Nintendo kicked off the 2012 E3 Expo Sunday evening, in what will likely be the first of many presentations of its new console, the Wii U. The rollout began with a video presentation by president, Satoru Iwata, shown on the Wii U Facebook page.
Like a year ago, Nintendo focused on the Wii U Controller as opposed to unveiling actual game play and the “unique gaming experiences” they’ve been promising for over a year. Iwata ensured that games and playable demos will be shown later in the week. Nintendo’s All-Access Presentation is on June 5 at 9am PT /12PM ET and their Software Showcase is on June 6 at 6pm PT/ 9PM ET.
- The rolling thumb pad was ditched and instead an analog stick was put in its place.
- Ergonomic sculpting was added in the back of the controller for the fourth and fifth fingers of each hand to grasp.
- NFC (Near Field Communication) has been installed under the left directional pad. It’s a contactless smart card reader/writer.
- The TV Control button is placed at the bottom right and the touch pad can turn into a universal remote for full television control.
- The controller has a front facing camera which allows for video conference and gamer to gamer calls
- The controller has a motion control sensor
- Button layout was redesigned for maximum comfort and logistics.
After trying to explain how all of this will create a unique experience, Iwata showed a demonstration/re-enactment on how the Wii U will bring people together. A gamer playing alone (pictured above) in his man cave and talking to an action figure (way to elevate the stereotype, Nintendo) is shown to be playing a first-person zombie killer game, unable to pass a particular point in the game. We only get quick cuts of the actual game play but it’s not clear whether or not it’s a real playable game. The point is the scenario it poses and how it is solved. Also notice how large the controller is in his hand. This is going to require some orientation to work out the awkwardness.
First the gamer uses the Wii U controller as a messaging device and posts on a board. The gamer’s friend–sitting at a coffee shop–sees the posting on his cellphone and calls his friend to say that he’ll come over later to solve his problem while taunting him. Meanwhile the gamer scans the message board to see if his question is answered by other gamers’ posts. The gamer hangs up his phone on his friend and he tries one anonymous gamer’s advice but it’s not exactly clear, so he then props up the Wii U controller like a skype camera and calls the anonymous gamer (who turns out to be a elderly man in a motorized wheelchair-groan) and they talk out the problem.
Nevermind that the gamer ditched one friend to make a new “friend.” This wasn’t exactly the best way to “bring people together” but the point was made, the Wii U has some advantages to be a real-time all in one device. I especially liked using it as a front-facing video camera. It can even browse the internet as seen below.
This is just the beginning of their Miiverse philosophy, the other major reveal. In Japan, this phenomenon of Nintendo gamers gathering around a specific video game and having an open discussion called “Mii Wara Wara,” and they’re making a network or a visual “coffee shop” where gamers can peek in at any time, see Miis gathering around tiles for each game (even those not available in each country); at any time gamers can see what games have the most buzz or chatter. It’s an interesting concept in its purity. How it will actually be used is another question. Below you can see the Miiverse on a TV and then on the Wii U Controller.
The Wii U experience incorporates the ability to interact, message, and browse the internet easier by having the smaller screen in your hands as opposed to having a full separate keyboard or trying to type with a controller. With a stylus pen, messages can be further personalized and emoticons can be added too. Nintendo intends the Wii U to be a “social window” as well as a game machine.
Now here’s why they did show some clips of some games with the Miiverse in effect. In actual games, you can see the Miiverse working, where you can see some of the comments left behind by other gamers. Iwata said that they are working on the system to prevent spoilers being placed on the Miiverse but by adding information to the game, by gamers, they are adding empathy between players.
The Miiverse will be fully interactive with the 3DS too, and will be accessible by any web-enabled device as shown in the demonstration where the “friend” of the gamer saw his desperate message on his phone. Ultimately, the Nintendo Network is going to be Wii U + the Nintendo 3DS. The portable gaming device will also have news released later in the week.
As for that giant Wii U Controller, intense gamers will probably want to consider the lighter Wii U Pro Controller for games that don’t require the use of the screen and use more traditional controls. I’m not sure how well this will be received since the point of the Wii U is to create these unique experiences so I’m not sure why a Pro controller would be needed. The Wii U’s screen is supposed to give gamers and designers a whole new animal to interact with. Unless of course, some developers just want to transfer their game across the board to all consoles and not bother creating a different experience for one console. It should be noted though that the Pro Controller looks similar to the XBox 360 controller and can be seen below.
As mentioned earlier, we were really hoping to see a full display of what the Wii U can do as a game machine, but it looks like we got more clarification and verification as far as what the Wii U Controller can do and an explanation of what the Miiverse is and how all of it is being marketed to bring people together to smile, laugh, and empathize together as gamers.
The theme or goal of the Wii U is to solve this concept based on Sherry Turkle’s book, “Alone Together” where our electronic devices have divided families and friends even though they could be existing in the same room. They want to build off of what the Wii did in 2006 by creating the living room into a playground. With the Wii U Controller, Nintendo believes that by making “Together Better,” they’re going to solve the “Alone Together” problem, even when alone, you’ll never be alone. That’s kind of cool, but kind of creepy too.
Nintendo will be answering questions and releasing news through their Twitter account: @NintendoAmerica and the hashtag: #IwataSays throughout the week of E3 and of course, BuzzFocus will be bringing you news as it happens.