Nintendo at this year's E3 press conference was mum on the subject of the Wii U console itself, as far as exact tech specifications and launch details were concerned. But outside of pricing, Nintendo had plenty to show about the Wii U Gamepad and the more traditional Wii U Pro Controller.
On the following pages we've got hands-on previews for each Wii U controller, as well as a technical preview of the Wii U console, since Nintendo kept the actual Wii U console locked away.
- Wii U Gamepad Hands-On Preview>>
- Wii U Pro Controller Hands-On Preview>>
- Wii U Console Technical Capabilities Preview>>
Wii U Gamepad
Nintendo made the right decision redesigning the Wii U Gamepad since E3 2011. The addition of analog sticks makes it feel more like a controller than a tablet, while keeping the touchscreen features intact. Unfortunately, it isn’t multi-touch—something that is commonplace with tablets and smartphone screens. Lacking this could be a hindrance or at least a missed opportunity for Nintendo, but I do understand the need for Nintendo to keep costs in check.
The analog sticks themselves are tight and give just the right amount of rotation. They also have that L3, R3 click. The added triggers in the rear are especially helpful for shooting and other things. All of the buttons are located ergonomically for comfort. You never have to reach far, unless you want to power off the Gamepad or hit the home button.
In addition to all of the buttons, like the Wii-mote, there are some tilt and point features with the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope. And it must be using some form of MotionPlus, because it was much more accurate than the Wii-motes I use at home. Also like the Wii-mote, the Wii sensor bar is required.
The Wii U Gamepad is capable of replacing a TV remote, but that wasn’t on display at E3. The idea is a good one, and if Nintendo adds more features like this, I can see the Wii U finding a home in the living room more often. Plus, having the ability to play Wii U games on the screen while the TV is off is incredibly appealing. And it looks great, too. There’s also near field communication tech in the Gamepad, allowing for experiences similar to the smash-success Skylanders, but alas, Nintendo had nothing to show at this time.
Two Wii U Gamepads are supported per console, and one will come bundled with the console when it releases later this holiday season.
Wii U Pro Controller
Is this an Xbox 360 controller? It sure looks like it, in nearly every way. It was smart for Nintendo to emulate what many feel to be the best controller on the market, but they made one major alteration to the design. The left side of the controller and the triggers are arranged in the same manner as the 360 controller. But the right side swaps the face buttons and right analog stick, so the analog stick is where the face buttons would/should be, and vice versa.
The configuration really feels weird in the hand placement, and reaching for face buttons is slightly uncomfortable. I didn’t get enough time with it to say if it’s something you could get used to quickly, but if the 360 controller's placement of the D-pad is an example, it should be fine within a week of playtime. I believe the decision was made because a lot of Nintendo’s games use the D-pad and face buttons, and admittedly, using those two in combination was more comfortable than analog sticks and face buttons or D-pad.
Aside from that, it’s a familiar controller and a stroke of genius for Nintendo to offer an alternative to the Wii U Gamepad that more closely emulates experiences found on Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. It provides a more even third-party experience across platforms and will work well with any genre. The one issue I take with it is because the Wii U can use Wiimotes, the Gamepad, Classic controllers, nunchuks, and now this, I feel like my entire living room is going to be filled with controllers—not even counting my other consoles.
Wii U Console
Weighing in at just over 3.4 lbs, the Wii U console measures at 1.8"H x 10.5"L x 6.8"W. An unspecified IBM Power-based multi-core processor works in tandem with a AMD Radeon-based HD GPU. The Wii U has on-board flash storage, SD card support, and support for USB HDDs, though it's not clear if these will be Nintendo-branded, or any USB HDD will do. The Wii U will utilize new optical discs, but will be backwards compatible with Wii discs and the Wii's controllers.
The Wii U supports all resolutions up to 1080p via HDMI, and up to 6-channel linear PCM for sound. Wireless is built-in, supporting B, G, and N Wi-Fi standards.
The Wii U, much like the other consoles, will have an internet browser and feature many different media stream options, such as Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Youtube, and Hulu. The Nintendo eShop will be available at launch and feature select titles available digitally that are also available at retail.
Unique to the Wii U, will be a new social feature called Miiverse, demonstrated during the Nintendo E3 Press Conference. Miiverse will keep users connected and sharing at all times, throughout games and through the Wii U itself, such as the ability to comment on specific levels in New Super Bros. U. Also Wii U exclusive, is the inclusion of Near-Field Communication, though they didn't demonstrate any software using this feature.
No specific release date has been set, but the Wii U will release this holiday season. Expect pricing and an official launch date within the coming months.