Fils-Aime: Wii U Will 'Revolutionize' the Living Room
Special to CNBC.com
Nintendo is coming late to the world of high definition gaming, but it's hoping its often-unique take on the industry will be enough to turn heads.
The videogame company on Tuesday rolled out a string of top franchises that will support the launch of Wii U, its next generation home console system and gave fans a better idea of what will make that system unique.
Led by "New Super Mario Bros U," the company showcased 23 games on stage at its pre-E3 press conference. The company also unveiled a new game in its "Pikmin" franchise that energized fans.
Third-party support was a little less enthusiastic, however, with several titles that have been out for some time being demoed, raising questions about the level of support the Wii U could have from independent publishers.
Nintendo did not announce a launch price or date for the system, as expected. Both will be revealed at a later date.
While Nintendo focused heavily on the gaming elements of the Wii U at its event, the company did acknowledge the system would have other entertainment functionality, which it plans to discuss further at a later date.
"At its core, Wii U does three different things," said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America. "It changes your gaming. It changes how you interact with your gaming friends. And it changes the way you enjoy your TV. … It stands to revolutionize your living room. … And in the near future, we will show how it will integrate and elevate your living room entertainment."
Beyond "Mario" and "Pikmin," Nintendo offered demonstrations of several franchises that have been substantial hits over the years. A new "Wii Fit" is en route for the Wii U, along with the launch title "Nintendo Land," a collection of minigames that bring in elements from all of the company's greatest hits.
At the heart of the Wii U is a table-like controller, which has been tweaked since gamers first saw it a year ago. (Analog sticks have replaced the touch-sensitive circle pads and some adjustments to button positioning.)
The changes weren't all cosmetic, though. The GamePad will also act as a TV remote, even when the Wii U is turned off and it will have near-field communications technology imbedded, potentially letting the controller interact with real world objects. (Nintendo didn't go into the reasons for this, but near-field communications is a growing tool in game makers arsenals. It was most recently used successfully in "Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure".)
As expected, current Wii remotes, nunchuks (as well as the Wii balance board) will be compatible with the Wii U — and all Wii games will be playable on the system. Up to two Wii U players will be able to use the tablet controllers, as well.
Development on the Wii U started just one year after the Wii was released, said Fils-Aime. And the company quickly decided a tablet-like format was essential.
"We decided our next system was going to have its own dedicated screen — even if it had to be small," he said. "And we want that to be the first screen people go to when they go in the living room."
Nintendo, which was often criticized for its lacking online element this generation, has increased the social aspects of the Wii U. The "Miiverse" is a default tool that will let players communicate, get help when they're stuck and challenge each other to an online game.
A video shown during a pre-recorded feature Sunday showed a player engaging in a video chat with another fan of the game to get advice on how to beat a difficult level. Players can also track the Miiverse on their smart phones — the first time Nintendo has offered any integration with the platform.
Online chatting and smartphone access won't be available immediately. However, the 3DS will also offer access to the service (as will any Web-based device).
—By CNBC's Chris Morris
Follow Chris Morris on Twitter: @MorrisatLarge