E3 2011: Nintendo unveils new console! But will it recapture hardcore gamers?


Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Just as the internet rumor mill predicted a couple of months ago, Japanese gaming giant Nintendo revealed its follow-up to the remarkably successful Wii home console Tuesday morning at their E3 conference at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Its name? Wii U. Let the pronoun wordplay marinate in your mind for a sec. Yeah, I’m not sure if I like the name either. But it’s the Big N’s way of building off a console that’s attracted millions of people who were traditionally apathetic toward video games, like septuagenarian school principals. Wii titles top the list of best-selling games of all time, and the system’s Grandma-accessible, motion-sensing gameplay has left Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 kissing Mario’s brown, Goomba-bopping clogs, at least in terms of sales numbers. So, what went down at Nintendo’s presser, and what did we learn about their new hardware?

Wii U — Picture this: You’re playing Zelda, and you’re in the midst of a particularly decisive boss battle. Then your cable-starved SO strides into the living room, demanding to switch on House Hunters, SportsCenter, or whatever your wife/husband/live-in iguana-sitter wants to watch. How dare such whims interrupt your gaming session? You’re already forced to share your toilets and breakfast nooks with these people. But your TVs? Well, cast aside those worries, folks. The Wii U’s controller, which features a 6.2-inch screen, will continue running the video game you’re playing, even as someone else starts to watch television. (For more on the new console’s specs and features, and there are a lot of them, check out our hands-on demo.)

While the technology is way cool, will it compromise Nintendo’s appeal to seasoned gamers, many of whom have felt marginalized by the company in recent years? Will we simply be fed more lightweight Wii Sports-like software in an attempt to build, as well as sustain, an audience that’s new to gaming? No way, implied Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America: “Look, we hear you,” were the first words out of his mouth at Tuesday’s conference. He promised lots of third-party support for the Wii U, something that the first Wii has struggled maintaining, partially because many developers have opted to create games for the more powerful Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But when John Riccitiello, CEO of EA, took to the stage, it symbolized a possible olive branch to the hardcore players who’ve gravitated toward other consoles. Ricciletto called the Wii U “truly transformational,” and described EA and Nintendo’s new working relationship as “unprecedented.”

The Legend of Zelda‘s 25th anniversary — The press conference opened with a choir and full orchestra accompanying a Zelda montage, with scenes spanning from the franchise’s 8-bit era in the ’80s to the Wii’s Twilight Princess. Basically, this was Nintendo’s way of saying, “We’ve been on the video game scene for a while. This is our turf. We will cut you.” Their success with the Zelda series rolls on with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which will be released for the original Wii this holiday season. Look for promotional accoutrements like a gold Wii remote (déjà vu!), a globetrotting concert series of Zelda music, CD soundtracks, a re-releases of Link’s Awakening for the 3DS Virtual Console, and a 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time.

Lots of 3DS content – A new Mario Kart, a 3-D remake of Star Fox 64, Kid Icarus Uprising (which was teased at last year’s E3), a sequel to the GameCube’s Luigi’s Mansion and a new Mario platformer (the tanuki suit returns!). The Kart title, which features customizable karts for the first time in the series, launches this holiday, while Star Fox will barrel roll its way into American consumers’ hearts in September. The others are slated to release later this year.

What were your highlights of Nintendo’s conference, PopWatchers? Does the Wii U Mii Us Them name give the new console the gravitas it needs? Do you think the company’s new hardware, restored third party relationships, and 3DS plans will get you in, or get you out? Sound off below!

Read more:
Nintendo Wii U: We’ve played the successor to the Wii!
E3 2011: EA and Ubisoft tease ‘Mass Effect 3,’ ‘Rayman Origins’ and more
‘Gears of War 3,’ ‘Halo 4,’ and Kinect, Kinect, Kinect: Highlights from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 E3 press briefing
E3: Five Reasons We’re Excited (including the new Wii)

Comments (26 total) Add your comment
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  • Josh

    I for one am counting the days til launch and hope I can manage to round up the money in time, but I have no problem waiting for a price drop. There’s IPs coming to the WiiU we never thought we’d see on a Nintendo system. While I hate the name of the system, the fact that we’ll have an Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham City, Tekken, and at launch, Darksiders 2, among other games, as well as Madden and other EA sports titles that look just as good on the WiiU as the 360 and PS3, it has me truly excited for it. And while it won’t be utilized much, the ability to continue playing a game without using the TV is really nice. And, while I’m not a graphics hound, the demo of it’s graphical capabilities showed it to be capable of spectacular visiuals. I wants it, and the launch date cannot get here soon enough.

  • Jay

    I have always been a Nintendo fan and I have owned each and every Nintendo system ever released (except for the god-awful Virtual Boy). And I have to admit I am a bit sceptical. I’ll reserve my judgement til I get some hands-on experience, but that controller looks wonky

    • Mike

      Very wonky!

  • Mike

    The controller is too big!!

  • Wow

    This looks horrible…

    • Tim

      Just what everyone needs. Another game console.

  • Andy

    Link’s Awakening will only be available on the 3DS Virtual Console, not the Wii.

  • Simon

    controller looks expensive and I don’t want to drop it

  • Seeker

    After the Wii no thanks. Apparently this system is not significantly more powerful then a PS3 or 360, even if it is at that. Will be saving money for the next Xbox and Ps4 which should be released in 2013-2014 with huge hardware upgrades.

    • Isi

      Agreed, 3rd party ports when the next Xbox/PS come out will look utterly mediocre on this system with 2012 to 2014 tech which will be vastly superior to that of the 7 year old tech the current gen is running on. Thing better than Crysis PC graphics on max at launch.

    • Henry Young

      Microsoft and Sony have said that the Xbox 360 and PS3 have a minimum 10 year life cycle so don’t expect a new xbox and playstation til 2016.

      And if you lisent to the speech the Wii U is more powerful than the xbox 360 and PS3.

      • Derek

        minimum 10 year lifespan? Who would do that in the electronic world? There are already rumors of a successor for the 360. Nintendo’s claim of being more powerful than 5 year old technology seriously doesn’t mean much.

  • Gill

    This is much more powerful than either, is very stream lined in terms of interface, and personally, i would be using the controller alot. its big and whatever but its functionality is WAAAY worth it. internet, email, games, ds, everything together.
    and its precision and full functionality make it like a suuped up extension to the wii, this is something REVOLUTIONARY in a way that nothing in the gaming idustry has ever been for a LONG time.

  • Karl Milne

    I like how the article makes it sound like it was just rumors nintendo was going to announce the new system. Nintendo announced a month ago they would be unveiling the successor to the WII at E3.

  • Sue B

    Nintendo has never been about the hard core gamers. They zigged when Microsoft and Sony zagged. Those two brands went after the PC gamers (microsoft) and true ‘gamer-gamers’. Nintendo went after the mass, and succeeded with their Wii. Changed gaming for the mass market – not after hard core gamers…

  • Kevin C.

    The “Of all time!” in that link you posted is really “since 1995.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Super Mario Bros 3. beat out most or all of the games on that list.

  • lizardy

    I love how they count a game that came with the system in their tallies of ‘best-selling game of all time.’ Seriously, Nintendo’s problem is its failure to actively develop newer, more engaging titles with each system. Instead, we get rehashes from their core stable (Mario, Zelda, Punch Out, Metroid, etc) with nothing truly new to draw new gamers in. In this time of mega-corporations and big business, it actually seems more bleak for true innovation, as developers are more likely to stick to proven formulas (CoD/FPS, neverending sequels) in order to generate sales. That’s why when a game like the original Portal came out, so much praise was lavished upon it for being so unique. Nintendo needs to quit resting on its laurels and really get to work on creating new title/materials/characters that define the gaming experience for this generation…

    • Melissa

      I could care less about another new console. But if there’s no new Mario Party sometime soon…I will cut you, Nintendo.

  • My son is also named Bort

    Nintendo has never been about the serious gamer they went after the other markets: girls, older people & they now own that.

  • say waat? xbox vs. wii

    Dude even though im a chick i play black ops for the wii. The xbox got the map packs, why not the wii? Well the sad thing is, nobody cares enough about the wii cod enough to please their players. So , if u r a cod bo wii player, i say join me in flipping the bird to nincompoop. Yeah maybe they were working on the wii u, but still a bird in the hand is worth 2 in a bush.

  • tim


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