Nintendo has shown off its upcoming Wii U console which seems to borrow a variety of tablet, smartphone and social-network sensibilities.
In an online webcast, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata revealed some info on the upcoming Wii U and its controller, the Wii U GamePad.
The GamePad takes its name from a 6.2 inch (16 centimetres) touch screen that displays maps and other game relevant information. GamePad holders can play alongside or verse one another online, engaging in a “together is better” gaming experience.
This philosophy extends into the social sphere, with the GamePad displaying social exchanges between GamePad holders.
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Inside the GamePad is a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip, which insofar has been incorporated into smartphones, tablets and now computers to make financial transactions. Its integration into a gaming console will prove how versatile the tech is, possibly making it easier for GamePad holders to ‘befriend’ one another online, exchange data and multimedia.
According to the SMH, the Wii U GamePad has the capacity to be used as a TV remote control.
Nintendo is hoping the upcoming Wii U, which is expected to be available in time for the Christmas 2012 rush, will reignite sales following its first annual operating loss in over 30 years.
More people are turning towards social networks and smartphones for gaming, which are eating into Nintendo’s handheld market. These include games like Angry Birds and a number of titles that can be played on Facebook.
“The snack food type games thrive at the expense of casual games,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said, referring to social and mobile titles.
“They have hurt the Wii and Nintendo’s handheld DS badly and taken away the casual gamer.”
In the US portable gaming market, Apple and Google’s mobile platforms have nabbed a 58% stake according to figures released by Analytics firm Flurry.
The line between smartphone and gaming console appear to be blurring, encouraging Nintendo to incorporate mobile sensibilities.
The company is launching its own social network, aptly titled Miiverse, hoping a strong online strategy will help motivate customers to buy its new Wii U console. Nintendo’s online persona lags behind Sony and Microsoft, and there is concern its Miiverse is too late to be competitive.
“Nintendo is falling behind its rivals in the online gaming area. The idea of entering the field is good, but the question is whether the company can generate profits,” said Hajime Nakajima, a wholesale trader at Iwai Cosmo Securities, to The Vancouver Sun.
In Nintendo’s webcast, Iwata demonstrated a video chat function and the sharing of content (such as pictures) to other Miiverse members.
“Not only can it connect people in a better way within the same living room, but it also connects people (from) living room to living room in a much more compelling way,” he said.
In an unusual move for the company, Iwata announced Nintendo’s Miiverse will be made available to smartphone and tablet subscribers, marking the first time the company has offered support for non-Nintendo devices. The move could also mark a shift in direction for the company, perhaps indicating future support for mobile devices.
Nintendo’s rival Microsoft has said it has no intentions of announcing a new console, while Sony is exercising its right to remain silent.
President Iwata promised more announcements will be made at a Los Angeles press conference prior to the opening of E3.