Nintendo Wii U: We've played the successor to the Wii!

Today, Nintendo finally revealed the successor to its blockbuster home console system the Wii, the curiously titled Wii U. The console itself looks like a slightly tweaked version of the shiny white brick Wii users know so well; the only obvious upgrade was its ability to provide a true high-definition picture, something Nintendo fans have been clamoring for since the Wii first hit shelves in 2006. The real innovation, however, is the Wii U controller (pictured), which features a 6.2 inch HD touchscreen, microphone, gyroscope, accelerometer, front-facing camera, two analog controllers, and more buttons than than a Black Eyed Peas costume.

Although the company had no firm release date other than “next year,” and no price point to speak of, EW was offered a sneak peek at what to expect from the system. As has been the case with new Nintendo gadgets over the last five years, the experience was long on smiles and charm — and lingering questions as well. 

The Wii U is so brand new, in fact, Nintendo had no actual games to offer in its sneak preview — just “demos” that showed off the basics of what the Wii U controller can do. But that was enough for now. The device itself feels surprisingly light for its size, and ergonomically it felt good in my hands — although I never had a chance to really make use of the ABXY buttons just underneath the right analog dial, which could get a bit tricky for more complex games.

As for the screen itself, it essentially promises to bring the gameplay innovations spearheaded by the Nintendo DS and 3DS to console gaming. The screen can be a map of your surroundings; lay it on the ground, and it becomes the tee from which you can shoot a golf ball with your traditional Wiimote. Switch from playing your game on the TV to the controller itself if someone else wants to watch Extreme Couponing or Nurse Jackie instead — Nintendo should call this option the “Relationship Saver.”

You can also use the screen as an alternate view on a multiplayer game; the demo I played involved me flying a UFO in a thunderdome-like arena, while my colleague Jeff Jensen tried to zap me from below. I saw him on my screen, while Jeff saw me on the TV. Not only that, but I could change my view by physically moving my Wii U controller around in space, which took some getting used to but brought an immediate smile to my face.

And the Wii U controller can also operate relatively independently from the main console, with simple games like Backgammon or certain options within Wii Fit. But Nintendo president Satoru Iwata stressed that the controller is not meant to be a standalone handheld device; no bringing it with you on the subway or vacation, I’m afraid.

The best thing I can say about the Wii U is that it looks, feels, and plays like a quintessential Nintendo experience — but that cuts both ways. The Wii U has been clearly designed with hardcore gamers in mind; I was especially impressed with the HD output, both on a big screen and on the controller screen as well. But can Nintendo have its cake and eat it too? The company has had a dickens of a time getting third-party game developers to create blockbuster games for the Wii, in large part because hardcore gamers have not taken the Wii all that seriously. (For what game publishers like EA and Ubisoft have in store for the Wii U, check out EW’s full report on the Nintendo E3 press event later today.) “Wii U” is the most whimsical name for a gaming system I’ve ever seen, and it’s bright, rounded design is at odds with the black, sharp-angled shapes of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Function, of course, will ultimately outweigh form; if great games come to the Wii U, gamers will follow. We’ll just have to wait another year (or so) to find out if that will happen, and if gamers will say, “Wii U! Woo hoo!” — or, as Doc Jensen is forcing me to joke, “Wii U? P.U.!”

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Read more:
E3 2011: Nintendo unveils new console! But will it recapture hardcore gamers?
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 (52 total) Add your comment
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  • Kaycee

    Looks mighty gimmicky. It better have some decent games, graphics, and online capabilities.

    • Jason

      That’s what I’m saying. The Wii got to a point where I only wanted to play it if I was having friends over. I want some gamer friendly games with awesome graphics.

      • Lauren

        Somebody hasn’t picked up Golden Eye… Ok, ok, the graphics aren’t amazing but dang that game is just as much fun as it was when I was ten and playing it on N64.

      • Tim

        Yay! More crap we can’t afford. Thank goodness for credit cards.

      • Peter

        Tim, get a job.

      • Ian

        Get a better job Tim. I can afford it just fine.

      • Eric

        Wii U rhymes with P.U.

      • Jeff

        I feel so dumb enjoying my Wii for the last five years. I love these hardcore gamers. The Wii, while not a graphics powerhouse (who cares?) want the same stuff that they see on Xbox and Playstation. Then don’t buy a Wii. The Wii was made to be different. The developers are being lazy too. Instead of making a unique experience for the Wii audience, they’d rather push out the same repetitive games that they make for PS3 and Xbox. I play games like Goldeneye but it is so great that my wife can hop on and play Mario Bros Wii or Wii Sports. She’s not a gamer but that’s the thing. The Wii caters to those of us who don’t dedicate hours a day to playing games. People with lives.

      • Eric

        The Wii is fun…WHEN there’s decent games. They’re far and few between.

      • Sir Toke-a-lot

        Jeff. I fail to see your point. Are you bashing or defending the wii? The wii was a gimmick. Sure, I bought one when it came out, played Zelda: Twilight Princess (probably the only decent game for the console), but was left unfulfilled. Nintendo may have improved the graphics and went back to the standard ABXY partial motion controller, but without a reliable online multiplayer server such as PSN or Xbox Live, they will still be looked at as a “toy” in the eyes of serious gamers. They really need to step up their game.

    • Jay

      They’re aiming at the serious gamer market too. They announced Batman Arkham City, Tekken and some other very non Wii-like games.

    • Harley

      As if the graphics craze itself isn’t a gimmick.

  • Cap’n O.G. Weedmore

    I want to hear Doc Jensen’s theory on how the Wii U is alive. I kid. I don’t want to hear it.

    • Luis

      ha! i can’t even see jensen’s name anymore without groaning.

      • Mike

        did you groan while typing it?

      • DGH

        Damn Jeff I didn’t know you had that kind of tingly effect on people!

  • Trey

    Why even make this in the first place? The original Wii was a good idea, but the fact that pretty much every game made for the Wii sucked…

    • Vickie Ess

      Yeah, why make another product that has already made billions of dollars? Seems silly.

      • Fingerlakes Dave

        You could ask Sony PS2 to PS3 or MS X-Box to X-Box 360 the same question.
        And a large % of their games sucked.
        Nintendo fans are Nintendo fans. Zelda, Mario, Metroid.
        Those you don’t find on other consoles.

      • Nathan

        Hard to justify getting a console for 3 titles and no COD, GOW, Uncharted, Battlefield, Portal etc etc etc

      • Jay

        Not hard to justify AT ALL. The Nintendo systems are usually worth every penny just for the Mario/Zelda/Metroid games alone

      • K

        Two things here. “Every game for Wii sucked.” Really?? I have LOVED a number of Wii games and thought they were fantastic. How do you not think Super Mario Galaxy is a good game?? The other thing is Nathan’s comment – yes, unfortunately no one made many 3rd party games for Wii, but I definitely have a Call of Duty disc in my Wii right now. It’s pretty damn good.

      • Tim

        I think it is stupid you have to buy 3 different consoles to play essentially on the same internal hardware components. It’s all the same hardware.

  • Jeannie

    Looks like it could be innovative and fun. I’m a casual gamer, and I’m definitely a fan of Nintendo products (I have a Wii and a DS) and I think this sounds like something I would purchase when the price is affordable.

  • Jay

    Didn’t Dreamcast try to do screens on the controllers back in 1999?

    As I recall, that didn’t work out so well…

    • jason

      The screen was too new of an idea for the era of the dreamcast. Now everything has a screen, its almost the standard. I think its an innovative idea. we will see how it is implemented.

    • Lauren

      Dreamcast was ahead of its time. People just didn’t know what to make of it.

    • don

      popwatch ate my post.. (assuming because it had a vid)

      sega also had a portable that used a true CRT screen that used genesis cartridges, which could actually be hooked up to the TV and play just like the game system and somebody (idk if it was third party or sega) made a motion controller called the sega activator (you can find it on youtube)

      • Masako

        Can you foresee the trluobe? ?When I?m home by myself, nothing?s as exciting as playing with my Wii. It?s also fun when there?s a lot of people over: up to four friends can play with my Wii at the same time!?How about Have you tried playing with my Wii? It\’s a whole new way to play with yourself! I could go on.That said, and like James mentions, I think I\’m finally understanding why it\’s called Wii .We\’re talking about it. Heck, I\’ve seen more blog posts about this announcement, than about the PS3 or Xbox 2. It\’s COMPLETELY unlike ANY console name previously, and especially unlike Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. This will no doubt appeal to the audience which is turned off by PS3 and XB2 (I\’m part of that audience, btw).As much as the name is awkward and possibly dumb, it\’s kinda fun and eye-opening. I\’m thinking the conversation goes something like Hey have you heard about the new Nintendo Wii? The Nintendo what

    • Baturalp

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  • Paul

    Looks like a glorified Gameboy.

    • Tim

      It’s like those Applephiles. You slap a logo on it, and they have to buy one.

      • Mike

        yeah…cause THAT’S what it is.

    • StarFox

      That’s just the controller lol.

  • Grpeephole303

    Fail

    Why would i buy a game system that will cost most likely 300$ when i could buy the PSV for the same price and have about the same functionabilities

  • joe luck

    Pass. You have to hold up the controller and block half your tv screen. I don’t see families buying this thing for a game night.

    • azul120

      If you think you have to do it like that, you’re doing it wrong.

  • shamonfrom the bx

    so how much you think it will cost if you want a 2nd controller? $100? $200?

  • Tanner Kellogg

    You can use old Wii remotes… Plus you won’t be blocking the screen with the remote as the new tablet remote can play the game without the use of the tv. Also it’s backward compatible. If you go to Nintendo’s website you can see the very “non wii” games as said before that they’re going to be releasing. The graphics look like they’ll be pretty sweet!

  • Laura W

    I reckon it looks cool!! I want one pronto!!

  • EL FRANCO

    Everybody is crazy over this new WII, which doesn’t even come out until next year and had only small demos to show at E3, but there was another system that came out from Sony that media seems to ignore. The Sony Vita is a portable system that got high praise at E3, showed real live games, and was much better then the 3DS. I believe that we been blinded too much from Nintendo.

    • Mike

      So EW ignored it on the day sony revealed it like they ignored the Wii u on the day Nintendo revealed it? What are you really getting at here?

      http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/06/07/e3-2011sony-playstation-vita/

      • Mike

        granted, there are less comments on the sony article…but that doesn’t mean the “MEDIA” ignored its announcement!

      • Pxulinx

        THAT WAS SO COOL!!! I’m a low-tech Mom as well but this was dinefitely cool!! You must be soooo popular with the neighbors and your girls’ friends and families. Good for you!

  • JM3

    I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a gaming system and it’s games to have it’s graphics look like other consoles did in 1989. Not just graphics but gameplay, gravity, and playabilty. Nintendo hasn’t showm me anything I would consider cutting edge. As an adult I expect more for my money than childish games and what I consider their unwillingness cater to consumers outside the 5-13 year old group

    • Jay

      Did you even READ the article??
      This system is designed with high-graphics HD capbility to compete directly with PS3 & XBOX 360.
      If you were playig games that looked this good in 1989, you must be from the future.

      So, how is Doc Brown, anyway?

  • Mark

    Its really cool! I cant wait for it ! But how will the next ds look like? If the wii u looks cool , imagine the new ds!

  • aaron

    Myself I’m kinda tired of all the motion sensor stuff I’m over it I think nintendo needs to make it like they used too with just regular controllers and normal game play

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