By Thomas Read
Just a few hours ago, Nintendo finished their Pre E3 Conference, offering some new details and clarification on the Wii U. Some interesting and innovative new features and details were announced for the tablet controller, now named the “Wii U Game Pad.”
Before and After
Iwata stated that the Game Pad could also be used as a “social window” to communicate with other players independent of the system’s activity. I’m anticipating a Facebook channel on the Wii U. The camera can be used in a webcam-type experience, allowing players to see and talk to each other using the Game Pads. This is a cool feature that we’ll hopefully get more details on. For example, can more than two people have a conversation with their cameras as once? Can you chat while in-game? Could you see someone on your controller while you play a co-op game online with them? Could the Wii U use the image of the person you’re chatting with as a live in-game graphic?
The TV button to the left of Power allows the Wii U controller to function as a TV remote, even if the Wii U isn’t on. It’s a minor and unimportant feature, but still a nice detail if you, say, want to play your Wii U but don’t want to go across the room for the TV remote or something. Notice that it’s not in the prototype image, suggesting it was added as an afterthought.
Just below the D-pad on the final version of the controller, The NFC (Near-Field Communication) Reader/Writer was the feature with the least said about it, for all its implications. Iwata said, “You can place cards or figures on this and relevant data will be read or written into your experience.”
Anyone familiar with Activision’s “Skylanders” knows what this means: You can take a real-world object with a chip inside and read and write data from it. One has to wonder what implications this has and what features this could bring to gameplay. We will certainly be seeing more games that use Skylanders-like tech. I foresee a card-based game where different characters and abilities are saved on cards, where the player merely holds up a card to the controller to swap characters or skills. An upcoming Pokémon game seems a likely candidate for such technology.
And then there’s this beast. We’ll get the fact that it looks just like an Xbox 360 controller out of the way now- because the resemblance is remarkable. This basically replaces the Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro currently available for the Wii, it seems. It’s clearly a controller designed with hardcore gamers in mind. Hopefully more games will get support for this controller than the Wii did with the Classic Controller. I’m personally looking forward to using this, it looks super comfortable. (Though I’m hoping they swap the positions of the right stick and ABXY buttons. Trying to reach Y seems like it’d be a little awkward as it stands.)
Welcome to the MiiVerse, we’ve got fun and games!
Mr. Iwata spent a lot of time talking about the Miiverse, a new feature that allows players to connect over games they mutually enjoy by sharing text messages, drawings, screenshots, and “game content” created by players. (Custom levels in Mario, anyone?) Miiverse appears to flow seamlessly into gameplay by showing relevant messages and probably other things directly from players. There are a few important features Miiverse needs to have to be successful and provide a positive experience for every type of gamer.
First, you need to be able to opt-out or disable it if you want. I’m sure many gamers, especially the more hardcore, would be turned off by the idea of constantly being bombarded by messages from other players, so it needs an option to not have it appear in-game.
Second, it needs privacy settings. Iwata mentioned that Miis from the same console, friend’s Miis, and other people the player doesn’t know will all appear in Miiverse. There needs to be an option to only show certain groups of Miis, like turning off strangers from appearing.
Last, it was said that games the player doesn’t even own may appear in the Miiverse. This is an obvious feature that needs an on-off option. I personally don’t want my Miiverse cluttered with a bunch of Miis I don’t know talking about games I don’t have. Basically, as long as customisation options are added for the Miiverse, it should be a good addition.
In their demonstration video, one small detail stuck out to me. One player refers to another as “OctoG123.” Notice this is not a friendcode, it’s a username. This suggests that the Wii U will finally get a handle-based system as opposed to the current friend code method. We’ll have to wait for official confirmation on this point, but it’s a feature Nintendo desperately needs in their online service.
All-in-all, we’ve gotten a lot of information in the 30 minute presentation. Each piece of information does one of two things: Clears up questions or causes more of them. Consider this Pre-E3 presentation to be a warm-up for E3, where they’ll reveal more features and games for the Wii U. 3DS news is expected to be lacking at E3, Nintendo choosing instead to give that information later as they focus on the Wii U. We will be back with more Nintendo news come Tuesday, see you then!
The full video is available here: http://www.nintendo.com/nintendo_direct