Nintendo Eschews Simplicity With New Wii U Controller

Nintendo unveiled a new touchscreen controller for its upcoming Wii U gaming console at an E3 presentation Tuesday that was hosted by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto, President Satoru Iwata, and Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime.

The new Wii U controller includes a microphone, face and trigger buttons, speakers, a gyroscope, a rumble feature and an inward-facing camera. Images are generated by the Wii U console and transferred to the handheld screen controller, which means playing away from the console is not possible. The console will make its debut in 2012.

The Wii U will be backwards-compatible with current Wii games. The new system upgrades the video game experience by combining touchscreen, motion and dual-screen interactivity. The new console will be able to operate without a television via the high-definition display on the controller, allowing others to use the TV while the gamer continues to play. The Wii U hardware also has the capability to display a separate image on the controller that interacts with the image on the screen.

Nintendo showed a prototype video of multiple Wii U titles, including “Aliens” and “The Legend of Zelda,” and welcomed EA CEO John Riccitiello to the stage to talk about how EA Sports and EA Games will deliver some great content to the Wii U. The pioneering game company announced that “Super Smash Bros.” will be developed for the Nintendo 3DS and the new Wii U.

The Wii U “will change the way you play games,” maintained Nintendo, which is providing E3 visitors with the experience through interactive demonstrations — one of which showed a “Metroid”-style game being played by two players using the normal Wii controllers and one player using the new controller.

Nintendo did not respond to the E-Commerce Times’ request for comments by press time.

Now With Twice the Screens

The Internet is already swirling with comments from users who are dissing the new controller, finding it user-unfriendly.

“Nintendo is the only one who is doing a console refresh for the living room,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “But the Wii U is getting called the ‘P.U.’ because of the difficulty players are having with the motion controller. It’s been difficult for users because it’s big. It has a five-inch screen.”

Nintendo did not reveal the appearance or other details about the actual console at the event, deciding to focus on the controller.

“The idea is you have two screens — the small screen and the TV screen,” said Enderle. “The key is how compelling the games are. But people are having issues with the controller and the name, ‘Wii U.'”

Nintendo took the game-console lead when the Wii was introduced, but its fortunes have flagged.

“Microsoft is the leader this year — Wii dropped in sales for the last two years,” noted Enderle. “Microsoft has been showing growth, thanks to Kinect. Microsoft did a mid-term console refresh with Kinect, so they held momentum, while Nintendo started to look old. Nintendo dropped off the shelf.”

The next stage of competition in the console game world will depend on the acceptance of the Wii U, said Enderle. “Folks are still struggling with ‘Why would I want one of these?’ So it’s Microsoft’s to lose, and Microsoft has a powerful engine with Kinect.”

Reversing a Downward Trend

The 3DS release was a success, and now Nintendo hopes to integrate new ideas into its standards. The goal is to reverse the company’s progressive sales decline.

“Wii has experienced sharp decline in sales last year, and the plunge will only continue this year,” Jia Wu, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told TechNewsWorld. “They need to reinvent themselves by introducing a new console, or they’ll be irrelevant in the console market for the next couple of years at least.”

Nintendo has taken advantage of the improved touchscreen and motion technology that followed the smartphone boom. It is starting to get late in the console cycle, though, and customers are ready for new hardware.

“The expectation for the new console is very high, as they are now pretty behind Xbox and PS3, and smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming serious gaming devices,” said Wu. “Nintendo was still the most-sold console last year, but it was a 20-percent-plus decline. This year, the sales have been decreasing dramatically so far.”

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