Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012 [Updated]

Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012 [Updated]

Summary: Nintendo teases with a hybrid controller-tablet sidekick to the upcoming Wii U console at E3. The "Swiss Army knife of controllers" does everything from handle video chats to double as a second screen in games.

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[Update: This post was originally written using only the information presented on stage at E3. I have clarified details on the controller and added a post with more details on the Wii U console.]

Rather than unveil the new Nintendo Wii U console on stage at E3 today, Nintendo introduced the Wii U controller for the next platform instead. Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime believes, "It'll change the way you game personally, and change the way you interact with your family and friends."

The second generation Wii console is called “Wii U” (pronounced "We-U") because it's a system that "we" can all enjoy (casual and serious gamers) but this iteration is also customized for "you", according to Fils-Aime. But no technical details were revealed during the press conference.

To call this new device a controller doesn't quite capture all the interactive possibilities it offers. It is more like a sidekick to the new console (and television) that doubles as an extra controller in some games, and works as a standalone entertainment device in other scenarios. Think of it as a hybrid controller and tablet with a 6.2" touchscreen.

It turns out the rumors about Project Cafe were correct: the Wii U controller has a 6.2" touchscreen (with stylus), with the typical control pad and buttons, circle pads on either side, left and right shoulder buttons embedded into the top two corners, trigger buttons, rumble motor, a rechargeable battery, a sensor strip and the gyroscope and accelerometer sensors built-in like other Wii-motes. It also includes other features not typically found in a video game controller like a microphone, camera and speakers, because the Wii U controller is "not meant to be a portable gaming system even though it shares some characteristics," said Nintendo Global President Satoru Iwata.

Like any good sidekick, the Wii U controller can enhance gameplay and hold its own when not linked to the television (but still connected to the console via wireless Internet to render the games):

  • Wii U controller offers a second screen to the game on the television: There are many different uses for a second screen in a Wii U game. Here are just a few of the ones mentioned today. In a Chase Mii game demoed on the Nintendo channel after the official press conference, players can play digital hide and seek, with one player using the Wii U controller's screen showing a bird's eye view of all the other players so she can better hide from her friends. The other players using the original Wii-motes only have the main television screen to navigate the game.Another example presented on stage involved using the Wii U controller to display your golf ball and the TV screen to display the fairway to simulate 3D gameplay (see below).
  • Continue console game on Wii U controller: For the times when the television cannot be used to play the Wii, the controller allows the player to continue to game on the device.
  • Play games on the Wii U controller: As a portable device with a larger screen than the Nintendo 3DS, the Wii U controller can also transform into a digital game board for an impromptu game of Othello.
  • Transfer content from Wii U controller to television: You can share the video you are watching on the Wii U controller with your television so more people can enjoy the same content but on a larger screen.
  • Make art on the Wii U controller: The touchscreen is another surface for artists to hone their craft.
  • Video chat on the Wii U controller: That's pretty self-explanatory.
  • Browse a Web page on the Wii U controller: See above.
  • Use Wii U controller as an universal peripheral: One of the developers featured in the video reel called the Wii U controller "the Swiss Army knife of controllers" and he wasn't kidding. With the large built-in touchscreen, the device can morph from a weapon in one game and to a chopping board in another.

Without a doubt, the Wii U console exists as both Iwata and Fils-Aime made a point of inviting Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello on stage to tease that the new platform will feature "deeper online capabilities." But it's obviously not ready for prime time because they are still a year away from launch.

The Wii U controller definitely kicks console gaming up a notch, but it's hard to tell just how it all works until Nintendo has full, functioning games that make full use of the system's potential. Fils-Aime made a point of stating that the Nintendo Wii U games on display at E3 are just "interactive demonstrations" for now.

No word yet on how much the Wii U controller will retail or when it will be available in-stores in 2012.
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14 comments
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  • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

    Somes scenes of the video show a small, slot-loading console to the bottom-right of the TV. Looks like a Wii with more pronounced rounding of its corners. Whether that is what the final product will look like is unknown.
    jmiller1978
    • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

      @jmiller1978 Its probably just a prototype shell. If it was the final product Nintendo would probably be promoting it. But since its obviously a working model, I wonder what else they want to add/change to it before announcing it?
      awkward hug
      • Fine tuning the Wii U

        @awkward hug Most console companies like Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony work on the prototype and finish before events like E3 so they can get the buzz going so that when they announce in 6-9 month's that they are taking pre-orders and they normally can be bought at retailer's around the holiday season.

        Gamers are excited to see Nintendo putting something out there for us core hard gamers.<br><br>Gaming is a big industry and is in almost every home these days.
        Undrcvr SpecLst
  • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

    The controller isn't called the Wii U, the next console is. This is the controller for the next console. It's a completely different system than the Wii, but with backwards compatibility for games and controllers. It's in HD and there are pictures and demos of it, go check out Nintendo's website. http://e3.nintendo.com/hw/#/introduction
    SirRibbit
  • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

    Yeah, the author of this article is confused a little. This is NOT a portable controller device that can work separate from the Wii U console, and it doesn't connect to your old Wii console. It's basically a wireless, touch screen monitor and controller for the Wii U. All graphics processing is done by the console and sent to the controller. So if you can play a 3DS game on it, it will be a virtual console application running on the Wii U and transmitting graphics to the controller as well as accepting user feedback from the controller.
    andersonalex
    • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

      @andersonalex Hopefully the author sees our comments and fixes the error, because we don't want people buying the Wii U's controller, thinking it will work on the Wii.
      SirRibbit
      • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

        @SirRibbit Honestly if they're reading ZDNet, I doubt they'll make that assumption.
        Aerowind
      • Author really does not need to change anything

        @SirRibbit If a person thinks that buying the Wii U controller for $400 is a great buy than they will be even more pleased that it actually comes with a console.

        Me and my husband are avid gamers and can't wait for this console and controller to come out. We plan on getting one extra controller which should be priced between $60-$100, probably closer to $100. So in total $500 for our Wii U.
        Undrcvr SpecLst
  • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

    Quite disappointing announcement. After Xbox Kinect it's strange to see the company starting the motion control revolution only could come up with an extra controller that hardly fits in the hands of my 5 yrs old.<br>Japanese must have lost their mojo, PS3 Move and now this Wii U, both of them will be big flops...<br>I've been waiting for this announcements, but I think I'm getting an Xbox Kinect for Christmas.
    szemet1
    • PS3 Move probably can be considered a flop

      @szemet1 It is Great to see Nintendo did not come up with just an extra controller (6.2" actual dimension) it also comes with an updated Wii that handles HD, etc, etc. the list goes on why it is going to help Nintendo compete with Microsoft and Sony.

      I am not a big fan of the PS Move and feel the Kinnect is probably a better accessory device but Wii U is not just a controller its a Bundle similar to Xbox360 w/Kinnect.

      Wii U will go for a minimum of $400 and extra Wii U pad controller between $60-$100

      I hope you have a great Christmas with the Xbox w/Kinnect. You really can't go wrong with either the PS3 or the Xbox they are both great systems even though PS3 is more superior than Xbox when it comes to graphics. 60 frames per second on the PS3.

      Christmas for us this year will be the PS Vita and then next year the Wii U with one extra pad for me. We don't have any children and we own Slim Xbox, Halo Edition Xbox, plus two more that we put away after buying those two from Microsoft, we own 2 PS3's, Wii, 2 DSI's and bought the 3DS at launch, 2 PSP's and another Limited Edition Final Fantasy PSP that we imported from Japan. Custom Superman Alienware laptop. We spend $300 to $900 a month on video games. We have a very nice home, 2 cats and live very comfortable on one income.

      I can't wait to play Digital hide and seek with my husband.
      Undrcvr SpecLst
  • The dimensions and specs listed

    are for the console itself, not the controller. Although it is 10.5" wide, so about the size of an iPad. Not that big of a deal. Supposedly it's comfortable, from those who have actually tried it, so... It also works with existing Wii controllers, so your Balance board and Wiimotes will still be needed.

    It's interesting. I particularly liked the demo of using it attached to the zapper as a sniper scope. A world of possibilities.
    LiquidLearner
  • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

    Hey, can I play Final Fantasy 3 and 4 for the DS in Wii-U? :)

    Wii-U... Nice ring to it. Wii-U! Wii-U! Wii-U! :)

    Hey Nintendo! I bet you won't attract users who are Nintendo geeks, but why don't you make the new Wii-U look like the smaller version of the first Nintendo Entertainment System? For saving the game, I can just hold down the reset and push the power button to turn the console off. Press the power button to turn the console off while not holding down the reset button will lose the saved data. Okay, okay, I'm just kidding. :) Sure, I won't see black wires coming from the Wii-U to the Wii-U controller.
    Grayson Peddie
  • Nintendo showing their true colours

    Unlike Sony, who dont know they are a toy company...

    Before anyone slams me for saying that, Nintendo in my opinion have done the most responsible thing they could - no gimmicks like 3D, no copycatting and the like. Its not to my taste, but it looks like it'll be solid gameplay along the lines they know. I've had both Cube and Wii, but they seemed aimed at the younger market, and the kids played them more than me once I'd racked up a decent handicap on the golf of course.
    I have to admit, they'd have been hard pushed to find an innovation that wasnt short-lived at this stage, and I'm still holding my breath for a leap in console tech from the others - Kinect is great, but no software, and Sony are too busy embarrassing themselves to do anything useful.

    I just hope they dont try to shoe-horn 3D onto those controllers, I for one think its a fad, and I certainly hope it is, because they hurt my eyes. Its only the close-to prismatic displays that do though, I dont mind 3D at the cinema because its at distance.
    SiO2
  • RE: Nintendo announces Wii U controller for new console, coming in 2012

    to the ones out there how cry the screen controller wont fit in there 5 year olds hands, surprise, its not made for them as we also hope that will be the case at least within the first year most of the games as well!
    crimac518