Nintendo details Wii U changes, online functions

Clearly too eager to wait until its E3 press conference on Tuesday; Nintendo today broadcast a pre-recorded press conference that shed light on just a few new details of its upcoming Wii U console.

First up, company boss Satoru Iwata revealed a few changes to the system’s tablet controller, now named the Wii U Gamepad. Crucially, the slider pads have been replaced by true analogue sticks, allowing for better control. The system’s rear has been redesigned too, for a more comfortable fit. Another new addition is a NFC reader-writer – like those used for PayWave credit cards. We’ll even be able to use the controller as a TV remote.

Of course, not everyone is entirely sold on the idea of a touchscreen controller, and for those people Nintendo has an answer – the Wii U Pro Controller. Resembling an Xbox 360 pad, Iwata reasoned that this could be the ideal choice for those that wanted to play multiplatform games, suggesting that support for the controller will be a focus.

Then it was on to the really interesting stuff, namely the system’s social and online features. The system’s menu was displayed for the first time, showing an intuitive integration of friends lists. The home screen houses a range of Miis, including ones saved on that system, ones from friends and those in the same country or of the same language. The Miis all gather around specific game icons on the menu, relating to what people are playing right there and then.

Central to connecting players is a new Twitter-style social hub called the Miiverse. Here, players can display messages to friends about the game they’re currently playing and send them out so that people can see them either on that initial menu screen, in-game on the system’s controller, or even through mobile devices in a Twitter feed-like app. While support for third party devices wasn’t confirmed for launch, Iwata did say that the Miiverse would also come to PC and 3DS.

One of the other aims of this conference was to get such info out of the way early so that Tuesday could get straight to the point – the games. Now that we’ve seen even more of the Wii U’s potential, we can’t wait to see how developers are taking control of it.