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Wii U GamePad, online features revealed

E3 2012: Satoru Iwata shows off the Wii U's redesigned tablet controller, video chat, and social interactivity functions at pre-E3 presentation.


What's the skinny?
--The rumors of a redesigned Wii U GamePad are true! Analog sticks instead of circle pads, and a few other changes to boot.
--The Wii U Pro Controller will give traditional gamers a pad more like what they're used to.
--The Wii U will have new social features, like being able to video chat with other players through the controller, or looking to the community for answers to game questions.
--The dashboard will be called the Miiverse, and more details about the Wii U's online features were revealed.

The full blow-by-blow:

LOS ANGELES--Nintendo was already planning to have the last of the major Electronic Entertainment Expo media briefings with its Tuesday morning event at the Nokia Theater, but the Wii U maker is actually going to bookend the conference with a pre-E3 show today.

Touch the future! Go on, touch it!
Touch the future! Go on, touch it!

The company's Nintendo Direct site is promoting a presentation from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in which the executive doles out new information about the Wii U. Follow along with the GameSpot liveblog below to find out just what Nintendo has up its sleeve.

[2:56] We aren't the only ones waiting for Iwata to kick off this presentation. There are more than 36,000 people hanging on the Nintendo Direct stream right now.

[3:01] Iwata greets the audience, and explains a Japanese slogan that the company has used as its guidance. It means "creating something unique."

[3:01] Iwata said he hopes people will think "That is certainly unique" several times as they watch Nintendo's E3 unfold this week.

[3:02] Iwata said the company will focus almost entirely on Wii U games at the Nintendo briefing, so today is more about the system and the controller.

[3:03] He talked about the book Alone Together, saying that new technologies have made life easier and more efficient, but suggests it is changing the nature of human relationships.

[3:03] One of the challenges Nintendo set for itself was to make something that would unite people rather than divide them, whether in the same room or distances apart.

[3:04] He shows off the Wii U GamePad, the system's tablet controller.

[3:05] The GamePad now features two stick-type devices instead of the 3DS-like circle pads.

[3:05] Iwata said that format with circle pads was more appropriate for portable devices where players need a low profile for the hardware. The sticks on the new GamePad can also be pushed in as a button.

[3:06] There's also a little mark on the left of the screen, which is where the near-field communications interface is.

The redesigned Wii U tablet controller
The redesigned Wii U tablet controller

[3:06] NFC is the technology used for Skylanders. In addition, the Wii U is an independent infrared TV remote.

[3:07] Iwata said many people are used to having two screens with the DS, but with the Wii U, the relation is more dynamic because the relationship between the two isn't fixed.

[3:08] He also touts "asymmetric diversity" implications of having different screens with different abilities for different players.

[3:08] The two screens can work together in unprecedented ways, he said. The GamePad also senses movement with motion and gyro sensors.

[3:08] By using more intuitive motions to control a game, players of all skill levels can better play together.

[3:09] All of this is enhanced because of the improved graphics processing power of the hardware, Iwata said, something people will recognize better during Nintendo's proper E3 presentation.

[3:10] Iwata said players will be able to continue playing on the GamePad when the TV screen is being used for something else.

[3:10] In any of these situations, Iwata said players will see high-quality graphics on the TV, and those images will be displayed on the GamePad without delay, "something no existing handheld game devices can do."

[3:11] Nintendo will also offer the Wii U Pro Controller for more traditional control methods.

[3:11] "Some people will wonder if Wii U is a simple evolution of Wii or something entirely different. I think maybe the correct answer is both."

[3:12] Iwata said the most memorable experiences with the Wii came when people play together. Wii U does what the Wii did only better, but also something entirely new.

The new Wii U Pro Controller!
The new Wii U Pro Controller!

[3:12] He stresses that it connects people remotely in a much more compelling way, and he says he'll show an example.

[3:13] He intros a clip with some gamer talking about serving zombies a bullet sandwich.

[3:14] He gets eaten by the zombie boss, and then the GamePad asks him what his mood is. He picks a picture of a sad face from a list, and then checks posts from a number of other people who have been having problems beating the boss.

[3:14] His friend calls him to offer help, but then another online player helps him figure it out.

[3:15] He's told to use the "scanner" to locate pockets of swollen glands on the zombie. It doesn't work. Then he says he's going to call OctoG123 to get help.

A shot from Nintendo's Wii U zombie video.
A shot from Nintendo's Wii U zombie video.

[3:16] He connects the GamePad to a cradle and then calls his grandfather (OctoG123) for a video chat about the game.

[3:16] He tries it again and beats the zombie boss.

[3:16] The clip ends with the slogan "Together Wii U" on the screen.

[3:17] "I think you may agree that was a little different," Iwata says. "I hope you liked it."

[3:17] Now he's talking about the Wii U menu people see when they power it on. The developers have been calling it Mii Wara Wara.

[3:18] Roughly translated, "Wara Wara" refers to the commotion caused by a crowd.

The screen you'll see when the Wii U boots up.
The screen you'll see when the Wii U boots up.

[3:18] The Mii Wara Wara will feature your Mii, your friends' Miis, and Miis of players currently playing in your country.

[3:19] The GamePad will show a familiar lineup of games and applications, but the TV screen will show a bunch of games and the Miis of people playing those games at that moment.

[3:20] The result (Miiverse, Iwata calls it) will show people which games are popular right now. He explains that Miiverse is a combination of "Mii" and "Universe," just in case that wasn't understood.

Get it? Miiverse!
Get it? Miiverse!

[3:21] Communication between Miis can happen with simple text messages, but players can also write with their hands.

[3:21] Iwata said he has problems reading the channel guide from across the room, but handwritten notes and doodles can be easier to read.

[3:22] Miiverse also lets players select a facial expression for their Mii to have next to their message.

[3:22] All of these Miiverse features are native to the platform and can be accessed from all Wii U games directly from the home button.

[3:23] Developers will also be able to incorporate Wiiverse features in their games if they choose. Iwata said Nintendo will work to prevent spoilers in Wiiverse, but they want to create "a new degree of empathy between players."

[3:23] The small screen on the Wii U GamePad is a "Social Window" capable of linking players to one another, Iwata said.

[3:24] In Miiverse, even in a single-player game, Iwata said the system can connect players with each other, "regardless of space or time."

[3:24] The key components of Miiverse are browser-based, so eventually those features will be available from the 3DS, the PC, or any Web-enabled mobile device.

[3:25] The social elements of Miiverse are also designed to work with future Nintendo devices, Iwata said. (Start the Wii U Too rumors now!)

[3:26] The Wii U GamePad makes the connections between players and devices richer, Iwata said, because the GamePad screen can perform functions independent of the Wii U itself. There's an Internet browser that lets players share what they're looking at with what other people in the living room can see on the TV.

[3:27] While the browsing normally is seen on both the TV screen and the GamePad, users can have curtains close over the TV screen so that they can unveil whatever it is they're looking at with some fanfare.

Here's the Wii U Internet browser!
Here's the Wii U Internet browser!

[3:28] The GamePad is an idea that has the potential to solve several problems that the Wii U was created to address, Iwata said. It enables more smiling, more laughs, and more empathy and gets around the problem of "Alone Together."

[3:28] "Together. Better."

[3:29] Even with nobody else in the room, Iwata said players won't feel alone.

[3:29] "We hope when you experience it firsthand, you will agree it represents the creation of something unique."

[3:30] Don't worry about the 3DS, Iwata said, because Nintendo has plenty of news to share "at other upcoming opportunities."

[3:30] Tuesday's media briefing will feature concrete examples of game experiences players have never had before, Iwata said. He then bows, and that's the end of the show!

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