Nintendo revealed the name and controller for its new system, Wii U, which features HD graphics and a built-in 6.2" touchscreen, and is meant to offer "a new structure for home entertainment".
"Up until now, home console games had to occupy the TV screen in order to be played," said Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata at the company's E3 presentation today.
"But the new controller for Wii U with its 6.2" screen built-in means you don't have to give up your gameplay when someone else comes in the room and wants to watch a TV program."
The executive noted that Wii U is backward compatibile, allowing users to play it with all Wii games, Wii Remote controllers, and accessories such as its Balance Board.
In addition to its touchscreen, Wii U's tablet-inspired controller features motion controls and an in-ward facing camera -- which was demonstrated with a FaceTime-style video chat session between two users.
Differentiating the controller from its other line of touchscreen devices, Iwata made sure to emphasize that it is "not designed to be a portable video game system even though it shares some characteristics."
Deeper Gaming Experiences
Nintendo shared a montage of potential uses for Wii U, showing users moving a game from their TV screen to the controller's screen, playing games on a TV while using touchscreen elements, and playing a board game on just the touchscreen, iPad-style.
The platform holder showed off several game prototypes -- including New Super Mario Bros. Mii -- and several third-party titles in the works for the platform, including Travellers Tales' Lego City Stories, which will be coming exclusively to Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS.
It showed off prototypes for Wii U like a Pac-Man Vs.-style multiplayer game called Chase Mii, Shield Pose (block incoming arrows by using the controller as a shield), and a space shooter demo, too.
Projects targeting core gamers were shown, too, such as Darksiders II, Tekken Wii Succession, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon Online, DIRT, Metro: Last Light, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Iwata also mentioned that Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai will be bringing a new entry in the series to Wii U and the 3DS after he finishes work on the 3DS version of Kid Icarus.
Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello also took the stage as a sign of a "deeper relationship" with Nintendo, promising that Wii U will "speak directly to the players of EA Sports and EA games." He also said the new system will feature "HD graphics."
"Imagine a shooter like Battlefield with jaw-dropping graphics and smooth character animations of the Frostbite engine brought to you on a Nintendo system with that braeakthrough controller," said Riccitiello.
Iwata explained Nintendo's plan for Wii U: "We stated a goal of expanding the gaming population and today we've seen changes of who play, where we play, and most importantly how we play."
"The boundary that once divided gamers by age group, personality, or even gender are starting to be erased. But mental boundaries still exist in how game systems are defined."
He added, "The new platform will provide you with deeper game experiences than what even the most passionate gamer has realized before and it will offer wider appeal to gamers, wider even then for Wii... It will let everyone see games in a different way."
Classic Controller With A Screen
In an Iwata Asks interview published after Nintendo's press conference, Iwata explained the genesis of Wii U: "Lately, the television in the household is being used for more purposes than ever. The internal system has become more complicated, and it has become something very big and bulky where it's taking much longer to turn on."
The company's chief continued, "The Wii console did have the blue illumination lamp to notify new messages, but the amount of information a lamp could get across was limited… It was only able to say whether there was new information or not, so it had limits on what it could do."
Nintendo's game director Shigeru Miyamoto commented, "So, we started from the notion of 'It would be nice if there was a small monitor of sorts other than the TV, where we could always see the status of the Wii console.'"
"In a way, it's a Classic Controller with a screen," remarked Iwata.
Miyamoto went on to point out the popularity of karaoke of Japan, and its similarity to Wii U: "It comes with a remote control, and on the larger screen (TV) it displays the information of the song that's currently playing, and the person who's up next is selecting the song on the screen of the remote. I think the same function exists with the new controller."
Iwata added, "There were things that weren't suited to do on video games [with Wii]… Like when trying to enter text on Wii, even though we placed a lot of effort into it, I do not think we ever reached a point where we could proudly say that it was a stress-free experience. But this time, I feel that will change greatly."