E3: Nintendo Renames Project Cafè ‘Wii U’ and Shows Us the Goods

Nintendo announces the official name of the Wii's successor and shows us its controller. Come inside and feast your eyes on the ambitious new device.

They had already run down a bevy of exciting software and game-related announcements, but Nintendo Company Limited wasn’t done just yet. Oh no, now was the time to drop the big one. With their E3 2011 press conference winding down, Nintendo pulled back the curtain on the worst kept secret in the industry: Project Cafè. “You might remember how the Wii name started to make sense once you started hearing it as ‘We'” quipped NCL President Satoru Iwata. This could only mean one thing: some oddball name for their next console was about to be announced. And then it happened. Wii U — get used to it.

It makes complete sense that the company would want to piggyback off of the tremendous success of this generation’s best selling home console. The name is symbolic in that it implies the system is targeted back at the “you” (hardcore) and “we” (casual). That being said, it clearly sounds more than a bit silly. Has my doe-eyed lil’ Wii grown up and headed off to Nintendo University already? Is that some bro calling hollering a muffled “ey-yo”? Or is it just some bad sci-fi sound effect — “weeeooooo”? I don’t know, but I’m not going to rip into it. Much like the PS Vita, we should all give ourselves a chance to become accustomed to the new name before crying “Nintendo is teh d00m3d!”

So let’s switch gears and discuss what happened after the ceremonial naming. Nintendo’s next order of business was to show us the controller. I was immediately struck by how close to the mark the wild rumors and artist’s renderings — that bombarded the net throughout the spring — were. It looks like a tablet with a white casing and contains, to the surprise of no one, a 6.2 inch touchscreen in the center. It also features dual analogue circles, a home button, two shoulder buttons, two shoulder triggers, a d-pad, front-facing camera, battery light, power button, stereo speakers, select button, start button and the classic SNES diamond layout of four face buttons.

Oh, and did I mention that it has rumble, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a stylus and is rechargeable? Because it totally has those features as well. So yeah, it has a ton of elements to it. There’ll be no moaning and groaning about lack of buttons/sticks this time around. Speaking of sticks, the analogue sticks apparently aren’t really sticks at all. Many have described them as analog “circles”, but don’t worry; hands-on reports have been stating that they are far more advanced and precise than their 3DS counterparts.

In another move that initially sounds a bit strange, there is a horizontal bar running across the back of the unit, upon which is set the ZL and ZR triggers. This is designed to give you a more manageable grip on the larger-than-the-norm unit, as well as to create a convenient location for said triggers.

There used to be an embeded media player here, but it doesn't work anymore. We blame the Tumbeasts.

I know you’re clamoring to hear more about the touchscreen, so don’t worry — we’ve got some details. Its precise resolution was not divulged, but we do know that it has a 16:9 aspect ratio. And yes, it transfers images back and forth from your TV, just as the rumors foretold. Place it on the ground to have it serve as a golf tee as you swing the Wii remote which serves as a club. Aim with the device in a shooter and you’ll see the reticule on the TV as well as the controller screen. Sick of annoying roommates/family members swiping the remote? No longer a problem. If the TV is shut off, you can see all of the action right there on the 6.2 inch screen. Do note though, that it is not portable and must be connected — its wireless — to the Wii U at all times of operation. Watch the vid to see how this, and other, aspects of the controller work in practice.

A number of other capabilities were announced. You can swipe to send images and videos from screen to screen. Want to catch up with a friend? Hello video chat. Additionally, the Wii U will support up to four Wii remotes, nunchucks, balance boards and/or classic controllers. You won’t be getting your hands on it this year, however. The Wii U launches at an undisclosed date in 2012.

As for the system itself, we’ve got news on that front too. The Big N is finally jumping into the HD era (about time) with support of full 1080p visuals. It has two USB 2.0 ports as well as HDMI, component, s-video and composite hookups. Wii U is fully backwards compatible with Wii games and plays proprietary 12 centimeter game discs. Nintendo’s next platform will have an unkown amount of internal flash memory and will support USB HDDs and SD cards.

The manufacturer elected not to announce any first party games for the system. Instead, they are showing off a number of tech demos at the show. The highlight of which is a brief snippet of Link battling Gohma in a scene that will melt your eyeballs. Catch it at the tail end of the video above, and keep in mind that it’s not an actual game.

We also got excited testimonials from a number of major publishers and developers. More importantly, a few of them actually announced games. Batman: Arkham City, Darksiders II and versions of Ninja Gaiden 3 and Tekken were the highlights. Electronic Arts also commented that it would be amazing to have Battlefield 3 running the platform, but didn’t go so far as to say it would happen. Nevertheless, it was very encouraging to see industry visionaries such as Ken Levine rave about how impressed they are with Wii U. Hopefully, that will translate into a strong suite of hardcore titles.

So what do our readers think about Wii U so far? Sound off in our comments and don’t forget to keep checking MTB for updates on Wii U and much more as E3 2011 continues.

Nick Santangelo
Nick Santangelo
Nick Santangelo

MASH Veteran

Nick has been a gamer since the 8-bit days and a member of the MTB editorial team since January of 2011. He is not to be interrupted while questing his way through an RPG or desperately clinging to hope against all reason that his Philly sports teams will win any given game he may be watching. Seriously folks, reading this acknowledges that you relieve MTB of any and all legal liability for his actions.

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