Nintendo Brings a Little Innovation to the Table - Nintendo's Presentation at E3 2011

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Nintendoby Kyle Ackerman

Nintendo certainly knows how to combine the best of showmanship and fan service. Despite intense rumors concerning the company's upcoming hardware, Nintendo began with a live orchestra playing music and sounds from the Legend of Zelda franchise with Shigeru Miyamoto promoting both the 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda franchise and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. That was Nintendo quickly appeasing its core fan base before acknowledging that it will announce a new hardware platform. That platform is exciting, but Nintendo had to talk about the 3DS first.

After teasing Nintendo's new hardware, the Wii U, Nintendo quickly moved on to promote the near future of the 3DS. Without getting into numbers, the 3DS isn't off to the same stunning start that other iterations of the DS hardware enjoyed. It remains to be seen if it will be as widely adopted as, say, the DS Lite. In giant letters above the stage, Nintendo promised that the 3DS would offer "Something for Everyone." For core gamers, Nintendo showed off 3DS versions of Mario Kart, Star Fox, Super Mario, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Luigi's Mansion 2. Clearly, Nintendo hopes these and several third-party titles will appease Nintendo's core fan base by year end with some popular and familiar franchises on the 3DS. Nintendo also highlighted yesterday's release of the 3DS system update with its accompanying perks.

Having plugged a variety of new 3DS games, Nintendo showed off its new hardware. Nintendo posed the problem the hardware intends to solve by saying, "What we haven't achieved yet is a game platform that is equally satisfying for all gamers." Nintendo introduced the Wii U, saying that it exists to "serve every player" and will reach stores in 2012.

Nintendo's Wii U ControllerThe Wii U controller looks a lot like a slightly bulkier tablet computer with standard video game controls around the edge. While the eye is immediately drawn to the Wii U controller, it's not a portable gaming device or tablet. There is still a console that can connect to the television and internet, supporting high-definition video output and downloading content. The Wii U controller connects wirelessly to the console and has all the trappings: There are two analog sticks, a D-pad, four buttons on the right, two shoulder buttons on each side and several buttons at the bottom (including buttons like the home button from the Wii remote). The screen is a 6.2 inch touchpad, and the Wii U controller will include a gyroscope, accelerometer and a camera.

The Wii U will continue to support all Wii peripherals, including the Wii Remote and the Wii Balance Board, but is intended to be a new experience. Less exciting is the ability of the Wii U controller to simply replace the TV. In the presentation, Nintendo offered the example of dad coming into the room and forcing his son to transfer his game display to the controller, displaying a baseball game on the TV. Much more interesting are the potential applications for the controller. Nintendo showed concept video of people sketching on the Wii U remote, using it to play board games independently of the TV, displaying images to supplement the main screen image, and even using the Wii U controller as a motion-sensitive remote. Examples included using the Wii U remote as a glove to catch a baseball hit out of the TV screen, or as a platform from which to hurl a handful of shuriken at targets on the TV.

Nintendo emphasized interface possibilities over power, so it's a sure bet that the rumors are true and the Wii U won't exactly stretch computational power for games, but it does offer unique possibilities. Imagine integrating your iPad and an action game on the PC. There are so many possibilities, and if developers can deliver on a fraction of them, the Wii U will present some interesting experiences. Of course, Nintendo risks repeating its experience with the Wii, attracting gamers in droves to a novel platform and then losing core gamers as they gravitate back to platforms with more power. That said, with no new consoles on the horizon from Sony or Microsoft, Nintendo stands to disrupt the current cycle with something novel, and that's exciting. Even if the Wii U controller simply removes all aspects of the user interface from the television, that's interesting.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 7, 2011 12:21 PM.

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