Wii U gets social, connected and fit

At its Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) press conference, Nintendo chose to focus on the Wii U, and its games and services, but not so much on specific launch windows or the next generation of 3DS games.

Nintendo had already unveiled the Wii U, well before E3 started, but there were a lot of things going into this show that we didn't know. Nintendo's keynote spent a great deal of time detailing what the Wii U can do, what its online and app services are and what games we can expect to see. A small amount of time was also spent on the Nintendo 3DS, but today's event was clearly dedicated to the Wii U.

What we didn't get, however, was a date and price. Not surprising, but anti-climactic all the same.

Wii U gets social and connected

In the US the Wii U will have Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube support, covering most bases for what many home consumers would think of as a set-top streaming-video box. We'll have to wait and see whether catch-up TV services and Quickflix will be available in Australia.

Asynchronous gaming, and a socially connected Miiverse that app accompany Facebook and Twitter connectivity, provide what look like some significant boosts to Nintendo's online services. Still, what Miiverse really does, outside of socially sharing achievements and currently played games, is a little unclear.

Wii U social

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Wii U and its games

In addition to Nintendo's own games, a significant assortment of third-party games — many of them rated M — are Wii U-bound. The teased games included: Mass Effect 3, Batman Arkham City, Assassin's Creed III, Scribblenauts, Darksiders II, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director's Cut Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Aliens Colonial Marines, SiNG, Lego City Undercover, ZombiU, Avengers: Battle for Earth, Just Dance 4 and Rayman Origins.

On the first-party side of things, New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3 and the mini-game compilation NintendoLand, were the focus. New Super Mario Bros. U showcased some social features and collaborative gameplay, while NintendoLand, a virtual theme park collection of 12 mini-games covering major Nintendo franchises, looks like it's aiming to be the Wii Sports of the Wii U. Could it be a pack-in game?

Wii Fit U

Nintendo's dormant fitness game franchise was unveiled again, using the same Balance Board peripheral. Many of the Wii Fit U mini-games look like they would have been at home on the Wii; others use the GamePad for target-practice exercises and for remote play away from the TV.

Wii Fit U

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

3DS Games: Round Two

The Nintendo 3DS got short shrift at the keynote, although Nintendo has a separate 3DS-oriented breakout session later on at E3. The few first-party games that were shown were already known titles: New Super Mario Bros. 2, which comes out mid-August, while Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. Luigi's Mansion were playable at last year's E3. All of these are Mario universe games, not surprisingly.

Third-party games that were teased at the keynote, were sparse; Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited and Kingdom Hearts 3D.

Was this enough?

Nintendo has a lot of ground to cover to get back in the game, and the Wii U needs a real price to be taken seriously. How much will the GamePad tablets cost? Will the Wii U be sold without the GamePad? The selection of Wii U games shown feels like it's leaning heavy on current-gen catch-up titles (Mass Effect 3) and on first-party magic.

Nintendo undoubtedly has more to unveil during E3, so stay tuned ... but as far as this keynote went, you couldn't help but notice it ending with a whimper instead of a bang.


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