Nintendo Promises to Revolutionize TV, Somehow

Cagey execs tout potential power of upcoming Wii U

Nintendo wants to steal some of Xbox’s—and maybe Apple’s—living room thunder before it’s too late. And today, during the company’s press event at E3, it boldly promised to do just that by revolutionizing the TV experience. It just won’t say how.

During a presentation that focused mostly on, naturally, what the upcoming Wii U console will do for gaming, executives coyly hinted that something big was coming when it comes to the Wii U’s impact on media. Nintendo’s legendary developer Miyamot Shigeru Miyamotoo predicted that the Wii U controller "will change how you watch TV in your living room" and will be “the first screen people go to in the living room" and "will change the importance of TV screens."

How? Miyamotoo didn’t elaborate.

The Wii U, which debuts sometime this year, features a tablet-like remote control, which marries the original Wii’s motion-sensitive controlling with the second-complementary-screen nature of devices like the iPad. Clearly, Nintendo wants more users to connect the Wii U to the Web (something many Wii owners didn’t) and they want the Wii U to be a far more social experience (the company unveiled a first look a the social net Miiverse on Sunday). And as first reported by Adweek in February, Nintendo execs are aiming for the Wii U to be a much more of a media consumption hub.

But the Nintendo offiicals implied there was a lot more coming, repeatedly using the word "revolutionary."

“The Wii U changes how you enjoy TV,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s president and COO. “It will revolutionize your living room. Will you be able to consume Netflix and Hulu? Yes. YouTube and Amazon, off course. But we think there’s more. This will change the way you enjoy your TV. We know that’s a strong assertion.”

Certainly, and one that Fils-Aime declined to elaborate on. At least today. Instead, he focused on making the case for the Wii U, which aspires to go after the “hardest of core newest of newbies,” said Fils-Aime.

That’s a tricky proposition. The original Wii broke out specifically because it wasn’t geared for the hardcore Halo player. Its unique motion-sensitive controls helped get mom, dad, grandma and the kids off the couch playing easy mass games like Wii Sports. Fewer Wii households hooked the devices up to the Internet, and despite being the first to incorporate Netflix, the Wii is hardly the entertainment hub that Xbox has become.

Wii U is looking to broaden Nintendo’s demographic, while also urging audiences to adopt a two-screen gaming experience; the Wii U controller incorporates the gesture-based controls of the original Wii, and also features a second video screen designed to sync with and complement the game being played on the TV screen at a given moment. There’s no telling whether Wii lovers will embrace games that require their eyes to dart from screen to screen (one of the reasons the Wii took off is that it was easy).

Plus, on Monday Microsoft seemed to beat Ninendo to the punch with the announcement of Smart Glass, which will allow Xbox gamers to sync their game play with tablets like the iPad.

But during its press event, Nintendo execs did their best to illustrate the benefits of the Wii U controller as the company unveiled 23 different games in the works. For example, while playing the upcoming exclusive title Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition (a good example of the elaborate, high-def type of game that wouldn’t have worked on the original Wii), players can glance at the Wii U remote to sort through and select various Batman weapons.

In first-person shooter games, players can zero in on zombies with a sniper scope by holding their Wii U remotes over the TV screen.

But perhaps the game Dance Unlimited 4 best displayed the Wii U’s potential. Up to four players can participate as dancers, using the traditional Wii remote while trying to mimic an on-screen avatar's dance moves. But in this case, the dance moves are being dictated by a fifth player holding the Wii U remote—which can pick among a hundred or so dance styles while acting as the game's puppetmaster.

It’s these types of communal gaming experiences where Nintendo sees the Wii U building a distinct advantage in the digital living room battle. “This is a unique form of gaming,” said Fils-Aime. “You against everybody else.”

“The promise is simple,” he added. “Together is better.”

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