updated 05:15 pm EDT, Tue June 7, 2011
Nintendo talks Wii U intro and iPad rivalry
Nintendo in the aftermath of its E3 2011 keynote showed the full Wii U console. The controller is the centerpiece, with its 6.2-inch touchscreen, dual analog stick, front camera, gyro sensors, and rumble support. Afterwards, however, we saw that the main system is slightly larger, if more polished-looking, than the original Wii and still has an optical drive as well as a "sync" button, presumably to make sure the wireless controller is properly in step its home base.
The Wii U is designed to be very flexible in how it works for gaming. In a regular mode, it can behave like a DS and carry secondary information, such as inventory or a map, without disrupting the main display; EA's John Riccitello said it could lead to a game like Madden staying uncluttered and allowing TV gamers to pick their plays. It can also feed a one-screen game solely to its own display, and has both games designed for pass-and-play as well as video chat and web browsing.
Performance we saw was high and looked to at least compete with if not beat the Xbox 360 or PS3 for graphics detail, such as during a tech demo that saw a bird flying between very detailed cherry blossom trees with accurate water reflections.
Owners can even share media, and we saw an example of video sharing by "flicking" the content from the Wii U gamepad's screen out towards the TV. The system is backwards compatible with the Wii and can work with all versions of the Wii remote as well as accessories like the Balance Board.
Nintendo is showing the Wii U on the E3 show floor, although demand is so high that it ran out of capacity for the day almost immediately. A final release is due sometime in 2012.
In spite of the similarities to a small tablet, company chief Satoru Iwata dismissed the idea of the new system competing with the iPad or other tablets. Design work had already begun before Apple had even made the iPad public, he said. If anything, he said, it helped the public relate to the Wii U by giving them a better idea of the concept behind it.
He added that there was no reason to pull the Wii immediately after the Wii U arrived. It would happen, but gradually, he said.
The claim is largely valid as the controller can't be taken out of range of the main console. Regardless, it does fill some of the roles of a tablet at home, from handheld gaming to browsing and media sharing. Nintendo may be hesitant to make direct comparisons after the recent plunge in sales revenue following headlong competition between the DSi and Apple's iOS devices.