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Nintendo Shares Wii U Hardware and Network Details

Controller sees some changes from last year's prototype phase.

 

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata provided a pre-E3 preview of Wii U during the latest installment of the company's periodic "Nintendo Direct" broadcasts today.

From the 7th floor meeting room of Nintendo's Kyoto main office, where Nintendo's staff debated what to do with the Wii U in 2008, Iwata revealed the new form factor for the Wii U controller, which is now officially known as Wii U Gamepad. The device has changed some from the prototype that was shown at last year's E3. The thumb controllers have changed to sticks which can also be pressed. The back of the controller and button layout have also been optimized to maximize comfort.

To the lower left of the controller's screen, you'll find an NFC reader. You can place cards or figures here to read data into your game. To the lower right of the screen, you'll find a "TV" button. This can be used to turn the Wii U pad into a TV remote.

Many of the other features announced at last year's E3 are still in the controller, including motion support via a gyro sensor, touch controls which allow the use of a stylus or direct finger inputs, and compatibility with all your Wii devices, including the Wiimote, Nunchuck and Wii Balance Board.

You can also use the Wii U Gamepad as a browser, controlling a browser that outputs to your television. One "entertainment" possibility for this system is to display a curtain on the television browser while you prepare your content on the Wii U Gamepad browser, then open the curtain once everything is ready.

Nintendo will also sell a more traditional game controller called "Wii U Pro Controller." This device is meant for multiplatform titles, or longer, more intense game forms.

Joining the new hardware developments, the Nintendo Direct broadcast introduced us to the systems' main interface which is part of a new network communication system that Nintendo has named "Miiverse" (short for "Mii Universe").

The Miiverse interface

When you boot up the system, your controller will show a screen filled with Miis. These Miis include your own Mii, all the Miis linked to your Wii U system, your friends' Miis, and the Miis of people enjoying the same games as you. You'll see speech bubbles representing conversations between the various Miis.

A similar interface is shown on your TV, but the TV may also show titles that you're not necessarily playing. For instance, you could see games that are most popular.

Miiverse is a system-level application that can be accessed from all games by simply pressing the Home button. You won't have to leave the game to access it.

Players can use Miiverse to communicate with their fellow players. In addition to text chat via a virtual keyboard, you can exchange hand-written messages, and add facial expressions. Nintendo believes that the handheld Wii U Gamepad screen will facilitate this type of communication as opposed to having to use the far-off television screen.

Other communication possibilities for Miiverse include posting of screenshots and transmitting of user generated content.

Miiverse will initially appear just on Wii U. However, Nintendo plans to eventually make it available on 3DS, PC or any web enabled mobile device.

Nintendo used this footage to show off Miiverse and other areas of the Wii U system. Is this the final form of the Mario game that was demonstrated last year?

The Nintendo Direct broadcast did not cover specific Wii U games (although there were a couple of quick glimpses of the new side scrolling Mario game). This area of the system is being saved for Nintendo's Tuesday E3 press conference which will focus almost entirely on Wii U.

You can view the Nintendo Direct broadcast for yourself in your choice of language here. You can also view an official YouTube version of the broadcast here:

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