Nintendo’s Wii U Embraces Social Networking (Video)

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata today provided a detailed overview of the company’s upcoming Wii U game console in an online video conference.

Iwata filmed the 30-minute video in a bare conference room in the company’s Japan headquarters, making it a very different stage from the one on which he will be presenting Tuesday at E3.

This week in Los Angeles, hardware and software makers will be throwing highly choreographed presentations in the hopes of impressing both the media and fans worldwide.

Nintendo’s pre-E3 video was something much different.

It provided a much more controlled environment for Iwata, who normally prefers to speak through a translator, to make the case for why the Wii U is better than everything from the Xbox to the Apple iPad. But it didn’t provide any of the fireworks that many people were likely expecting, so apologies to Nintendo fans, you’ll still have to wait until Nintendo’s “official” E3 press conference on Tuesday for that.

Within the confines of the quieter environment, Iwata didn’t just provide a rundown of the Wii U’s hardware specifications, including new details of the 6.4 inch touchscreen display called the GamePad, but also made a case for how Nintendo offers “unique” experiences that draw friends and families together.

He said the system is designed to create a sense of “empathy” among Wii U users that is much different from the war-torn, trash-talking environments found on Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation 3. As a demonstration, Iwata played a video clip showing a teenager asking a grandpa over video chat how to more effectively kill zombies. (For dramatic effect, grandpa was sitting in a scooter.)

“It helps unite people rather than divide them, whether they are in the same room or great distances apart,” he said.

Nintendo expects to do this by having its own social network, Miiverse, which from what I can tell will be a proprietary network that will not link to already existing communities such as Facebook or Twitter. Eventually, Iwata said, Miiverse will be accessible online using any Web-enabled devices.

Iwata said people often ask him if the Wii U is a simple evolution or something that is entirely different.

“The best answer is both,” he said. “Today, Wii U does what we did only better, while at the same time it is also something entirely new. Not only can it connect people in the same living room, but it can also connect people living room to living room.”

Here are some of the more hardware-driven changes announced today, a year after the Wii U was first unveiled at E3:

  • The Wii U controller is now called the GamePad, which has an updated set of controllers since last year. It now also has near field communication, or NFC, and supports infrared to control TVs and set-top boxes.
  • Nintendo announced a secondary controller, called the Pro Controller, which is very similar to the controller for Microsoft’s Xbox.

Here’s the video, but also check back on Tuesday when Nintendo will reveal more details:

 

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