Also the third party support currently looks like it'll be ports of what will be by then old xbox/ps games. I guess these will also have tacked on touch screen controls etc. It might be a while before we see some third party games that are developed from the ground up that fully exploit what could be possible. Luckily nintendos first party efforts are normally strong going by their wii titles.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 10 years ago
If that was an attachment for an iPad, I would say awesome. But for a controller, this is just a, no doubt overpriced, gimmick. What happened to the idea of immersing yourself in the screen? Will Timmy get a new controller after breaking the old? Will Granma buy new multifocal lenses? What will booth babes aim that camera at while demoing games? The internet probably does not have enough trolls to adequately cover this device.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 10 years ago
And when is this coming out, MId/Late 2012 maybe? Will be slightly outdated by then, and maybe even sony or MS have outed their nextgen, next year. Oh i just dont know. Wasnt too impressed thats for sure.
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Isaac Kirby Studying Computer Games Development, University of Central Lancashire10 years ago
I couldn't help but notice the amount of similarities between the controller and PS-Vita.
Touch screens, amount of buttons, cameras and various motion controls.
Makes me wonder how easy it would be for Sony to use the Vita for the PS3 in a mimicry of the new Wii U setup. Bluetooth 2.0 allows data transer of 2 Mbit/s, could this be fast enough to stream video from PS3 to Vita?
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David Spender Lead Programmer 10 years ago
Looks amazing. But so did the Wii when it came out and yeah I bought one but it mainly sits on my shelf due to the poor 3rd party support. Just because you have an innovative system, doesn't mean people will actually innovate with it.

I think the main problem is that Nintendo had worked so hard with their portable systems (and the cube to some extent but definitely N64) to cultivate a gaming ecosystem geared towards young kids that they essentially shot themselves in the foot. Developers who create brainless candy for 10 year olds that will buy anything with a picture of pikachu or dragonball on the cover, are NOT interested in innovating.

I *think* Nintendo, from the game videos, has learned its lesson. Having Tekken, Assassin's Creed, etc. on day one shows a bit of a shift in their gaming philosophy. I for one welcome it with open arms.
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London10 years ago
Though I think it should just be caused "Nintendo U" I like the concept and functionality.
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I call FAIL.
Its interesting and all. Will probably have a few cool things that can be done with it but I can't see it doing that well.
It wont reclaim the hardcore and the casual will just stick with a regular Wii. The only way I can see this doing half well is if the price point is much lower than the ps4/xb720. I doubt that it will be though given they'll need a base unit somewhere in the region of current gen hardware and with an extra touch screen to top it off its easilly going to be approaching the price of the other next gens.
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Kenneth Mcmorran 3D/Environment Artist 10 years ago
So does it use wireless streaming technology to relay the game to the handset? I think it is a great idea but the control needs refining it looks too much like a 3rd party gimmick controller. I think the hardware will be slightly more powerful than current gen but thats about it, when the new PS and Xbox come out expect to see the Wii U graphics lagging as usual.
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I really don't see why the negativity on this:

1/ Backwards comaptible with Wii games & controllers: check.

2/ First ever HD Nintendo console, with graphics comparable (if not better) to PS3/360: check.

3/ Controller that (optionally!) lets you keep playing when someone else wants to use the TV: check.

4/ Return of all the big (cross-platform) franchises to Nintendo console: check.

5/ HD Pikmin, Zelda, Mario (etc) all coming: check.

I'm sold, just give me the release date.
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Tim Hesse Product Development Executive 10 years ago
I'm with you, Michael. While I sat out on most wii games and finally selling my wii a few weeks ago I am looking forward to the U.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game10 years ago
Re Michael:
"2/ First ever HD Nintendo console, with graphics comparable (if not better) to PS3/360: check. "
Comparable to consoles that have been out for 4 or 5 years is a pretty low aim for new hardware. Leading to another point:
"4/ Return of all the big (cross-platform) franchises to Nintendo console: check. "
Only for the remainder of this generation. Then a year or 2 MS and Sony will release new hardware with titles that again won't work on the Wii U.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development10 years ago
@Andrew: if Sony and Microsoft are still intent on their 10 year cycle then they shouldn't be too worried about that.

And I'm with Michael, it's ticking so many boxes in the check list right now that my head is spinning with excitement (well at least it was when I first saw the video). If you look at this from the perspective of how creative you can be with it, then you start realizing how amazing this really is.

Now you can play split-screen multiplayer with one player acting as coordinator, plus play time can continue while the TV is being occupied.

But going back to gaming, we are able to present the games in new ways. We've got a touch screen, and if you want you can do just about anything with that. It can become an iPhone in a Sims game if you want, or a control room in a war game where you play the role of a soldier and also the general at the same time. You've got to think with the imagination of a child, not an adult who is concerned with generation life spans and franchises. That's not fun at all.

And I'm sure there were doubts about the DS, but there are games that make excellent use of the stylus and the two screens.
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The hard reality, is that PS3/360 consoles are not even close to be "dated" or "obsolete" - we have hit a period where development time/costs exceeds any hurdles put up by the console tech itself. Look at games like L.A. Noire - been in development for the entire generation!

And by Nintendo entering the HD era, there are going to be a lot of new HD experiences coming out.

I'm willing to bet that gamers are happy with current-gen (HD) consoles for at least 4-6 years (not to say there won't be a 720 before then). If there is a new console, the innovation will move away from the graphics side - which is precisely what the WiiU does anyway.
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Ben Pilgrim Studying Media and Public Relations, London Metropolitan University10 years ago
This console strategy is good for nintendo, different machines for their different audiences, this one offers both new functionality and a strong and powerful machine to rival the others. I think this console will be a welcome entry to the market, as someone who has seen the retail situation it is clear that the PS3 and 360 are not family friendly even with their interactive gimmicks, this machine has been designed with the gamers in mind and looks really cool.

Why can't people be happy Nintendo is providing something for their developers to adore and their audiences, people have been after this for years and now they're offering it nobody likes it? C'mon guys lets wait till launch or till testing to truly critique it.
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Daniel Cleaton QA Manager, YoYo Games Ltd10 years ago
I am really excited by this new system. It looks decent and the vids they showed for game concepts sold it to me pretty well. Third-party support looks great, too. Can't wait to play it.

The negatives for me so far:

(a) It doesn't come out for another year.
(b) I can't see it retailing for less than 250, possibly even as high as 300, which will be a lot compared to a 360 or PS3 at that time (heck, even now).
(c) The controller will apparently not be sold separately, so you'll only have one in your household, which disrupts communal gaming and limits new gameplay options - and if it did sell on its own, it would surely cost a fortune anyway...
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