E3 2011 Roundup: Nintendo unveils “WiiU”.

E3 2011 Roundup: Nintendo unveils “WiiU”.

by June 7, 2011

“Find out what happens when a second window opens to your game world.”

Nintendo was coy to reveal details about its successor to the ultra-popular Wii console. They constantly danced around discussing anything about it as they discussed the next wave of Nintendo 3DS software like Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Mario Kart 3D. But one thing was made absolutely clear: Nintendo had been neglecting their more “serious” fans. With the Nintendo Wii, they had done a great job making gaming a more acceptable hobby regardless of age, status, or gender. But, it wasn’t enough. Nintendo’s ultimate goal is to support everybody – from the more casual Wii audience to the more “hardcore” gamers who typically frequent the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

There was no Wii Music. No Wii Sports. No Vitality Sensor. No, this E3 saw Nintendo unveil the “Wii U”.

The presentation primarily centered around the features of the new controller. Essentially, imagine a Wii Classic Controller Pro with a 6.2 inch screen in the middle. It’s got touch capacity, its own camera and microphone, gyroscopes for motion control, rumble, and is backwards compatible with the current Wii console. This is the new structure for all home entertainment, according to Nintendo. But make no mistake: The controller is not a game console in to itself. All the graphics are generated by your console and then streamed wirelessly to the controller. A multitude of applications were shown: play games while somebody else watches TV, add an additional screen (like a home console version of a Nintendo DS), and it can even be used in conjunction with existing Wii Remotes and accessories to add new features.

And while that’s great for existing Wii content, the future is looking very promising, with the WiiU’s console promising feature parity with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. A number of third party developers have pledged their support for WiiU, with names like Darksiders 2, DiRT 3, Batman: Arkham City, Aliens: Colonial Marines and Metro: Last Light being dropped, all looking identical to their PS3/360 counterparts. Nintendo even offered a glimpse at an upcoming WiiU Zelda title, along side the announcement that a new Smash Bros. for 3DS and WiiU was guaranteed. With the WiiU Nintendo hopes to satisfy those who both want something totally new and those who want to stay in their comfort zone with the same kind of games everybody else is getting.

But the company left several unanswered questions: No price, and no date beyond “2012”. With the console launching next year, Nintendo is officially putting the ball in Sony and Microsoft’s court, something that could prove to be a dangerous move; while Sony touts the Playstation 3’s “ten year cycle” and Microsoft is similarly banking on a longer tail for the Xbox 360, all it would take is a Playstation 4 announcement and Nintendo would be pushed back to the same hardware disadvantage we saw with the Wii.

Only time will tell if either Sony or Microsoft has the money (or the guts) to leave Nintendo in the dust.