Nintendo took the first swing in the melee that is E3 2012, the biggest video game industry convention in the United States. The company held a live webcast tonight and revealed details about the final iteration of the Wii U’s new controller, the Wii U GamePad, plus a detailed outline of how multiplayer and social features will work on the device.
The Wii U will have a digital social layer called Miiverse. Among other things, Miiverse will allow you to leave and view comments on games (even certain points in games, if the feature’s supported by developers) and update your status just like you would on Facebook.
You can also video chat with friends using the new console, and Nintendo plans to make many of Miiverse’s features (including the status updates and comments) available on your PC, Mac, or smartphone through a web application.
Nintendo is trying to position the Wii U as the social video game console. The company’s president even cited Sherry Turkle’s critical technology book Alone Together; the book discusses the phenomenon of families and friends in a living room together engaging with their individual mobile screens instead of each other.
To solve that particular problem, the Wii U comes with what Nintendo’s calling the Wii U GamePad — a tablet-like, touchscreen controller that can be used to share videos and more with friends either on the internet or on the living room TV for your family or roommates to see.
The GamePad was actually revealed at last year’s E3, but it got its name tonight — along with the revelation that the mobile device-like circle-stick controls will be replaced with thumbsticks like those on other contemporary game consoles.
Oh, and the Wii U GamePad will work as a universal touchscreen remote for your TV even if the Wii U isn’t on. Between all this and the fact that all Wii U games will be digital downloads on their release dates, it’s clear Nintendo is trying to push the technology forward with this new console.