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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 5, 2012 at 8:54 AM

E3: Nintendo Wii U debut redux – “revolutionizing living room”

LOS ANGELES — A year after revealing the new Wii console, Nintendo today is sharing details of its new high-def console with a unique touchscreen control pad.

The Wii U begins the next generation of video game consoles designed to serve as powerful game systems and portals to online entertainment services, while fending off growing competition from gaming on phones, tablets and the Web.

The company provided an overview of the system and games, but there was no word on pricing or a precise release date, other than “holiday season.” The company will announce pricing and other details later this year.

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Nintendo set out to build a system with the first screen people approach in the living room, explained Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto, through translator Bill Trinen.

Because it has its own screen independent from the TV, there will be no need to power on your TV to use Wii Fit, for instance, and you can use the system to play games while someone else is using the TV, he explained.

Miyamoto used the new game “Pikmin 3” to demonstrate the Wii U’s high resolution, control system and ability to enhance game play with supplemental information, such as maps displayed on the controller while playing on a TV screen.

Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Redmond-based Nintendo of America, said 23 Wii U games are being shown during the news conference.

“It’s all about the games,” he said.

At its core the Wii U does three different things, he said: It changes your gaming, how you interact with gaming friends and how you interact with your TV, he said.

“It stands to revolutionize your living room,” he said.

Among the services available on the system are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and YouTube but for now the company is mostly discussing games, he said.

Fils-Aime announced that the system will support games using two of the touchscreen game pads, but the company’s big emphasis is on “asymmetric gaming” with play enabled in different formats across different devices.

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The company brought outside publishers on stage to introduce their games for the new platform.

Yves Guillemot, chief executive and co-founder of Ubisoft, praised Nintendo for introducing millions of new players to video games.

“The new Wii U console is an important innovation that will continue this great legacy and inspire many more people to discover the fun of video games,” he said.

Highlighting the new Miiverse social network, which connects Wii U players, Fils-Aime announced “New Super Marios Bros.U” in which conversations can be carried on with friends during play, sharing tips about game play. The game can be played on the TV screen and the game pad, or with up to four controllers while the game pad is used to insert components into the game during play.

This was followed by a demonstration of “Batman Arkham City Armored Edition,” a core action game for the Wii U and the sort of title that hasn’t fared well on the first Wii because of its control system, horsepower and lower-resolution display.

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On the Wii U, the touchscreen controller is used to access and control Batman’s gadgets.

Next on stage was Jeremiah Slaczka of the Eastside’s 5th Cell, demonstrating “Scribblenauts Unlimited,” a Wii U version of the studio’s hit game in which you draw objects to add to the game. On the Wii U, the drawing happens on the touchscreen and scribbles can be shared with friends across the network.

Other core games coming to the Wii U include “Darksiders II,” “Mass Effect 3,” “Tank! Tank! Tank!,” “Tekken Tag Tournament 2,” “Trine 2: Director’s Cut,” “Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge” and “Aliens Colonial Marines.”

Fils-Aime then went back to old hits and announced the “Wii Fit U,” a new version of the company’s Wii Fit franchise that’s sold more than 43 million units. Among the new game play modes is a luge mode in which you lie on a Wii Balance Board and tilt your body to slide through an icy course on the TV screen.

A new karaoke game, “Sing,” uses the Wii U controller to display lyrics and directions for dance moves. When playing with a group, a leader uses the controller to guide others through a song.

Nintendo is holding an additional event Wednesday at E3 to focus on the 3DS, but Executive Vice President Scott Moffitt came on stage for a few announcements, including word that “New Super Mario Bros. 2” for the handheld will go on sale Aug. 19. Also coming to the 3DS in the holiday season are “Paper Mario Sticker Star” and “Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.”

Back on the Wii U, Fils-Aime announced “Lego City Undercover,” and open-world action-adventure game that will be irresistable to pre-teen boys in particular.

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Ubisoft demonstrated “Just Dance 4” and shooter “Zombi U” for the console. The Zombi game uses the game pad controller to aim weapons at zombies, scan for them on screen and activate control pads and other features in the game. It can also take photos of players and convert them into zombies on screen, as Fils-Aime demonstrated on the enormous display at the press conference.

Nintendo’s Katsuya Eguchi introduced “NintendoLand,” a theme park game with different activities that introduce the Wii U and its capabilities, similar to the way “Wii Sports” introduced players to the Wii when it debuted in 2006.

Eguchi showed how mutiplayer changes when the gamepad is used in conjunction with current Wiimote controllers.

The player using the pad has a different experience than others, but in some games they must still work together. In “Luigi’s Ghost Mansion,” players chase ghosts through a haunted mansion. The player using the pad can see where ghosts are located using a map displayed on its touchscreen. Other players see only the mansion on the TV screen and feel their remotes vibrate when ghosts approach. Players communicate and help each other to survive, revive each other and get the ghosts.

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