Nintendo fortified its position in the family videogame market Tuesday, showing off the launch version of the Wii U, out this holiday.
Oddly, the Japanese gamemaker was light on details of what’s inside its next-generation console or how it will let users access apps from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video; instead its hourlong presser at the Nokia Theater was laser focused on the games that will appear on the new console.
Initial lineup is heavy on Nintendo franchises like a third “Pikmin,” after the last installment came out a decade ago on the GameCube. “New Super Mario Bros U” will bring back the popular plumber, while a new “Wii Fit” is en route for the Wii U, along with “Nintendo Land,” a collection of minigames that bring in elements from all of the company’s greatest hits.
Company has sold 43 million copies of “Wii Fit” and “Wii Plus” since they were introduced.
Third party publishers also introduced games: TT Games, owned by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, unveiled the latest Lego title, “City Undercover.” Games for older auds included Ubisoft’s “Just Dance 4,” “Assassin’s Creed III” and new exclusive title “ZombiU,” Vigil Games’ “Darksiders II” and “Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition” from WBIE.
Still, despite a string of independent publishers taking the stage, third-party support for the system still seems a bit shaky, with the abundance of older games shown during the presentation raising questions about the level of support the Wii U could have from independent publishers.
Nintendo did not announce a launch price or date for the system.
“At its core, Wii U does three different things,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America. “It changes your gaming. It changes how you interact with your gaming friends. And it changes the way you enjoy your TV. … It stands to revolutionize your living
room. … And in the near future, we will show how it will integrate and elevate your living room entertainment.”
Nintendo promised that it would allow streaming video apps to be accessed in a “truly unique” way, enabling users to view and interact with the content.
At the heart of the Wii U is a tablet-like controller that has been tweaked since gamers first saw it a year ago. Analog sticks have since replaced the touch-sensitive circle pads, and some adjustments to button positioning were made.
Nintendo admitted that it faced “a challenge” as more consumers turn to mobile and social network games.
Already six years since the Wii launched, Nintendo wants the Wii U to serve a larger purpose than the TV screen for gamers, said game designer and producer Shigeru Miyamoto.
“Game machines had to be connected to the TV,” he said. “They couldn’t have a more important role than the TV. We decided our next system would have its own dedicated screen … and make it the first screen people go to when they go to the living room. With the Wii U gamepad we have the first dedicated personal screen in the long history of videogames.”
But Nintendo is still dealing with limited processing power that is forcing publishers to figure out how to produce innovative games for the console. Ubisoft is the console’s biggest third-party backer with more launch titles than other companies, which include Disney.
Initial Wii U device can only support one tablet controller, forcing other players to use the traditional Wii wands. An additional tablet would deteriorate the resolution on the screens, given the processor.
However, Fils-Aime did announce that the device would soon support two gamepads but offered no other details.
Company will have a separate one-hour press conference devoted to its 3DS handheld on Wednesday.
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