Nintendo has made its first official unveil ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, set to kick off on June 5 in Los Angeles. On June 3, the gaming company revealed the name of a component to its upcoming next-generation console, the Wii U. The gaming system's tablet-esque controller will be called the Wii U GamePad, according to PCMag.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata hosted the Nintendo Direct Pre-E3 2012 stream, saying that the name for the new controller was inspired by the classic 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controller. This was one of the first in-home consoles to replace the joystick with a flat D-pad remote, now known as the game pad. Iwata's retro title for the Wii U's controller could suggest that this new remote, complete with an LED screen in addition to its D-pad and action buttons, could be iconic in marking the next step for the gaming industry, just as the original game pad set the precedent for modern consoles.
With E3 only one day away, fans are sure to learn a lot more about Nintendo's next-generation console in the coming week. Here's a recap of what can be said about the new GamePad controller and overall speculations surrounding the Wii U.
1. Multimedia Compatibility. The revamped game pad to be featured with the Wii U contains dual analog sticks with a screen supporting both touch and stylus interaction, and the ability to act as a TV remote. The controller also has its own dedicated Web browser, according to PCMag, and can share media content to a television. It seems that consoles are moving toward the direction of acting as multi-media entertainment centers, as Microsoft has just announced big plans for the future of its Xbox as well.
2. Thumbsticks Instead of Thumbsliders. The previous prototype for Wii U's controller included thumbslider controls, but it is now confirmed that the remote will contain dual analog sticks. This is no surprise to many gamers, as a photo of the renovated controller leaked at the end of May. The image originally surfaced in a NeoGaf forum post, and depicted the dual analog sticks alongside an older version with the thumbsliders for comparison.
3. More Social Interaction. The Wii U will emphasize the interactive aspect of gaming, with its own social network similar to that of Twitter. Users will be able to insert notes and images, and the GamePad also enables video chatting with other players. This is interesting considering Microsoft has just paid $8.5 billion to acquire Skype, and may plan on integrating it into its Xbox console, reported CNet.
4. Meet the Miiverse, Nintendo's Version of MMO Gameplay? The Miiverse is Nintendo's large online community, displaying the Mii avatars of family members, friends, and anyone else with an account on your Wii system. It will also show other people in your area, and which games they are playing. Iwata also said that this network will expand beyond the Wii U, and will be featured on other devices, such as the Nintendo 3DS, the PC and other Web-connected mobile gadgets. The long-time gaming company has expressed interest in alluring hardcore gamers with its next-generation console. As of now, there isn't any talk of the Miiverse playing a large role in gameplay and acting beyond a social outlet, but if Nintendo wants to bring back the more-than-casual players, the Miiverse could have some potential to evolve into a massive multiplayer online universe. Especially with PC integration.
5. The GamePad Will Be Optional. Any Wii owner knows that there are some games that just work better with a standard controller. Take the classic Super Smash Brothers series, for example. Sure, using the Wii Nunchucks every once in a while can make the combat more engaging and realistic, but some gamers usually find themselves dusting off their Nintendo GameCube controllers. It looks like Nintendo is also catering to this crowd by releasing the Wii U Pro Controller for games that have not been optimized for the Wii U, according to The Verge. Also, previous controllers from the Wii, including its Balance Board and Nunchucks, will be compatible with the new system.
No word yet on how much the Wii U will cost, but Nintendo is sure to unveil more at its E3 press conference on June 5.
Follow on Twitter @LisaEadicicco