NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Nintendo today introduced a new console, the Wii U, a day after Sony launched its new handheld, the PlayStation Vita.
That’s the story so far at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual video game conference better known as E3. As anticipated, Nintendo just announced its successor to 2006’s Wii console, and as with the Wii, the name of the game is innovation.
The name of the console is the Wii U, which, as expected, finally caught up to the PlayStation and Xbox by offering high-definition graphics. The real story, though, is the new controller used by the system, which looks like a hybrid of a traditional game controller and a tablet computer. We’ll have to see it in action to get more of a sense of just how much it will be integrated into the games themselves, but it looks like it will combine the Wiimote’s motion sensing with a secondary screen that has various uses in games. For instance, a football game would allow gamers to call their plays right on the controller, a baseball game would use the second screen to choose and aim a pitch and action/adventure games would use it to choose items and perform other tasks that once took up space on the main screen. Controllers from the original Wii will also be compatible with the Wii U.
The controller – which also includes a touchscreen, front-facing camera and stylus – can serve as a mobile gaming device in its own right, albeit one that’s wirelessly tethered to the console itself. As Nintendo explained, if the people you’re playing with decide they want to stop gaming and watch baseball, you can continue to play the game on the controller. In other words, it makes a seamless transition from “we” to “you.” Get it?
The console won’t be out until 2012, so for now there’s no word on a lineup of launch titles. But don’t expect it to be dominated by family-friendly titles like previous consoles. In a clear attempt to appeal to more hardcore gamers, the company showcased a number of more mature games for the console, including Assassin’s Creed, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online and Batman Arkham City. The Batman title got a particularly big cheer from the crowd, though given that the game will have been available for months on the PS3 and Xbox 360 by the time the Nintendo version comes out, we’re curious to see how it will differentiate itself on the Wii U.
The pricing for the console and its peripherals have not yet been announced.
The new console predictably overshadowed the Day 1 announcements of rivals Sony and Microsoft. Sony won that day with the introduction of its new portable gaming device, the PlayStation Vita, which surprised everyone with its low $249 price point ($299 with Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities). That should win back some PlayStation fans alienated by the data breach debacle (for which Sony apologized again on Monday), and the company clearly hopes it can put a dent in the big lead held by Nintendo’s portable devices the DS and 3DS.
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