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E3: Nintendo tries to sell gamers on Wii U

June 05, 2012|By Ben Fritz and Alex Pham
  • Nintendo video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto explains the features of the new Wii U console at the E3 show.
Nintendo video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto explains the features of… (Kevork Djansezian )

Nintendo tried to convince an audience of industry professionals Tuesday morning that it can stage a comeback in the video game console business with its successor to the Wii.

The Japanese company made famous by Mario and Zelda has seen its fortunes fade recently as sales of its once red-hot Wii console have fallen behind Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.

At a press conference just prior to the official opening of the annual E3 video game industry convention here Tuesday, Nintendo focused almost exclusively on its new Wii U, which will hit stores during the holiday season. News related to the company's portable 3DS platform was held off for an evening event.

The Wii U will let gamers play simultaneously on a television and a second iPad-like controller with its own screen.

Nintendo's creative guru, Shigero Miyamoto, said that the primary idea behind the new Wii was that "in order to be the central device in the living room, we couldn't be dependent on the television."

The audience at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles got most excited at the news that games featuring several of Nintendo's best known franchises are already in the works for the Wii U, including "Super Mario Bros." and "Pikmin," which lets players control an army of miniature creatures.

But support from other publishers, known as "third parties," was mixed. Top executives from Ubisoft and Warner Bros. announced plans to make several games for the Wii U, but other large publishers were absent. Activision Blizzard Inc. has no games in the works for the Wii U and Electronic Arts announced only a tweaked version of its "Mass Effect 3," which was released for the 360 and Playstation 3 in March.

In an interview after the presentation, Nintendo Chief Executive Satoru Iwata said his company was in negotiations with other publishers to produce Wii U titles. He also said that he expected many of the most popular games made for the PS3 and 360 to also eventually get Wii U versions.

The same was not true for the Wii, which packs less processing and graphical power than its competitors but still outsold them during its first few years because it appealed to more casual players.

As is typical with companies making new consoles, Nintendo is investing in its own games that take full advantage of the Wii U's capabilities. The most prominent on display was called "Nintendo Land" and features "mini-games" culled from numerous Nintendo properties like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong, played in a theme-park setting.

A display of a Luigi-themed mini-game from "Nintendo Park" featuring ghosts drew a muted response from the crowd as a developer on stage tried to explain through a translator how the Wii U tablet controller interfaced with the separate image on the television screen.

Wii U will also feature an online social network called MiiVerse, which Nintendo unveiled on Sunday. It lets players team up for games and communicate using cartoonish avatars called "Mii's."

In addition, Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime mentioned that the Wii U will feature streaming video applications, an area in which the Wii has lagged far behind the 360 and PS3. After announcing that Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Instant Video would be on the Wii U, he deferred details until later.

"Here at E3 we'll focus only on a new form of gaming and way to connect with friends," he said. "In the near future, we'll show you how Wii U will integrate and elevate your living room entertainment."


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