Nintendo showed up at CES yesterday with the Wii U in hand, showing it off for the second time, this time, letting the press get their hands on it for the first time and clearing up some questions that had been lingering in the air since the Wii U’s unveiling like a stale fart.
In demonstrations Tuesday, the company emphasized that the Wii U will work with the cheaper, stick-like Wii controllers as well, making family multiplayer games feasible.
The Wii U will be sold as a bundle with one touch-screen controller, which is almost as big as the game console itself. Nintendo hasn’t said what the package or an extra controller will cost. Touch screens are expensive, often accounting for nearly half of the cost of a phone or a tablet computer.
Nintendo’s demonstrations reveal that the touch-screen controller is designed to work with older controllers. For example, in one of Nintendo’s demonstration games, four players with Wii remotes chase a fifth, who uses the touch controller. The fifth player uses the screen on the controller to guide his movements, which are thus kept secret from the other players. The other players keep track of their own movements on the TV screen.
In another demonstration game, two players with Wii remotes collaborate to fight a third, who zooms around in a spaceship, controlled through the touch controller.
The integration of the older remotes and the touch controller goes even further. The existing Wii console is able to keep track of where the old-style Wii remotes are with the help of a “sensor bar” that attaches to the TV set. That’s how the Wii remote can be used to “point” to things on the screen. The new Wii U controller has its own sensor bar, so the Wii U can figure out where a Wii remote is in relation to the controller, not just the TV set.
This sounds complicated, but it enables simple, unexpected forms of game play. For instance, Nintendo showed in a video how the Wii U controller could be placed on the floor for a golf game. The screen of the controller shows a teed-up golf ball. Swinging a Wii remote like a golf club above the controller gets the ball flying.
While the ability to use older remotes will appeal to consumers, supporting multiple remotes could pose a challenge for game developers, who might decide to drop support for older hardware. To make things more complicated, there are two versions of the Wii remote, with differing motion-sensing abilities, and an accessory “Nunchuck” controller.