You don't need to be a mustached plumber to know Nintendo is readying its next video game console, the Nintendo Wii U, slated for a holiday 2012 launch. Many are aware of its tablet-based controller, focus on a multiplayer experience and backward compatibility with existing Nintendo Wii discs. Perhaps you also read our "hands-on" impressions of the Wii U from the recent E3 video game expo in Los Angeles.
But even Nintendo fan boys might not be privy to lesser-known Nintendo Wii U facts and features.
And so we caught up with Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing, to reveal eight little-known goodies surround the upcoming Nintendo Wii U video game console.
U is for Universal
"Remember when 'Wii' became 'we'?" asks Moffitt, rhetorically. "'U' is u-niversal in every sense of the word [as it] delivers even more group fun than the original Nintendo Wii and adds a gaming experience that's tailor-made — for you." "In a perfect world, there would be one platform that's right for everyone, so that's precisely what Nintendo is proposing with Wii U," Moffitt adds. "The company is giving the world's game developers a unique toolbox and architecture so that they can build virtually anything."
Nintendo's new online network for the Wii U, called Miiverse, features an activity feed that will eventually be accessed through Web-enabled devices such as smartphones, explains Moffitt. "This lets users check on the status of their friends' activities in games, even if they are away from the console." The name is a mash-up of Mii Universe.
More than just games
"Netflix is heading to Wii U and the GamePad controller enables multiple viewing options, letting users view a movie or TV show streaming from Netflix on the TV while browsing for something to watch next on the GamePad," says Moffitt. "A more intimate viewing experience lets users watch Netflix on the Wii U GamePad while the TV is used to watch something else." Netflix Just for Kids on the Wii U will feature fun character navigation along with kid safe search results so parents can rest easy. Hulu Plus, Amazon, and YouTube will also bring video experiences to Wii U that take advantage of the integrated second screen experience.
GamePad delivers unique experiences
"Console games have always been about the interaction between the players and the machine," maintains Moffitt, and "Wii U completely alters that paradigm by expanding the experience to a unique and integrated second-screen controller." This creates new types of gameplay and "will completely redefine what is possible from a single-player, competitive and collaborative perspective." Moffitt says the Wii U will deliver a kind of social fun that families have never experienced since the player with the GamePad essentially plays with a different viewpoint and controls. For example, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest features two different, yet related, game-play experiences in a cooperative adventure that uses both the Wii Remote Plus controllers and the Wii U GamePad.
Channel hopping, wireless connectivity
The GamePad also has a TV button, which allows it to act as a remote control for the TV. This includes the ability to change channels or turn the volume up and down -- without turning the Wii U console on. "In addition, the GamePad features NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, which is the ability to communicate wirelessly with objects that are held above it," adds Moffitt. "This allows for a variety of interesting new possibilities for games and activities."
New to the Wii U is Video Chat, which connects the living rooms of families and friends, far or near. "The availability of two screens -- TV and Wii U GamePad -- allows players to share the experience with the whole family." The application is seamlessly integrated into the Wii U with the Wii U GamePad providing camera input. "This is an entirely free service and is exclusive to Wii U systems," confirms Moffitt.
Inspiration for Nintendo Land
Nintendo wanted to find a way to bring all the classic Nintendo franchises together in a virtual theme park and to start demonstrating the gaming magic of the Wii U GamePad. The result was Nintendo Land, which includes attractions such as Donkey Kong's Crash Course, Luigi's Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest and Takamaru's Ninja Castle -- which is based on an early Famicom game available only in Japan that turns the GamePad into a launcher for ninja stars.
Lesser-known Wii U games
Project P-100 (working title) is a new "mass hero" action game from Platinum Games. "Earth is under attack from an invasion of enormous aliens, and the only thing that can protect the planet is a group of unlikely, yet mighty, heroes with special abilities," explains Moffitt. "Unfortunately, the aliens are too powerful for the heroes to fight individually -- they must join forces and work together to defeat their common enemy." These uniquely different heroes can morph into powerful weapons to crush the invaders or turn into objects like a giant fist or bridge to interact with and traverse the environments.
Another little-known Wii U game is Game & Wario (working title): Wario and his Diamond City friends are back in action with a collection of games that use only the Wii U GamePad controller. The games will retain the original flair and character of the micro-games from the WarioWare series.