Those too engrossed in weekend parental duties to spend a dedicated half-hour engaged in pre-E3 console hype may have missed yesterday’s Nintendo Direct video reveal highlighting some of the finer points of the Wii U’s controller and user interface. Therein Nintendo Global President Satoru Iwata showed off the newly dubbed Wii U Gamepad, complete with its integrated second screen, and discussed the evolution from the prototype revealed last year to its final production design. Special emphasis was put on both system support for existing Wii peripherals and the components of the Gamepad itself – accelerometer and gyroscope functionality, the shift from circle pads to proper analog sticks and a near field communications reader/writer that I have already affectionately dubbed “the Skylanders area.”
But more than a mere outline of technical features, the video also provided Iwata an opportunity to expound upon the principles that drove the overall console design. After generations of largely ignoring internet connectivity, the Wii U hopes to at last leverage it into what Iwata refers to as “empathy among players.” While the video demonstration of this, wherein a gamer seeks assistance from his peers to defeat a boss using a Twitter-like messaging system, falls flat, the stark image of a modern family totally disengaged from each other in the close confines of a living room better serves the point. In 2006 the Wii sought to get gamers up off the couch and engaged in physical activity, to help that same family play together, and it succeeded. Later this year the Wii U will attempt to foster a new kind of togetherness that combines that same sense of movement and fun with what appears to be a deeper understanding of online interaction in our highly connected world.
Whether or not it succeeds remains to be seen, but the video below certainly demonstrates that the home of Mario and Link has plenty of big ideas in store for the next generation of home video game consoles.