Nintendo's E3 keynote conference ended with a bang thanks to the official unveiling of the new "Wii U" console. While the Wii U does indeed have a traditional console hardware unit, the video preview trailers showcased at Nintendo's event solely demonstrated the functionality and possibilities of the new Wii U controller.
The new controller was immediately compared to tablet PCs thanks to its small-ish rectangular form factor and built-in touch screen. Nintendo was keen to emphasize how versatile the Wii U controller could potentially be, for example serving as a new gameplay screen to complement the action being displayed on television, or as a completely seperate outlet to enjoy games. The user can also transfer data between the main console unit and the Wii U controller.
The Wii U controller should not be viewed as some new handheld platform from Nintendo with TV output. Indeed, the Wii U controller is expected to operate within range of the new console hardware itself at all times, so you can't exactly lug it around with you like another DS.
To understand more about the new console platform, Nintendo has provided preliminary specs for the Wii U.
Wii U Hardware
CPU: multi-core IBM "Power-based" processor
GPU: custom AMD Radeon HD graphics
Video output resolution: 1080p / 1080i / 720p / 480p / 480i
Video output connection: HDMI, component video, D-terminal (Japan only), S-video, composite
Audio output: 6-channel PCM linear through HDMI
Media: Proprietary 12cm optical disc with at least 25GB of storage capacity
Built-in data storage: possibly 8GB of internal flash memory, expandable through SD memory card or external USB hard drive
Peripheral connection: 4 x USB 2.0 ports
Backward Compatible: Wii software, controllers & accessories
Update: Chipmaker AMD confirms it will be supplying a custom GPU (graphics processing unit) for the Wii U which will promise "high-definition graphics support; rich multimedia acceleration and playback; and multiple display support".
Meanwhile, Nintendo's senior designer Katsuya Eguchi explains to Kotaku that he expects the Wii U disc media to feature at least 25GB of storage capacity, right in the Blu-ray storage capacity ballpark. Of course this doesn't necessarily mean Nintendo has opted for Blu-ray with the Wii U, but we could definitely see the company leveraging a proprietary version of the high-definition media format.
Nintendo's preview trailer at its E3 keynote conference demonstrated how the Wii U "tablet" can be used in tandem with existing Wii controllers and peripherals. It's worth noting that while the Wii U console hardware itself will still be able support up to 4 Wiimotes during gameplay, we're still not quite sure whether or not the new console will similarly support more than one Wii U "tablet" controller in play at once.
The Wii U "tablet" controller will reportedly not be sold separately at retail.
Wii U Controller
Dimensions (W x H x L): 10.5 x 1.8 x 6.8 in.
Touch screen LCD: 854 x 480 pixel resolution, 6.2 in. diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio
Controls: D-pad, 2 x Circle Pads, A/B/X/Y face buttons, L/R shoulder buttons, ZL/ZR shoulder buttons, Power button, Home button
Built-in tech: Accelerometer, gyroscope, force feedback, camera, microphone, speaker
Nintendo confirmed at its E3 conference that the Wii U won't be available until later next year, so the company doesn't appear to have prepared any pricing details for the time being.
Update: Speaking to Japanese news wire Nikkei, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata estimates that the Wii U will very likely be priced no less than ¥20,000 (approx. $250 USD) at launch in Japan.