E3: Nintendo Unveils the Wii U With Tablet-Style Controller

When Nintendo released the Wii, it revolutionized the gaming industry by giving the world a new way to play games with motion and gestures.

Today, it wants to change gaming again by introducing a new console called the Wii U.

The Wii U comes with a touchscreen, tablet-style controller that looks like a mix between clunky handheld gaming systems, like the 3DS, and Apple’s iPad in terms of functionality.

Nintendo did not say when the console will be released or how much it will cost.

In the time since the Wii hit the market more than six years ago, Nintendo has sold more than 47 million consoles in the U.S., making it one of the best-selling videogame systems of all time.

But since then, Xbox and Sony have both brought motion-controlled gaming to the next level with the Kinect and Move, respectively, and sales of Nintendo’s latest handheld gaming device, the 3DS, have failed to impress.

This morning at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, Nintendo is hosting a press conference to announce its plans for regaining its gaming throne in the living rooms around the world. The press conference takes place on the official opening day of E3, the annual event the videogame industry uses to announce its plans for the coming year.

Follow the live blog here for all the details:

8:49 am: Thanks for tuning in. We have another 10 minutes or so before things kick off.

I’m excited about this announcement. Nintendo has a way of shaking things up in the industry, and I’ve seen more than my share of first-person shooters already this week.

Whether the E3 crowd wants to admit it or not, there are more people out there who enjoy playing games–it’s about fun.

8:55 am: Nintendo is entertaining the crowd with trivia on the big screen. What was the first Super NES game to feature Donkey Kong?

9:05 am: Whoa, I didn’t even notice this until now, but in the very front of the auditorium, there’s a full orchestra. Very classy. Looks and sounds like we are about to begin.

9:09 am: We are listening to a full orchestra and choir with scenes from Zelda, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, playing on the big screen.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Zelda, has just come on stage.

He’s bringing a translator on stage to help him out.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., this year it’s Zelda’s turn.

Both the games and the music have evolved along with the consoles. He’s been listening to the music for a while now at his office, but to hear it in a hall like this is amazing.

Since we have the full orchestra, why not hear the music live?

First, a chime for getting a prize.

Next, the noise for getting an item.

Now a longer melody from a fairy’s fountain.

9:15 am: To celebrate the anniversary, they are releasing a game for all of the company’s hardware.

Nintendo’s eShop just launched yesterday on the 3DS, but today, you can download the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

Next weekend, there will be a 3-D version for the 3DS.

There will also be a free version of Zelda: Four Swords for the DSi, and a version called Skyward Sword for the Wii. Special for the launch of the game will be a gold remote!

Miyamoto says there will also be symphony concerts held around the world to play the original Zelda soundtrack in the Fall. More later on the specific dates. There are also CDs coming of the music.

9:19 am: For the last 25 years, the series has been supported by an incredibly large team, Miyamoto says. Within Nintendo, there are 200 people who have worked on the series.

Miyamoto says several of the people are here today that have worked on the project.

And, of course, he’d like to thank the fans for playing.

Nintendo’s President Satoru Iwata comes on stage.

He says they have been working hard to expand the number of people playing games, but as an industry we haven’t achieved yet a game platform that is equally satisfying for everyone.

This is what we want to create with our new platform.

How?

Two words: Deeper and wider.

He says that they can appeal to a wider audience than even the Wii accomplished. The full details are coming later this morning for the Wii. (The audience says boo, hiss….They don’t want to wait!)

“I think the new platform takes a major step in hitting our goal,” he says, but what about now?

The new Wii is for next year, and they have a bunch of new experiences to roll out for the 3DS, which hasn’t been doing so well, partly because of the lack of games to play.

9:27 am: Welcome to the stage Reggie Fils-Aime.

He asks: Is it possible to deliver something for everyone?

In the same way that’s the goal of the new Wii, this is the goal for the 3DS, he says. We are about to get a sneak peek of new games that will be in 3-D. Although they will only be in 2-D for us in the audience.

First game is Mario Kart.

That will be coming in time for the holidays.

Next game is StarFox 64. In the game, you can either use buttons, or you can turn and tilt the 3DS to navigate through the world.

Additionally, you will be able to use the forward-facing camera to see the face of the friends you are playing and how they are reacting to the game play in real-time.

It arrives this September.

Next up, an all-new Super Mario 3-D that’s been created from scratch for the 3DS. Fils-Aime says, “If it’s true that software sells hardware, it’s also true that Mario has sold a lot of hardware.”

It looks like an all-new Mario, but with plenty of mushrooms and monsters to battle.

The game will hit the market by the end of the year, but oddly no promise of it coming out in time for the holidays.

9:35 am: Another new game is Kid Icarus: Uprising, a fantasy-style game coming soon.

This game will use augmented reality cards to conduct battles.

Next game is Luigi’s Mansion 2. They promise the lovable Italian still has his vacuum to suck up ghosts. It’s not a simple revision, it’s a new game that makes use of 3-D and several new mansions.

9:39 am: Now we are switching gears to see third-party games for the 3DS. In a quick video montage, we see Resident Evil by Capcom, Driver Renegade by Ubisoft, Pac-man by Namco Bandai and many others.

Fils-Aime says that the new browser and eShop downloads that came out this week allow you to get new games. A Virtual Console also allows you to download classic games. For a limited time, they’ll be giving out 3D Excitebike, a super retro title.

But even bigger news: For the first time ever, Pokemon will spring to life in 3-D. The games will come with enhanced Pokedex.

I’m not too familiar with these games, except that I know it’s an essential game that kids play around the world.

Fils-Aime says there’s one more order of business left today.

A proper introduction to a new gaming companion. The name Wii made sense once we started to say it a lot and realized it was all about “we.”

So, today, welcome to the Wii U.

It’s about a system we will all enjoy together and is tailor made for you. (Other word associations: unique, utopia?)

9:46 am: They’ve just unveiled what the new controller looks like, and it’s a tablet!

Use it to draw and sketch with a stylus, or use it to play Othello with a friend, like an iPad.

Use it to play golf. Place it on the floor to see where your ball is lying in the sand trap, and hit it out with the controller in your hand.

Connect a gun accessory to it, to see your target more clearly.

This is wild.

Now we are seeing how you can video conference call with it, like Skype.

The tablet can also be used as a big touch pad remote control for your TV. You can swipe photos off the tablet to land on your TV screen.

9:49 am: The audience goes wild.

The Wii U is like the iPad tied to your TV. The touchscreen has a 6.2 inch display.

The device can also be used without the TV. For example, you can weigh yourself on the Wii Fit Scale just by holding the tablet.

The tablet itself has a gyroscope, a speaker, a microphone and many buttons found commonly on a typical console controller.

But it’s not a portable video game machine, even though it shares some characteristics. In other words, they don’t see it cannibalizing the 3DS.

9:53 am: The Wii U will have a strong connection to the Internet, including browsing the Web on your TV and video conferencing.

But what we haven’t seen a lot of yet is how it will be incorporated into games.

The answer isn’t clear.

We are hearing that there won’t be a shortage of ideas, and that it could be used for numerous ways to play.

There’s a whole interview with Miyamoto at www.E3.Nintendo.com on all the ideas he has on how he believes the new platform could be used.

To kick things off, they are promising there will be Super Smash Bros. for both Wii U and 3DS.

Of course, this is a product for the future. But here in LA, there is software for all of us to test today.

Not sure when Wii U will be released, or what the price point will be.

9:58 am: There will be a handful of interactive demonstrations on the show floor at E3 to show off the system’s capabilities.

10:00 am: Fils-Aime is back on stage to give us a few ideas of the games. There will be Super Mario Me. If you have the new controller, you’ll have a birds-eye view of the birds that are catching you, but you can still play if you have a regular Wii remote.

“What I just described is prototypes, they are not actual games, but one game I can tell you we’ll publish is a new installment of the Lego series called City Stories.”

He says developers around the world see the vast use cases of the Wii U. A bunch of interviews now are playing on the big screen of major game makers, like EA, Ubisoft and Disney.

They are saying that Nintendo has heard the voice of the hardcore game player, who will now be able to play titles, such as DarkSiders, Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon, on the Wii U.

10:07 am: If other consoles added motion-controlled gaming to expand its user base to more casual gamers, this appears to be Nintendo’s attempt to attract the hardcore gaming audience.

In a video demonstration, I’m seeing explosions, blood, guts, blasts and lots of shooting and killing.

That’s in stark contrast to the orchestra music we heard from Zelda that welcomed us to the press conference.

10:09 am: EA joins Nintendo on stage. Here comes John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts.

“Over the years I’ve made several appearances with our console partnerships, but never before with Nintendo. Nintendo’s new console will have great HD graphics….Imagine a shooter like Battlefield with jaw-dropping graphics brought to you on a Nintendo system with a break-through controller.”

Finally, he says, imagine EA content on a console that can be expanded to mobile and the Web.

“We are changing games from a thing that you buy to a place that you go. Nintendo’s next platform has deeper online capabilities and this is an unprecedented partnership between EA and Nintendo.”

10:12 am: Fils-Aime is back on stage.

The Wii changed gaming, and last year you found out that glasses-free gaming could change 3-D gaming. Now there’s Wii U, a second window into the world of gaming.

If you are here on site, he says you can have hands-on with key new 3DS games. And, then there’s eight new Wii U experiences in the convention center.

10:14 am: For more information, you can check www.e3.nintendo.com.

Let the exploration begin and enjoy the show.

That’s it for the live blog. As a member of the press, I’ll be getting a special hands-on session immediately following the keynote, so stayed tune for pictures and video.

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