August 11, 2022

Countering Video Game Rivals, Nintendo Introduces a Touch-Screen Wii

LOS ANGELES — Nintendo on Tuesday announced a new version of its Wii video game console, in a move to counter increased competition from higher-resolution consoles from Microsoft and Sony, as well as multifunction devices like the Apple iPad.

The new system, the Wii U, incorporates a tabletlike game controller that literally brings a new dimension to the game. The hand-held, 6.2-inch touch-screen unit includes the functions of the previous controller, including the ability to control play through motion; besides the screen, a camera, microphone and speaker have been added.

The new console, available in 2012, can also display high-definition graphics; the current version of the Wii cannot.

The company says the new controller can both mirror gameplay seen on a big screen and act as a second screen, similar to the way that tablet applications from program providers like DirecTV provide consumers with additional information when they watch a video program.

With the Wii U, the experience will be “deeper and wider,” said Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, speaking at the annual E3 gaming convention here in Los Angeles. “You will see games in a different way.”

The Wii successfully brought a new segment of casual, and older, consumers to video games, players undeterred by the system’s rather basic graphics and simplified gameplay. The Wii outsold its console rivals, with 35.5 million sold in the United States. Sony has sold 16.7 million of the PlayStation 3, while Microsoft has sold 27 million Xbox 360s, according to the market research company NPD Group.

The Wii U is compatible with existing Wii accessories. The company has not said what it will cost, or whether it will replace or supplement the existing model.

Michael Pachter, a video game industry analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, gave the Wii U high marks, calling it “really intuitive,” and saying “the integration with the TV is very good.”

“If they can price this under $300,” he added, “they’ll do very well.”

The current Wii console, including accessories, retails for $150. No games optimized for the Wii U were announced, but John S. Riccitiello, chief executive of the game developer Electronic Arts, said the Wii U was “a better platform than we’ve ever been offered by Nintendo.”

In several technology demonstrations at the convention, gameplay was either replicated or seen from a different perspective on the hand-held tablet, or, with the brush of a hand, “flipped” from the tablet to the television.

The unit was lightweight and comfortable to hold, with all controls in easy reach. In one example, it could be used as a shield, held up to stop arrows launched from a ship on the TV screen. In a game of golf, the tablet was placed on the ground; a second, current Wii controller was used to hit the virtual ball, which left the tablet’s screen and appeared on the TV’s screen. And in a game with two players, one received information on the tablet controller that allowed him to run from a pursuer, while the other tried to catch him as she watched a limited view of the scene on the TV itself.

The tablet can also be used to continue gameplay if another family member wants to watch a TV show. And, like Apple’s iPad 2, it doubles as a video chat device.

Nintendo also announced a software update for its 3DS hand-held game, which allows consumers to purchase certain new and classic games remastered for 3-D directly from its eShop download service. New 3DS games include Super Mario, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Mario Kart and Kid Icarus: Uprising.

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