I’m beginning to think Satoru and Reggie glimpsed a bit of my script before they took to the stage.
Yesterday I wrote about Microsoft’s notable efforts to appeal to a wider market. Then this morning I detailed Sony’s attempt to cement itself as the central games platform for the traditional audience.
Now Nintendo steps forward with a bold new devices that Satoru Iwata himself says will bridge the gap between the two markets.
"Will U will be equally satisfying to all. No machine has done that before," Iwata told the E3 audience. "It will offer deeper and wider experiences than any gamer has realised before. it will let everyone see games in a different way. represents a major step toward reaching our goal."
If there was one thing I was calling for from Nintendo prior to tonight’s conference it was for a surprise. We’ve had precious few this E3. And the Wii U is certainly a surprise.
It’s a tough machine to describe. Our announcement story gives you a rough idea.
Basically, the console itself – as in the core unit that attaches to your TV – remains a mystery. But the beef of the Wii U is in the controller. It’s a 6.2-inch touch screen device with full tilt control, in-built camera and microphones.
The hook is how this interacts with the TV. A whole range of options were show. At time the controller was held up like a window in front of the TV, at other times it was a sketchbook or a tee for a golf ball.
The possibilities, quite literally, seem endless for the moment.
Crucially, Nintendo has not embedded the console itself in the controller. All the information is streamed from the still unrevealed console unit. Wii U is not a portable device. In other words, Nintendo isn’t attacking its own 3DS market share.
In fact, how close it remains to the Wii is somewhat of a surprise. Most of us were expecting a clean break, with the Wii brand most likely dropped. However, not only is that brand retained – the machine remains compatible with Wii peripherals such as the Nunchuck and Wii Balance board, as well as all Wii games.
The immediate reaction from Twitter was surprisingly negative, to my mind at least. One interesting question was asked, however. "Is the Wii U just a new controller for the Wii?" I’m not sure if any of us have the fill answer to that yet.
But we can be sure of two things. Firstly, it’s immediately obvious how the Wii U can achieve the same kind of family-friendly appeal enjoyed by the Wii and DS. The scope for button and stick free gaming that anyone can pick up and play is there for all to see.
Secondly, though, just take a look at that publisher line-up and the host of ‘core’ games brands coming to the machine.
Yes, we’ve had the "we’ll work closer with third parties" pledge from Nintendo before. But this time it has the brands to back up the claims. Games like Batman: Arkham City, Ghost Recon, Darksiders II and Aliens: Colonial Marines certainly fill a hole left barren for too long by the publisher.
And don’t downplay the significance of John Riccitiello himself appearing on the Nintendo stage. He didn’t confirm any EA titles for the device, but he name dropped several key franchises – including Battlefield 3 – and his presence is certainly significant.
We’re left at the end of it all with more questions than answers. But it’s a good place to be. This isn’t another GameCube. It isn’t a Wii with an HDMI socket. This is something new. Whether it can mirror or better the successes of the Wii only time will tell. But it’s going to be fascinating to find out.