Nintendo Reveals a Wii Bit More About the Wii U

At this point, pretty much the only two things left to say about Nintendo’s Wii U are when it will be launching and how much it will cost.

The Japanese game company first unveiled the Wii U a year ago, and two days ago, it hosted a video briefing, where it unveiled a lot more information, including details of the 6.2 inch touchscreen it is calling the GamePad.

On Sunday, Nintendo said the GamePad will come with near field communication and infrared to control TVs and set-top boxes. It also announced a secondary remote, called the Pro Controller, which is similar to ones used by Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation.

In addition to hardware, Nintendo provided an overview of some of its online services for the new console, including Miiverse, a social network that will be accessible from any Web-enabled device.

Nintendo’s press conference at E3 kicks off this morning at 9 am PT in the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Follow the live updates here to see if there are any surprises:

9:00 am: Pretty much everyone has taken their seat in what is a very packed crowd at Nokia Theatre.

And, looks like we are about to begin. The music has stopped and we are watching a video with Nintendo’s star game creator Shigeru Miyamoto.

Miyamoto takes the stage to huge applause, and brings out his translator with a blow of a whistle.

Through his translator, he says for more than 30 years, game machines have had to connect to the TV. They could never take a more important role than the TV.

“We decided that the next system would have its own dedicated screen,” he said.

With the Wii U, the independent screen changes the importance of the gaming system. With this in your hands, you can quickly turn on a game.

As we were developing the new system, I wanted to develop the newest Pikmin game for the platform, he says.

They are showing off Pikmin 3, which features very cute and adorable “pikmins,” which look like little ants.

The little characters are challenged to collect as much fruit as they can, including oranges and apples and strawberries, which they must carry on their backs. The Wii U GamePad gives players an overhead view of the game play as the little characters scurry over the map collecting the items.

9:10 am: Nintendo’s President of North America Reggie Fils-Aime comes on stage to say that today’s press conference will be showing off 23 new titles for the Wii U.

That’s a lot of titles for an hour-long event.

He says: “That’s less time to consider what Wii U means to gamers and non-gamers and how it can change your life.

At its core, Wii U does three things: changes your gaming, how you interact with your gaming friends and changes the way you enjoy your TV.

“It’s not intuitive, but it stands to revolutionize your living room.”

9:14 am: Sounds like we won’t be hearing today about how the Wii U will be used as an entertainment device in the living room, like the Xbox 360.

But Fils-Aime said that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. That means Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, YouTube, yes, yes, yes, he said.

“There’s no way we could explain it all this week, so at E3 we are focusing on the new way of gaming, and then in the future, we’ll show you how it will integrate and elevate your living room entertainment.”

Quickly, he clears something up: The Wii U will now support two GamePads simultaneously in addition to being backwards compatible with remotes from the original Wii.

While that may sound like a minor detail, it means fewer fights among kids in the living room to see who gets to play with the GamePad next.

9:17 am: The Nintendo president is now drilling down on the Miiverse, the Wii U’s social network.

He said to think of it as Main Street, where you can see and interact with your friends, who can communicate to you with “speech bubbles,” appearing over their pictures — sort of like text messages.

Players will also be able to show recent scores or screenshots from the games they are playing.

The social network will eventually be browser based, so it will be accessible on any Web-enabled device.

9:20 am: With Miiverse, you’ll be able to connect with friends inside the new Super Mario Bros. U game.

The game is obviously the best known franchise for Nintendo; to launch the Wii U without it would be a seriously bad idea.

In the demo, Mario and his friends scroll from left to right like the traditional games, interacting with coins and turtle shells.

9:23 am: Nintendo is now getting ready to mention all the new third-party games coming to the console, which will be one of the keys to a successful launch.

Nintendo is starting off with something a little more “hardcore,” like Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition.

Unlike other press conferences yesterday at E3, where the developers take the stage to play the demos live, we have not seen any live demonstrations. Instead, there have been pre-recorded videos.

While the graphics appear impressive and the gaming experience looks intuitive on the GamePad, you wonder what it will really look like when everything ships.

Next up, from Warner Bros. Games, will be “ScribbleNauts Unlimited,” a family-friendly cartoonish title. In the game, players get to draw and create silly characters, like a dog on wheels. The illustrations are created on the GamePad, and then imported into the game.

9:31 am: Here’s a montage of more games that are on the way. In other words, more video and less action. The list includes lots of titles but is limited here by my ability to type fast enough: EA’s Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank! and other games from Namco; Trine 2; and Aliens Colonial Marines.

And, in case you were worried about your waistline with all these games coming out at E3, Nintendo’s got a solution for that, too!

It says that 43 million copies of Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus have been sold to date.

It will also allow you to use the balance board with the new Wii U, or continue to do exercises from the GamePad when the TV is being used for other purposes.

“And, now Wii Fit U adds another valuable accessory,” he said. “It will leave you happier and sweatier.”

9:37 am: Next, a workout for your vocal cords. Nintendo’s “Sing” is a karaoke game, where the lyrics are displayed on the GamePad.

9:39 am: Nintendo’s head of marketing, Scott Moffit, comes onstage to spend a few minutes on Nintendo 3DS, but for more updates, he’ll be hosting a Webcast tomorrow at 6 pm PT at www.e3.nintendo.com.

He says a number of first-party titles for the handheld gaming unit are coming, including Super Mario Bros. 2, which is different than the one they showed off earlier, and Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Paper Mario is coming this holiday season.

“What 3DS doesn’t have enough of yet is Mario’s little brother Luigi,” Moffit says.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon will haunt you in 3D this holiday season.

9:45 am: Reggie’s back to talk about Lego City: Undercover!

We’re taking a look: Funny stuff. Lego men are scaling buildings, tearing up building blocks with jack hammers and fighting evil. But it also is only video, so it’s more of a trailer than live action. There will also be a 3-D version for the 3DS.

“Our goal is to provide new and engrossing kinds of game experiences from hardcore to the newest of the newbies,” Reggie said, introducing Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft to the stage, whose company has said it has at least eight titles cooking for the platform.

9:52 am: Finally a live demo!

Ubisoft’s Just Dance 4 has four dancers on the stage to dance as Reggie decides from the GamePad which moves the dancers will perform next.

Next up, an original hardcore title from Ubisoft called Zombi U.

Yesterday, I described this as Plants Vs. Zombies meets AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” As the zombies approach from behind, the player must run — you can die from just one bite! This really is a hardcore game.

But at the end of the clip, for fun, Reggie takes a picture of his face and, using augmented reality, turns into a zombie.

9:57 am: Reggie’s back onstage after a short intermission to set up some props on the stage.

“Welcome to Nintendo Land,” Reggie said. The game is similar to Wii Sports for the original Wii and will be used to teach players how to use the new Wii U.

This makes a whole lot of sense, given that the GamePad may be daunting to some players, who will find it confusing to flip between the TV screen and the touchscreen in their hands.

Nintendo Land will have five mini-games: Donkey Kong’s crash course, Luigi’s Mansion and Ninja Castle, among other titles.

The game is a theme park, where you can play with friends or family, or competitively by yourself. What’s making this a reality is Miiverse, which they’ll talk about more later today in a developer’s roundtable.

A quick comment on that: If it takes multiple hours over several days at E3 to explain the Wii U, how much time will consumers take to understand it?

It will be vitally important for Nintendo Land to play this role and get across how much fun the system is very quickly.

10:05 am: We are more than an hour into this press conference and we still haven’t heard the two things people want to know: How much will the Wii U cost and when will it be available?

Ok, this has got to be the moment. Reggie is back onstage.

He’s saying Nintendo Land will launch at the same time as the Wii U this holiday.

But when???

The press here at Nokia Theatre will be able to play Nintendo Land, Zombi U and try out the Nintendo Wii fit features.

Reggie says, “If you imagine Wii U as a Wii Universe, then the touchscreen is the portal that transports you. Families in the same room, today distracted by their individual devices, will soon be enjoying time together. And friends online will feel more together. In a world with more obligations and less time, the promise: Together, Better.”

Okay, folks, that’s it for Nintendo (well, not counting the three other Web cast events they have lined up for developers for the rest of E3).

I guess with Nintendo, anything is possible.

No pricing. No availability.

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