E3 2011: Wii U unveiled at Nintendo press conference, Skyward Sword due in Q4

New console will feature 6.2-inch touch-screen controller with a host of features; next Legend of Zelda gets release window; massive third-party support includes THQ, Sega, Tecmo, 2K, EA; 2011 3DS lineup detailed.

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LOS ANGELES--At its 2010 E3 media briefing, Nintendo built its show around the 3DS and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Both of those products are likely to receive their fair share of attention at this year's E3 event, but the Nintendo show will most assuredly be stolen by the company's unveiling of its next console.

The Wii U controller.
The Wii U controller.

Nintendo confirmed an E3 appearance for its new console in April, but gave few details. While official information about the system is in short supply, rumors and speculation have flourished in recent months. Possible specs, culled from no fewer than a half-dozen unconfirmed reports, call for the high-definition console to feature a controller with a 6.2-inch touch screen and built-in camera. Additionally, the system is supposedly going to have 8GB of built-in flash memory and no hard drive. How many of these rumors will be verified, contradicted, or sidestepped entirely during Nintendo's conference remains to be seen. And what's the final name going to be?

As for its most recent hardware release, the 3DS is likely to receive plenty of attention as well. Though most of Nintendo's key franchises have been confirmed to appear on the system, none of them have yet seen release. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D arrives June 19, but Nintendo still has plenty of light it could shed on projects like Super Mario Bros. 3DS, Donkey Kong 3D, Kirby 3D, Mario Kart, and Animal Crossing. And there's always the possibility Nintendo will drop word of another 3DS debut for one of its favored franchises, something along the lines of Metroid, Smash Bros., or Pikmin.

The Wii U, up close and personal.
The Wii U, up close and personal.

And of course, there's still the Wii. Nintendo has said it doesn't expect its next console to see release until after March of 2012, leaving the lineup for its current console nearly dry. Beyond The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo has announced little aside from new installments in Rhythm Tengoku and Wii Play.

Nintendo's E3 2011 press conference can currently be viewed on GameSpot. A full liveblog of the event is below.

[8:55] Attendees are milling about in the Nokia Center a block away from the Los Angeles Convention Center, eagerly awaiting the unveiling of Nintendo's new console.

[8:56] As in years past, Nintendo is giving them something to do while they wait by flashing trivia from its past franchises on the three giant screens surrounding the stage.

[8:56] Which Mario game featured a flying carpet?

[8:56] Super Mario 2.

As per tradition, Nintendo is entertaining the crowd with pre-show trivia.
As per tradition, Nintendo is entertaining the crowd with pre-show trivia.

[8:57] What's the first thing Link does in every Zelda game since A Link to the Past?

[8:58] He wakes up.

[8:59] What's the name of the final boss in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap?

[8:59] Vaati.

[8:59] In Star Fox, what is Fox's last name?

[8:59] McCloud.

[9:00] Ganondorf holds the Triforce of what?

[9:00] Power.

[9:01] It's the scheduled start time of 9 a.m. and there are still plenty of people milling about looking for seats. Anticipation builds.

[9:02] Star Fox 64 launched in what year?

[9:02] 1997.

[9:02] Lots of Star Fox and Kid Icarus questions in the trivia mix this year.

[9:03] What's the name of the shoe in Super Mario Bros. 3?

[9:03] Goomba's shoe.

[9:05] The bad news is that Nintendo's media briefing is starting late. The good news is that there's plenty of trivia left.

[9:05] What color does Pit turn when he gets to the third strength level in Kid Icarus?

[9:05] Purple.

[9:06] The music fades and a Zelda trailer kicks off the show.

[9:06] There's an entire orchestra onstage performing the theme song.

Skyward Sword orchestra.
Skyward Sword orchestra.

[9:06] The trailer recaps previous games in the series, including Link's Adventure, A Link to the Past, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess.

[9:07] There's a nice Ganon montage as the music turns menacing.

[9:08] Then everything gets a bit more serene to focus on the character of Zelda, and a choir to one side of the stage becomes much more prominent.

[9:09] There are a bunch of clips of Skyward Sword now, showing off the combat and some skydiving off a bird's back.

[9:09] The trailer ends with a logo proclaiming the 25th anniversary of the Zelda series.

[9:10] Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto takes the stage.

[9:11] Miyamoto welcomes the crowd and introduces Bill Trinnen to translate for him.

[9:11] Last year was Mario's 25th anniversary, Miyamoto says, adding that the gameplay and visuals have evolved with every hardware system, just like the music.

[9:11] Miyamoto said the orchestra was performing the theme song for Skyward Sword and calls music "an indispensable piece" of the Zelda series.

[9:12] Link has often used a musical instrument in his quests, Miyamoto adds. But since there's an orchestra at the show, he asks them to play some of the Zelda sounds for the crowd.

[9:12] He starts with the chime for solving a puzzle and then the item-getting sound effect.

Miyamoto in front of the orchestra.
Miyamoto in front of the orchestra.

[9:12] Next is the melody from a fairy fountain that heals Link.

[9:13] "Isn't that nice?" Miyamoto asks.

[9:13] Next is the sound for getting an item again, only this time with the full orchestra.

[9:14] Miyamoto pantomimes opening a chest and holding up the contents as the orchestra plays, and the audience applauds.

[9:14] For the series anniversary, Miyamoto said Nintendo is preparing new Zelda games for each of its hardware systems.

[9:14] The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening will go live on the 3DS eShop later today.

[9:15] Starting next weekend, The Legend of Zelda 3D: Ocarina of Time will launch around the world.

[9:15] Miyamoto said the frame rate has been improved, and the graphics have been revamped.

Twilight Princess on 3DS.
Twilight Princess on 3DS.

[9:15] For those playing for the first time, the game features hint movies. And for those more familiar with the game, Nintendo included the Master Quest and boss challenge modes.

[9:16] In September, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords will be available as a free DSiWare download.

[9:16] Finally, Skyward Sword will be out worldwide this holiday season for the Wii.

[9:16] The game will use WiiMotion Plus to swing the sword and make items like the bow and arrow simpler.

The new gold Wii remote.
The new gold Wii remote.

[9:17] Nintendo will also have a gold Wii Remote with Zelda branding available as a special promotion when the game launches.

[9:17] Miyamoto said the title will deliver "the most satisfying Zelda experience of any game in the series."

[9:18] In honor of the 25th anniversary, Nintendo will also hold a series of Legend of Zelda Symphony concerts in each region around the world.

[9:18] Miyamoto asks for a round of applause for the orchestra, and the crowd enthusiastically complies.

[9:19] Nintendo is also preparing two music CDs: the Ocarina of Time soundtrack, which will be free to the first group of gamers who register the game, and a CD highlighting the Zelda Symphony concerts.

[9:20] For the last 25 years, Zelda has been supported by an incredibly large development team, Miyamoto says, with 200 internal Nintendo developers working on the series.


[9:20] He invites several of the Zelda developers onstage: Takashi Tezuka, Yoshiaki Koizumi, and Eiji Aonuma.

[9:22] But Miyamoto says the fans are the most important, and he thanks all of them to end his part of the presentation.

[9:23] The orchestra plays Miyamoto and Co. off the stage.

Iwata takes the stage.
Iwata takes the stage.

[9:23] Nintendo president Satoru Iwata takes the stage.

[9:23] He says when Nintendo launched the DS and Wii, it had a stated goal of expanding the gaming population.

[9:23] As a result, the company has seen changes in who plays and how they play.

[9:23] As an industry, Iwata says we haven't achieved a platform equally satisfying for all players, but that's Nintendo's goal with its new system.

[9:23] Iwata focuses on two words: "deeper" and "wider."

[9:24] He wants to offer deeper game experiences than ever before and wider appeal, "even wider than the Wii."

[9:24] Full details will be left for "a little later this morning," which draws a groan from the crowd.

[9:25] Iwata says the new console is to look forward to next year, but for this year, there are new experiences for the 3DS.

[9:25] He leaves the stage, and a trailer runs with Mario Kart kicking things off.

[9:26] Mario's kart hang glides into the screen to show off the 3D. Then it's little bits of Star Fox and Super Mario Bros.

[9:26] Mario wears a Tanooki suit in the clip, which draws a cheer.

[9:26] Kid Icarus is up next and then a bit of Luigi's Mansion, which draws another round of applause.

Luigi's Mansion coming to the 3DS.
Luigi's Mansion coming to the 3DS.

[9:27] That's the end of the montage, and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime comes out to speak.

[9:27] "We hear you. You want what you've always wanted, but you also want something new."

[9:27] "You want things to play and look like they always have, but you also want the buzz of the new."

[9:28] Fils-Aime said contradictions like that come with the territory, but asks if it's fair to ask for "something for everyone."

[9:28] But that's what Nintendo wants to do, and Fils-Aime starts with the 3DS.

[9:29] Nintendo has the preceding five on the E3 show floor this week, and he's going to go into a bit of depth on Mario Kart.

Mario Kart for the 3DS.
Mario Kart for the 3DS.

[9:29] He introduces a gameplay trailer, which features the usual cast jumping and powersliding through a variety of levels.

[9:30] There are still speed strips and power-ups, but the video places a bit of emphasis on hang-gliding sections and propeller-aided underwater racing.

[9:30] There will also be player customization of karts.

[9:30] Mario Kart 3DS is due out holiday 2011.

Donkey Kong's sweet new ride.
Donkey Kong's sweet new ride.

[9:31] Fils-Aime said 1993's Star Fox made people feel like they were flying in 3D, but says Star Fox 3DS does the 3D for real.

[9:32] Players will be able to turn and tilt the system to control their ships.

[9:32] Additionally, the camera in the system will let players see their opponents as they shoot them down.

[9:32] Star Fox hits the 3DS in September.

[9:32] Fils-Aime moves to talk about Super Mario Bros. 3DS now.

[9:32] It's the first 3D Mario adventure created from scratch for a portable system, he says.

Super Mario 3D for the 3DS.
Super Mario 3D for the 3DS.

[9:34] He shows a trailer that combines some of the mechanics of Super Mario Galaxy with the Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 and the usual power-ups.

[9:34] The clip ends with Mario vaulting a flagpole for a 1-Up, and Fils-Aime said it will be out before the year is over.

[9:35] It's time to talk about Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Fils-Aime shows a new trailer featuring a variety of in-flight and on-ground combat, as well as hints as to the game's story.

[9:35] Now it's showing a multiplayer mode where players pick weapons and pit their angels against others.

Kid Icarus multiplayer.
Kid Icarus multiplayer.

[9:36] Medusa is once again serving as the antagonist, and a brief clip of an augmented-reality card game for Kid Icarus is shown.

[9:36] The three-on-three multiplayer mode will be playable on the E3 show floor this week.

[9:37] Kid Icarus: Uprising comes out later this year.

[9:37] Finally, Reggie moves on to talk about "the first brother of video games," and a trailer runs for Luigi's Mansion 2.

[9:37] Luigi once again has his vacuum as he explores a haunted house, sucking in coins and getting startled by ghosts.

[9:38] The trailer ends with a mummy encounter and plenty of applause.

Luigi's Mansion 2.
Luigi's Mansion 2.

[9:38] Fils-Aime says it's an entirely new game featuring several new mansions.

[9:39] When Nintendo first announced the 3DS, Fils-Aime said Nintendo touted its third-party developer support.

[9:40] A montage shows Mario and Sonic, Ace Combat 3D, Tetris, Cave Story 3D, Resident Evil Revelations, Driver Renegade, Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions, Tekken 3D, Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, and more.

3D Snake.
3D Snake.

[9:41] Fils-Aime said the library of 3DS games on the way is unprecedented. He says the eShop will open up the system like never before and said demos will arrive on the system later this year.

[9:42] The demos will be for downloadable or retail games.

[9:42] He talks about Virtual Console for the 3DS, saying console titles will be arriving for it in addition to the Game Boy and Game Boy Color rereleases.

[9:42] He mentions 3D Classics Excitebike and then teases the biggest download news for the 3DS: Pokemon.

[9:42] For the first time, Pokemon will spring to life "not only in 3D, but also in the real world," Fils-Aime said.

[9:43] Pokedex 3D will start with 16 Pokemon registered. For players to complete the Pokedex, they will need to use SpotPass, get them from friends, or scan AR markers to get them.

[9:44] Users will be able to superimpose their Pokemon on their photos, save the images to an SD card, and share them on PCs with their friends.

Just hanging out with a Pokemon.
Just hanging out with a Pokemon.

[9:44] 3DS owners will get the Pokedex for free by downloading the latest system update.

[9:44] There's one more order of business, Fils-Aime said, and that's to properly introduce "a new gaming companion."

[9:45] Fils-Aime said the Wii name made perfect sense once people started hearing it as "We."

[9:45] In thinking about a new system, Fils-Aime said Nintendo wanted it "to be a perfect fit just for you."

[9:45] "Welcome to the world of Wii U."

[9:46] It's a system people will enjoy together, he said, but one tailor-made "for you."

[9:46] Unique, unifying, utopia…

[9:46] He shows the new controller, which looks like a tablet with dual analog pads and buttons around the rim.

[9:46] There are triggers on the rear.

[9:46] Fils-Aime throws to a trailer.

The new Wii U controller.
The new Wii U controller.

[9:48] The clip starts with a player enjoying Mario on TV when a friend comes in and changes the channel to baseball.

[9:48] The user picks up the Wii U tablet and resumes his game on the screen where he had left it before.

[9:49] The new controller is motion-sensing, and clips of golf and baseball show off its functions.

[9:49] Another clip includes the Wii Balance Board, while another features the Wii blaster shell and Nunchuk.

The Wii U controller in action.
The Wii U controller in action.

[9:50] There are lots of suggested applications, from Web surfing with the TV and magnifying images with the controller to keeping inventory screens and interfaces on the device.

[9:50] The trailer ends with a Zelda clip of Link fighting a giant spider and a 2012 release window.

[9:50] The audience applauds enthusiastically, and Iwata comes back out to explain.

[9:51] Up until now, he says home console games have had to occupy the TV screen to be played. But with a 6.2-inch screen on the Wii U controller, there's no need to stop playing the game when somebody wants to watch TV.

[9:51] It's backward compatible with Wii controllers and accessories like the Balance Board.

Zelda on the Wii U.
Zelda on the Wii U.

[9:52] The device is designed to appeal to all users, especially traditional gamers, who will appreciate the twin circle pads, the D pad, two shoulder buttons, twin triggers, microphones, the accelerometer, the camera, and the gyroscope.

[9:52] The controller also has a speaker on it.

[9:53] However, Iwata said it wasn't designed to be a portable game system.

[9:53] The images on the screen are generated by Wii U and wirelessly transmitted without latency.

[9:54] Some games will be able to be played without a TV at all, or using both screens at the same time.

[9:54] Nintendo decided on the new structure for Wii U because it wanted to create a strong bond between players and the games and the Internet.

Could this be the next Zelda?
Could this be the next Zelda?

[9:54] That can include Web browsing, with players using the controller to find images to share on the big screen, or Web chatting on it instead.

[9:55] But the most important thing for gamers is to see how that structure can be incorporated into gameplay, and Iwata introduces a trailer of Miyamoto offering insight on the hardware.

[9:56] Miyamoto said he's looking forward to new styles of play and adds there won't be a shortage of ideas on how to use the system.

[9:56] He stresses repeatedly that there will be numerous ways to play games on the Wii U.

Miyamoto explaining the benefits of the Wii U.
Miyamoto explaining the benefits of the Wii U.

[9:57] Iwata said new ideas are popping up one after another. A few months ago, he explained the concept of Wii U to Kid Icarus designer Masahiro Sakurai, and they discussed if his next game should be for the 3DS or the Wii U.

[9:58] His idea was to make a new Smash Bros. for both systems, which draws a large cheer.

[9:58] The games will work together on both platforms "in some fashion," Iwata says.

[9:58] He brings Fils-Aime back to explain which Wii U games will be on hand at E3.

[9:59] Fils-Aime says there will be eight different "interactive experiences" on the show floor at E3, but noted that Nintendo's demos are not actual games.

A new tech demo for the Wii U.
A new tech demo for the Wii U.

[10:00] A high-definition trailer runs of a bird flying around a Japanese temple. Trees bloom, soft music plays, and the bird carries a flower in its beak, dropping it over a pond where fish dart around in the water.

[10:00] The trailer ends, and Fils-Aime talks about how the new controller could change things.

[10:01] He talks about a conceptual idea called New Super Mario Bros. Mii, where players' Miis play alongside Mario.

[10:01] There's also Shield Pose, where players use the controller like a shield to protect themselves from pirate arrows.

Chase Mii.
Chase Mii.

[10:02] Next is Chase Mii, where the player with the new controller gets a bird's-eye view on the four Wii Remote users trying to catch them.

[10:02] That same idea was used for a new kind of shooter, with Wii Remote users sharing a split-screen on the TV as they try to shoot down a UFO.

[10:03] The player with the new controller is the UFO, trying to take out the planetary defenses.

[10:03] Fils-Aime stresses they are all just prototypes, not actual games.

[10:03] However, he said Traveller's Tales will bring Lego City Stories to the Wii U and 3DS.

Lego City Stories for the Wii U.
Lego City Stories for the Wii U.

[10:03] It appears to be an open-world take on the Lego games.

[10:04] It's time for another montage, with various publishers talking about how excited they are for the system.

[10:05] 5th Cell's Jeremiah Slazcka, Irrational's Ken Levine, EA Sports' Peter Moore, Disney's Warren Spector, EA's Frank Gibeau, THQ's Danny Bilson, and more talk about it.

Ken Levine is bringing a new game to the Wii U.
Ken Levine is bringing a new game to the Wii U.

[10:05] Tekken Wii Successor, Darksiders 2, Batman: Arkham City, a new Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon Online, and more are confirmed for the system.

[10:06] Codemasters' Dirt is next, followed by Aliens Colonial Marines.

[10:07] Ghost Recon Online gameplay is shown and then there's a clip of Metro Last Light from THQ.

Tekken on the Wii U.
Tekken on the Wii U.

[10:08] Namco's Tekken is next, with a clip showing some character customization as players scribble on Jin's face and tailor an icon for the back of Lars' jacket.

[10:08] Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is next, which draws some applause.

Now that's a lot of blood for a Nintendo press conference.
Now that's a lot of blood for a Nintendo press conference.

[10:09] There's a bit of a focus on gore in some of these clips.

[10:09] The montage ends, and Fils-Aime and Iwata return.

[10:09] Fils-Aime says everything people will see this week is just a first pass, and there's a lot to look forward to when it arrives in its final form.

[10:09] Iwata returns to his "deeper" and "wider" keywords and then invites Electronic Arts' John Riccitiello to the stage.

EA is a big fan of Nintendo's new console.
EA is a big fan of Nintendo's new console.

[10:10] Riccitiello talks about a breakthrough in the relationship between Nintendo and EA. What the Wii U delivers speaks directly to fans of EA Sports and EA Games, he says.

[10:11] Imagine a game that takes all the interface of Madden off the big screen, or a shooter like Battlefield 3, on a Nintendo system with a breakthrough controller and online functionality that lets you participate in a global community.

Battlefield 3 on the Wii U?
Battlefield 3 on the Wii U?

[10:11] Imagine those experiences being extended to mobile, social networks, and the Web.

[10:12] Riccitiello says Wii U is transformational and says it will be driven by an unprecedented partnership with Electronic Arts.

[10:12] He then leaves, and Fils-Aime comes back to wrap things up.

[10:12] Each is unique, but he says they share a common pedigree in innovation.

[10:13] This week, Fils-Aime says E3 attendees will have the chance to hold the controller in their hands. The experience continues now for those at the Nokia Theatre as well as those watching online.

[10:15] Attendees here will be able to check out the Wii U at the LACC, and those watching online can check out the Nintendo Network, Fils-Aime said.

[10:15] Fils-Aime closes, promising that players have incredible new game worlds to explore this week.

[10:15] That's it for the conference!

For more info on Nintendo's latest console, the Wii U, be sure to check out our Nintendo Wii U: Everything You Need To Know feature or watch Nintendo's E3 2011 Press Conference to see the full reveal!

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