Nintendo Wii U and Gamepad Preview (VIDEO)

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bill-swift - June 6, 2012

Nintendo's press briefing was, as expected, totally focused on the launch of the Wii U console. So much so that the exclusion of Nintendo 3DS news was noted and accounted for by several of the presenters. There was no mention of a launch date beyond "Holiday" (which is PR speak for "Black Friday Unless Something Goes Wrong") and certainly no mention of a price. Although rumors have put the Wii U at just under $400 in North America, Nintendo would've said so at their press briefing if they were indeed ready to kill sales of the original Wii between now and then.

The Wii U Gamepad was the center of attention and as a piece of gaming hardware it has every function game controllers have accumulated over the last several years. There's rumble, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, on-board microphone and camera, dual triggers, dual shoulder buttons, dual analog sticks and of course that 6-inch touchscreen. A little more surprising was the inclusion of a headphone jack and volume control switch that will work on your TV. It really is like a handheld on steroids than a game controller.

The trouble comes when you realize that most of the games are going to be using the Gamepad as a "fifth wheel" controller when gamers are gathered around the Wii U console. The original Wiimote will be used in a new slate of games, so up to four players will be doing their thing as always and a fifth player will be "assisting" or "hurting" them using unique gameplay systems and controls on the Gamepad. This could go off the rails quickly.

The Wii U will being living up to its potential as soon as we see what a dual Wii U Gamepad title looks like. Think about it: a head-to-head game of some kind where you'll have three screens between you and a buddy. There are all kinds of potential game idea out of that kind of setup. Even quirky, clever Nintendo-caliber titles like a metal detector type of game, maybe. Or some other kind of rich strategy game where two perspectives on one battlefield are necessary.

We'll have more on Wii U but only the cool stuff as we approach launch and beyond.

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