Nintendo Shows Off Wii U’s Online Gaming Features. They’re Social!

Nintendo’s unveiling of the Wii U has been one of the big highlights of this year’s E3.

But a lot of the details were still unknown after Nintendo’s press conference yesterday, leaving a lot to the imagination on how a tablet-based game controller will change console gaming.

At a joint press conference between Nintendo and Ubisoft, a French-based games publisher, the two companies demonstrated how a touchscreen can be used to interact with a game on the TV and how it will be connected online to make the platform more social.

Nintendo’s President Satoru Iwata kicked off the event by saying, “I have come here today to introduce you to the most important partner for Nintendo.”

Ubisoft presented two of the five games it has under development, including one of Ubisoft’s long-standing brands, Ghost Recon, and an all new first-person alien shooter called Killer Freaks from Outer Space. It also said Assassin’s Creed was coming.

For now, it appears the most obvious role for a touchscreen controller is to serve as a second window into the game.

In Ghost Recon, the player with the Wii U controller can fly a drone overhead to spot enemies and allies on the battlefield. In Killer Freaks, Ubisoft calls the alternate view “immersion controlling,” where you can move the tablet to the left and right to see from where the enemies are attacking.

Of course, if your arms or neck gets tired, you can revert back to normal game play using the buttons.

In addition to providing different views, the tablet can also enable new types of game play. In a demo in Killer Freaks, for example, they called the new approach a shooter vs. strategy game.

The player with the Wii U remote gets to be the strategist or mastermind behind the game, by picking and choosing where the monsters will attack.

The other players, who have only a normal Wii remote, will have to kill the aliens wherever they land.

Besides the console’s new remote, other big questions remain about how Wii U will connect to the Internet and offer digital and social components like those provided by Xbox Live and PlayStation’s network. Apple also announced today how its Apple TV product will connect to the iPad to create a gaming platform.

Yves Guillemot, the CEO of Ubisoft, said in his opening remarks that he sees social gaming as the future.

As part of that, Ubisoft demonstrated how the tablet will allow users to be “always on” and create “persistent characters.”

For example, if the TV is off or you are watching a show, you can track friends and achievements in Ghost Recon and decide based on what the tablet is telling you when an appropriate time to join your friends online is.

“These are the two big game changers that we believe the tiny connected screen will bring to the gaming world,” said Hugues Ricour, Ubisoft’s senior producer.

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