Nintendo’s Wii U Tiptoes Between Hardcore and Family-Friendly

With the launch of the next-generation videogame console this holiday season, Nintendo will try to go beyond its family-friendly base of users to a more hardcore demographic.

But in many ways, the two cultures don’t jibe: One likes Mario and Luigi, the other thrives on machine guns and grenade launchers.

In an interview with AllThingsD, Nintendo President Saturo Iwata provided a glimpse of how he plans to balance the two — something he said he considers key to the Wii U’s success.

While there will be a steep learning curve when it comes to marketing to the two demographics, there’s some very basic logistical issues, too. For starters, Iwata said, Nintendo will have to be vigilant when it comes to monitoring and filtering content that is posted to its online gaming community, dubbed Miiverse.

Additionally, he said, while all third-party software developers will be free to create whatever games they want to, Nintendo has no plans to change its well-known and beloved style of game play. In other words, this means making first-party titles like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda or Wii Sports, which officially carry the “everyone” videogame rating.

“Even Zelda is going to be introduced to the Wii U system,” Iwata said. “I just can’t imagine in the game that someone’s head is going to be shot.”

Tricia Duryee, AllThingsD

Maybe not in Zelda, but you see it in plenty of other games, including Zombi U, an Ubisoft title coming exclusively to the Wii U. (See photo on the right!)

“Of course, legally we have to abide by the rules and regulations, but at the same time, even after doing so — even if one out of 100 is going to behave badly — that person alone can destroy the entire community,” Iwata said through a translator.

That means closely monitoring activity in the Miiverse, where avatars walk around a virtual “plaza.” Game players will be able to post their thoughts in “speech bubbles” that appear over their heads with text or drawings — sort of like a status update on Twitter or Facebook.

Iwata said those messages won’t appear in real time, so the service will have time to “filter” out any inappropriate content. ”We know that we have to be prepared to spend a sufficient amount of money and human resources to establish the system to try to eliminate those kind of bad behaviors,” he said.

The situation becomes more complicated in real-time environments, where players chat with one another using a microphone or Web cam.

With Xbox and PlayStation, the chat channels are often inundated with trash-talking and swear words among players who are competing in multiplayer mode.

Iwata has said he envisions a community on the Wii U which encourages empathy for other players.

In a follow-up interview, Scott Moffitt, Nintendo’s EVP of Sales and Marketing, said that there’s mature-rated content on the Wii today, so the Wii U will be no different.

“It is up to the family member to set the parental controls in their household,” he said, adding that each console will be able to support up to 12 password-protected accounts.

Moffitt also said that users will only be able to chat with people they are already friends with; he declined to provide specifics on how those introductions would first be made.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus