While Nintendo relieved fans with last week's announcement that the Wii U would support two tablet controllers, those hoping to take advantage of that when the system launches will be out of luck.
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime tells Gamasutra that while the new console has multi-tablet capabilities, neither Nintendo nor its third-party partners will have any games available that take advantage of that during the launch window.
"Games need to be built that can take advantage of the two GamePad controllers," he says. "It's going to be well after launch for those game experiences to come to life."
Initially, he says, Nintendo expects developers to best figure out how to utilize a second screen in gameplay before figuring out how to incorporate a third and that could take a while to master.
"Asymmetric gameplay is going to be the next major step forward, just like active play was when we launched the Wii," says Fils-Aime. "We think that's where developers will focus first, then there will be multiple experiences that have two GamePads."
Among the other E3(ish) revelations about the Wii U was the inclusion of near-field communications in the GamePad. While Nintendo mentioned this in passing in its pre-show webcast discussing the console's hardware, it was not included in the E3 press conference.
Like dual GamePad integration, this seems to be an area where discovery is just underway and one that has yet to have any firm titles attached to it. Fils-Aime, though, hinted at one Skylanders
-like title that seems a logical (and potentially lucrative) first step.
"There's a lot of things that can be done," he says. "I've already gotten letters from Pokemon
fans wishing we would do something with it."
We didn't get 3DS value equation right
Nintendo, of course, did not announce a launch price or date for the Wii U at E3, opting instead to keep that information close to its vest and control yet another news cycle down the road. Analysts have said that anything over $300
would be considered disappointing and could put sales at risk.
Fils-Aime offered no hints about a number in our discussion, but acknowledged the company learned a valuable lesson about pricing with the 3DS handheld system last year.
"What's important is value," he says. "We need to make sure we nail the value equation and let people know you get what you pay for. It's a matter of balance. ... We didn't get that value equation right on the Nintendo 3DS."
The other worry, since this is a new Nintendo console after all, is keeping up with demand. The company has been candid in its criticisms of its showing this E3 (with global president Satoru Iwata saying "we should have done a better job
because, in effect, we could not fully convey what Wii U is all about"). But industry observers note the company still has plenty of time to recover and betting against Nintendo is a fool's game.
Once in a lifetime
When the Wii hit stores, retailers (and Nintendo) were unable to keep up with demand for the better part of a year. No one, including Nintendo, is expecting the cry for the Wii U to be close to what we saw with the Wii, but the company is determined to avoid those supply problems once again.
"As we get closer to launch, we'll manage projections and inventory but to be fair, the Wii launch was a once in a lifetime experience," says Fils-Aime. "We want every consumer who desires a Wii U on launch day to be satisfied, but in the end, I've got to drive understanding of the concept."
Also, as the console world becomes focused on more than just video games, Nintendo knows it can't ignore other entertainment sources on the Wii U. The system will support the usual console allies Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Video. Fils-Aime has said the company will detail the unique ways people can enjoy those (and possibly other) services on the Wii U at a later point. However, he noted, they will be key selling points for the system.
"This is truly the tip of the iceberg," he says. "Even the Netflix experience we can show you is the tip of the iceberg. We know consumers want to use their gaming device for more than just gaming."