LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Gamers from across Southern California are flocking to the Los Angeles Convention Center for a sneak peek at what many say is the star of this year’s E3 Expo: the Nintendo Wii U.
The Japanese gaming giant on Tuesday unveiled the Wii video game console’s successor, which will broadcast high-definition video and feature a touchscreen controller that can detect motion and interact with what appears on a television display.
“Up until now, home console games had to occupy the TV screen in order to be played,” said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. “The new controller for Wii U, with its 6.2-inch screen built in, means you won’t need to give up your gameplay when someone else comes in the room and wants to watch a TV program.”
The white touchscreen controller, reminiscent of Apple Inc.’s iPad and other tablet computers, can broadcast standard-definition video but also features a directional pad, microphone, dual analog sticks, speakers, two pairs of shoulder buttons and a front-facing camera, which can be used to make video calls.
Los Angeles Times entertainment industry reporter and blogger Ben Fritz told KNX 1070 that despite the console’s new features, there is some industry grumbling over the console’s social networking capabilities.
“There’s really mixed opinions at E3 among attendees and the gamers watching it from home,” said Fritz. “This is a really risky bet by Nintendo – they’re doing something different – but they did that with the original Wii and it worked out.”
The console itself will use proprietary high-definition optical discs, 1080p HDMI output and internal memory that can be upgraded with USB and SD technology. No other technical specifications were provided.
The prototype controller was demonstrated during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the gaming industry’s annual convention, in several ways: displaying a player’s inventory in a “Legend of Zelda” game, offering an alternative way to play a chasing game, being used as a shield from incoming attacks in a first-person shooter game and showing the image of a teed-up golf ball on the ground before it was struck to a putting green depicted on a TV.
The controller was also shown being used to browse the Internet both on a TV and the controller. Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America president, noted that the touchscreen controller is not meant to be a portable gaming device and that the system is dubbed the Wii U because its “unique, unifying and maybe even utopian.”
Nintendo said the Wii U will be released between April and December next year and will be backward compatible with Wii games and controllers.
“Smash Brothers,” “Darksiders II,” “Batman: Arkham City,” “Tekken,” “Assassin’s Creed” and “Metro: Last Light” were among the titles announced that would be released for the system.
The price for Wii U was not revealed.
The unveiling of the Wii U comes after two years of slumping sales for Nintendo’s Wii, which remains the overall top-selling home video game console against Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3.
Those consoles already feature high-definition graphics and added motion-sensing capabilities similar to the Wii last year with their respective Kinect and Move camera systems.
In addition to the new Wii system, a controversial Blackwater game debuted at the Expo this week that allows players to experience missions similar to the infamous mercenary team linked to the killing of civilians and noncombatants in Iraq.
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