Nintendo’s pre-E3 Nintendo Direct broadcast just aired internet wide, and while precious little was said about actual games or the guts of the Wii U by host Satoru Iwata, the new system’s controller and OS were explained in some detail.
The Wii U is inspired by families ignoring each other together by wasting time on various mobile devices in the same room, and seeks to solve that by encouraging interaction.
First up, the Wii U controller is officially called the “GamePad.” As expected, it has changed a little since last year: the slide pads are now control sticks, and (rejoice) they are clickable. The screen also looks a little bigger. The form factor has also been rounded a little on the back for greater comfort.
While use of the GamePad’s stylus was shown, there was also a lot of finger touching and swiping going on. Nothing was said of capacitve functionality, but the controller certainly appears to imitate it well.
A marking on the lower left of the screen indicates the appropriate place to shove NFC compatible objects.
Wii Remote, Nunchuck, and Balance Board support were all confirmed. A new controller, the Wii U Pro Controller was also announced. This 360-esque controller will be sold separately. It looks good, but the sticks and buttons appear oddly reversed compared to other traditional controllers. Nothing was said of other Wiimote attachments, including the old Wii Classic Controller, although that stuff will presumably continue to work as well, if for no other reason than backwards compatibility.
On to the OS: the Wii U will start up with something called the “Miiverse,” a gathering of Miis made up of the player, other Miis which reside on the system, the player’s online friends, and Miis from the player’s region. They will gather around floating bubbles which indicate what games they’ve been playing lately, and comments made by the players attached to the Miis will pop-up, as if the Miis are in conversation with one another.
With the Wii U, you’ll be able to hop out of games and post to a Mii message board of sorts to share game thoughts and problems. You can type messages or post notes or screenshots. The Mii messaging service will be available on Wii U, 3DS, and future Nintendo devices, as well as PCs and even other mobile devices.
The GamePad can also be propped up and used like a webcam to talk with other players.
According to Iwata, the GamePad will act as a “social window” for player to player communication across time and space.
For additional amusement, users will be able to browse the internet on the GamePad, then reveal whatever they’re looking at with some fanfare on the TV screen. Great for torturing your friends with shock sites, I guess.
The tiniest morsel of what is presumably Wii U’s new Mario game was also shown. See the screenshot below and speculate for yourself.
And now, back to the waiting! Plenty of news to come.