LOS ANGELES--The Wii U, Nintendo's 2012 reinvention of the Wii hardware and of home console gaming, is still a device clouded in mystery. Its controls are intriguing, its capabilities seemingly vast. We had the opportunity to play with the Wii U after Nintendo's morning press conference. To gain more perspective, we had a one-on-one conversation with Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, game design legend and creative executive behind Nintendo's first-party games.
• Nintendo E3 press conference
• Hands-on with the Wii U
• E3 2011: Complete
Time was limited, but I certainly had plenty of questions: about the Wii U, the future evolution of console and handheld gaming, and most importantly, how this all relates to Apple.
Q: What were the influences for the creation of Wii U?
A: There was nothing external that influenced us. What really brought about the idea for it stemmed from our original concept for the Wii. We talked about it as the system that would never sleep, using something like Wii Connect 24--meaning, people would be able to access the system very quickly at any time. But, what we found was that as people started getting larger TVs, turning on the TV began to take more and more time than it used to. It was no longer instantaneous. So that became a barrier for people, and people who were watching TV would essentially make the system unavailable for somebody who wanted to play a game or see what was new with the system that day.
And so, with those challenges in mind, we started to look at what we wanted to do for the next system, and started to think that if we can't continue to always rely on the TV, we need to create a dedicated screen just for the system so people can quickly and instantly interact with it, regardless of what was happening on the TV.
Q: Is this a true synthesis of the Nintendo DS and the Wii--a point you see gaming evolving toward?
A: I think so. I think that what's going to be unique is it creates a new structure, in that you have your own screen, but you also have your TV screen, and those two can interact with one another. And that's going to create a lot of new things that you can do, not only just with games--obviously, it will create new gameplay--but it also creates new ways to interact with things like Web services, or even, as a simple example, photo viewing: how you can view photos on the small screen and transfer them up to the big screen. This new structure, in my mind, is not just a new structure for gameplay, it's a new structure for TV in the living room, to the point where people will look at this device as something they want to have alongside their TV because of what it brings to home entertainment, perhaps even to the point where they'll think, "Why didn't TV manufacturers come up with this?"
Q: Speaking of that, could the Wii U potentially act as a second screen not just for Wii games, but for TV as well?
A: Well, yes, I think it would be possible for television manufacturers in the future to think about what might be possible knowing that this structure exists, and even building functionality into the TVs that might take advantage of them.
Q: Are there any games you've been excited about making on the Wii U?
A: The experiences we have on the show floor demonstrate some of these ideas. The multiplayer games are quite fun; there's also another experience called Panorama View. There's a video running on the TV of a car driving down the street, and with the new controller you're able to view the same video but 360 degrees around you in that same video. The combination of the controller with the screen, and particularly with the gyro sensor, is very fun.
Q: Speaking of which, it looked like the Wii U offers augmented reality where one screen interacts with the second screen in a way we've never seen before.
A: I'm actually very excited to see how all the talented game designers around the world are going to look at that with the same eyes that you did and how they're going to take advantage of it.
Q: How do you see the Wii U as compared with what Apple's doing with the iPad?
A: I have to be honest, I don't really know everything that Apple is planning right now, so it's hard to say. When I look at things, I feel that Nintendo is looking at video games, and how we make the most compelling and fun video game experience. And then, within that framework, how can we use that to create new and fun entertainment within the living room setting? So we're really looking at it strictly from an entertainment perspective, and when I think about the things that Apple is talking about in terms of cloud computing and things like that, I'd say that they're just two very different areas that we're both looking at.
Q: Is this device something that would ever leave the home, or does it stay in the living room?
A: That's a good question. I think obviously less so for outside the home, but more so people will start to ask, "Oh, can I take it to my bedroom and sit in bed and play games?" Regardless of what the technical possibilities are in terms of how far you can take it from the system, for me it really is a matter of it's a device you'll want to have sitting on the cradle in the living room so you can access it there at any point and interact with the system that's in the living room at any point, and that system is connected to the TV. So, for me, my feeling is it really is a device that, if it's not there in the living room, people are going to have a hard time interacting with the system.
Q: So that's where the 3DS takes over?