The Nintendo Wii U is the company's sixth home console since the original Nintendo Entertainment System and follows the hugely successful Wii. In keeping with their design philosophy, the Wii U is not a system focused on high-end horsepower but instead a new take on gaming interfaces and online integration with efficiently designed hardware.
Its core hooks are the integrated second screen in the Wii U GamePad and their online social hub called Miiverse. The former introduces a focus on asymmetric gameplay in local multiplayer games which means the different players doing very different things in a game depending on which controller they use as well as more involved experiences and interactions in single player games with added functionality not previously possible. The latter is supposed to function as a seamless online community that makes it easier to discover what games people are actually playing and offers simpler ways to share stuff from within games and to communicate with other players around the globe.
The system's backwards compatibility with Wii peripherals also ensures a wide variety of gameplay possibilities for all kinds of games.
With rumors hitting the week prior, Nintendo announced its next console on April 25, 2011. The news was issued via a terse update on Nintendo of Japan's investor site, stating that the Nintendo Wii's successor would be launched in 2012.
On June 7, 2011 at their E3 press conference, Nintendo unveiled what they promised to be a new way to enjoy home entertainment with Nintendo's next home console, the Wii U. With a new touch screen controller that also includes all standard buttons, precision motion controls, and full 1080p HD graphics, Nintendo promises a whole new world of play styles and gaming possibilities for Wii U players. As Nintendo of America president and CEO Reggie Fils-Aime explained on stage that the Wii U is about tailoring the Nintendo game experience not just to a casual perspective, but for so-called hardcore players as well.
In October 2011, Nintendo confirmed that they will be re-revealing the Wii U at E3 2012. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata mentioned during the company's Financial Briefing in January 2012 that the Wii U would launch during the 2012 holiday season.
Iwata announced during Nintendo's Financial Briefing in April, 2012 that all Wii U games would be available for purchase as traditional packaged software in retail stores and via digital distribution on from day one. Nintendo is partnering with retailers to allow the sale of digital codes through retailers to achieve a "win-win" situation. Additionally, he let it be known that, while the details and software line-up for Wii U would be announced at E3 2012, the actual launch date and price would be revealed at a later date.
Nintendo revealed the final launch details for all territories on September 13, 2012. The Wii U will launch in Japan on December 8, 2012 with 2 SKUs (Basic and Premium) but without pack-in software with the exception of Monster Hunter 3 HD Ver. bundle. In western territories, the Wii U will also launch in both the Basic and Premium/Deluxe versions but the latter will come bundled with NintendoLand.
Japan (December 8, 2012)
"Basic" SKU (White)
- 8GB internal flash storage (can be expanded with up to 32GB SD/SDHC cards or up to 3TB external USB hard drives)
- Wii U GamePad (White)
- Wii U GamePad Stylus (White)
- Wii U Console AC Adapter
- Wii U GamePad AC Adapter
- HDMI cable
- Price: ¥26,250
"Premium" SKU (Black)
- 32GB internal flash storage (can be expanded with up to 32GB SD/SDHC cards or up to 3TB external USB hard drives)
- Wii U GamePad (Black)
- Wii U GamePad Stylus (Black)
- Wii U GamePad charging stand
- Wii U GamePad stand
- Wii U Console vertical stand
- Wii U Console AC Adapter
- Wii U GamePad AC Adapter
- HDMI cable
- Nintendo Network Premium: provides points for purchases by Premium Set customers, 10% points back on digital purchases depending on the title/publisher, to be redeemed once 500 points ($5) have been reached for future purchases. Valid until December 2014
- Access to the Dragon Quest X Wii U Beta
- Price: ¥31,500
North America (November 18, 2012)
Same as Japanese Basic Set, plus
Same as Japanese Premium Set (minus DQ X Beta Access), plus
Europe/Australia/New Zealand (November 30, 2012)
Same as Japanese Basic Set
Same as Japanese Premium Set (minus DQ X Beta Access) plus
- Sensor Bar
- Price: €349,00 / £299.00 / AU$ 429.95
Special Launch Bundles
Monster Hunter 3G HD Ver. Premium Bundle
- Wii U Premium Set (Black)
- Monster Hunter 3G HD Ver.
- Wii U Pro Controller (Black)
- Price: ¥38,850
ZombiU Premium Bundle
- Wii U Premium Set (Black)
- (does not include NintendoLand)
- Wii U Pro Controller (Black)
- Price: €399,99 / £329.00
These are the official Wii U accessories, ranging from additional controllers, stands to microphones. Available upon release.
Wii Remote Plus Accessories Set
- Wii Remote Plus
- Wii Sensor Bar
- Japan: ¥5,250
- EU: €59,95
- US: Not sold in North America
Wii U GamePad (Black or White)
- Price: ¥13,440 (not sold until games requiring two GamePads are available)
- EU: TBA
- US: TBA
Wii U Pro Controller (Black or White)
- Includes USB-charging cable
- Price: ¥5,040
- EU: €49,95
- US: $49.99
Wii U GamePad Stand / Cradle Set
- Charging Cradle
- GamePad Stand
- Japan: ¥1,890
- EU: €19,95
- US: $19.99
Wii U Console Stand (Vertical)
- Only sold through Nintendo's online store
- Japan: ¥315
- EU: N/A
- US: N/A
Wii U Microphone
- Japan: TBA
- EU: TBA
- US: $24.99
Wii U GamePad Accessory Set
- Wii U GamePad Screen Protector
- Cleaning Cloth
- Wii U GamePad Stylus (Large)
- Japan: TBA
- EU: €9,95
- US: $12.99
The Wii U will support retail and downloadable software. Nintendo has announced that from day-one, all first party retail software will also be available day-and-date in the Wii U's eShop. The exception being games that comes bundled with hardware like SiNG Party which comes with a microphone. Those will not be available as a download. In addition to retail software, the Wii U eShop will also offer download-only software like Virtual Console titles and original games.
The regular price of retail Wii U titles is raised to $59.99, bringing Nintendo's software prices up to the same level of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 titles.
According to specifications released during E3 2012 by Nintendo, the Wii U will be Approximately 1.8 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide and 10.5 inches long while weighing about 3.41 pounds (1.5 kg).
- Media: A single self-loading media bay will play 12-centimeter proprietary high-density optical discs that can hold 25GB of data for the new console with a transfer speed of 22.5 MB/s. It also reads 12-centimeter Wii optical discs.
- Video Output: Supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i. Compatible cables include HDMI, Wii D-Terminal, Wii Component Video, Wii RGB, Wii S-Video Stereo AV and Wii AV.
- Audio Output: Uses AV Multi Out connector. Six-channel PCM linear output through HDMI.
- Storage: The console has internal flash memory, as well as the option to expand its memory using either an SD/SDHC memory card (up to 32GB) or an external USB hard disk drive (up to 2TB).
- CPU: IBM Power®-based multi-core microprocessor.
- GPU: AMD Radeon™-based High Definition GPU.
- Network: Wireless internet via IEEE 802.11b/g/n connection.
- RAM: 2GB of total RAM with 1GB for games and 1GB for system features
- Ports: Four USB 2.0 connector slots are included (two in the front, two in the back). The new console is backward compatible with Wii games and Wii accessories, including the Wii LAN adapter.
- Power consumption: The Wii U consumes up to 75W of power at most. Average usage comes in at around 45W.
Wii U GamePad
During the Pre-E3 2012 Nintendo Direct feature, Satoru Iwata revealed the official name for the Wii U controller. The name was inspired by the original NES controller which was the first controller to be referred to as a "game pad" by players due its flat design. Nintendo decided the name was also appropriate for the Wii U controller and thus they named it the Wii U GamePad as a call-back to the good ol' days.
Controller Design Concept
The Wii U GamePad features a touch screen along with button and stick inputs in line with with other controllers. This combination allows games to be augmented with real-time data displayed on the controller while the primary action occurs on the big-screen. The GamePad will function similar to the bottom screen on Nintendo's DS system, displaying information such as inventory systems or maps but also allowing for touch or stylus based gameplay input. The Wii U will allow using the GamePad screen as a primary display, so that other content can be viewed on the TV. There was some indication that this manner of screen swapping could even be taken a step further, giving split-screen players their own dedicated view, for example. The possibilities for so-called asymmetric multiplayer/co-op are a major part of the system's design.
The original prototype of the controller shown during E3 2011 incorporated two analog Circle Pads. These circle pads were not clickable and they were aligned vertical symmetrical directly above the D-Pad and face buttons on each side of the controller. The backside was flat except for a horizontal ridge that allowed the controller to be placed on flat surfaces at an angle and also housed the digital ZL/ZR triggers. The prototype had neither a dedicated TV-button nor an NFC reader/writer.
Revised Wii U GamePad Leak
In May 2012, a QA Tester for TT Games tweeted a picture of a revised Wii U Controller. This revision changed the Circle Pads to traditional, clickable Analog Sticks (with a circular gate instead of an octagonal one - a first for Nintendo) that are slightly offset from the Directional Pad and face buttons in addition to a host of other superficial changes, such as the appearance of the Wii U logo, rearranged Start and Select buttons, an unlabeled button that later turned out to be the TV-Control Button next to the power button, and the inclusion of the NFC reader/writer below the D-Pad. The tweet was quickly taken offline but the Internet already worked its magic and had spread the news to message boards and news sites.
This leak cleared up speculation based on leaked patents that showed these changes (and more) months earlier but was erroneously believed to be an older design than the one shown at E3 2011. The patent also showed added grips to the bottom and a wider form factor. Rumors also suggested the implementation of analog triggers but the units available on the E3 2012 show floor did actually not have analog but digital triggers on both the Pro controller and the GamePad.
The controller includes a Power button, Home button, +Control Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, digital L/R buttons and digital ZL/ZR buttons, two clickable analog sticks, a TV-Control Button and an NFC reader/writer. It also includes a built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and geomagnetic sensor, rumble support, a front-facing camera, microphone, stereo speakers, a sensor strip and a stylus. It also includes a 6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio resistive LCD touch screen (does not support multi touch).
The GamePad is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and weighs approximately 1.1 pounds (500 g).
During Nintendo's January 27th, 2012 Financial Briefing, they revealed that the controller would also support NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, ultimately allowing functionality similar to the figurine-scanning in Skylanders and enabling the scanning of Wii U eShop cards or credit cards for micropayments by placing an object or a card on the NFC Reader/Writer below the D-Pad.
Next to the Wii U GamePad's power button is the TV-Control Button. This button can be used even if the Wii U and TV are turned off. With the TV button, the Wii U GamePad turns into a "fully independent infrared TV-remote". You can use the touch screen to switch channels, change the TV volume, view the TV Guide and turn on your Wii U system simply by using the touch screen on the GamePad.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was quick to point out that the controller device was “not designed to be a portable video game machine, even though it shares some of the characteristics.” Killing the idea that the controller could be used as a legitimate portable gaming tablet (like Apple's iPad) which everybody was quick to compare to. This becomes especially clear when you realize that none of the game play is rendered on the controller itself.
Wii U Pro Controller
The Wii U Pro Controller is a secondary peripheral for use with the Wii U that functions as a standard console controller without the extra elements such as the touch screen display. It is primarily meant for use with multi-platform console games ported to the Wii U without GamePad-specific gameplay elements. The controller's shape resembles that of the standard Xbox 360 controller with button and stick placements mirroring that of the Wii U GamePad. Also includes rumble support.
The Wii U supports two Wii U GamePads at the same time. It has been confirmed that using two GamePads simultaneously limits games to run at a framerate of no higher than 30fps due to the game outputting images to three screens at the same time. Launch-window titles would not make use of that functionality. Additionally, up to four Wii U Pro Controllers can be used at the same time.
The system will also support up to four Wii Remote (or Wii Remote Plus) controllers connected at once along with the Wii U GamePad (allowing for five players simultaneous multiplayer). The new console supports all first party Wii controllers and input devices, including the Nunchuk controller, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro and Wii Balance Board.
Software Backwards Compatibility
The Wii U will be backwards compatible with most Wii titles. However, it will not feature the GameCube backwards compatibility of the Wii.
During E3 2012, Nintendo announced that it will be possible for Wii users to transfer all their WiiWare and Virtual Console purchases to the Wii U, along with all the save games.
To access all Wii-specific software, players have to access the Wii Mode from the Wii U main menu. This is a separate environment that disables all Wii U-specific features for optimal compatibility with the software.
All transferred Wii data like save games, Wii Shop Channel purchases (Virtual Console, WIiWare) including leftover points will be accessible via this mode. The Wii Shop Channel is not tied to the Wii U eShop and is thus completely walled off. If purchase history data will be transferred over to the Nintendo Network ID to allow access to the forthcoming Wii U Virtual Console is not clear at this point.
During Nintendo's Financial Briefing on January 27th, 2012 Satoru Iwata announced the Nintendo Network platform. An overarching online platform that covers 3DS as well as Wii U, it is going to support various online services. Nintendo Network is an evolution from the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection that was used in Wii and DS titles.
Each Wii U console will allow for the creation of 12 unique user accounts. The console itself can go online by signing up for a Nintendo Network ID which manages eShop purchases, friend lists, Miiverse and other functions.
Unlike with the 3DS, the Wii U's eShop will be available at launch and offer a variety of download-only games as well as retail games for purchase.
On November 14 2012, Satoru Iwata announced in a Nintendo Direct presentation that they are working on Wii U Virtual Console service that would have support for Off-TV Play with further details to be talked about later.
On January 23 2013, Iwata confirmed that Virtual Console will be available starting in Spring of 2013. Confirmed consoles supported will be NES, Super NES, and Game Boy Advance. Any games that were previously purchased for Wii Virtual Console and transferred over will be deeply discounted for buyers of the Wii U version - down to $1.00 US for NES and $1.50 for SNES. Wii U Virtual Console games will feature additional features and are undergoing additional development beyond simple emulation. Starting that same day, a preview of the Virtual Console service to celebrate 30 years of Famicom was launched, showcasing a different game for 30 days at the price of 30 US cents. The first of these games is Balloon Fight.
On June 3, 2012, Nintendo started the E3 info explosion early by releasing a Nintendo Direct video detailing non-game aspects of the Wii U before their official E3 Media Briefing on June 5. Aside from highlighting the changes made to the Wii U GamePad, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata presented a first look at the Miiverse, the WIi U's central hub for community/social features. The Miiverse is essentially an evolution of the Mii Plaza and StreetPass Mii Plaza that first appeared on the Wii and Nintendo 3DS respectively.
Players enter the Miiverse upon booting up the system and are greeted by all the Miis tied to accounts on the system itself, Miis of their friends as well as Miis created by people either in the same region or speaking the same language in the Wara Wara Plaza (wara wara being a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound a bustling crowd makes).
Users are able to post screenshots and transmit user generated game content all over the Miiverse. Miis in the Wara Wara Plaza and the Nintendo Land Plaza, for example, can also display speech bubbles containing messages created by their users.
Miis are your main anchor for the Wii U's social features. Messaging works like a Twitter feed that you can sort by certain criteria. You can filter messages pertaining to specific games, messages from people in your Mii Plaza, your own activity log and other categories. You can choose to either type the message using an on-screen keyboard on the touchscreen or by going full-on old-school with actual handwriting or doodling with your finger or Stylus. The input interface also allows you to attach emoticon-style expressions to your Miis that will be represented on your Mii's face next to the message you created.
The Miiverse messaging system is browser-based and will also be accessible via 3DS, PC or any web-enabled mobile device some time after the Wii U's launch. You will ultimately be able to check and interact with your activity feed from anywhere. The Nintendo Direct presentation showed a gamer playing at home, suspending his game to check his Miiverse messages while his friend checked his own friend activity feed on his phone.
Miiverse Messaging Integration
The Miiverse is a feature native to the system that can be accessed at all times and by all games. This allows developers to integrate the feature directly into their games. Nintendo showed an example of this with a snippet of New Super Mario Bros. U gameplay. Players left messages on the world map and at a certain point where Mario ended his life prematurely by running into a Koopa Troopa. This seems reminiscent of a similar feature found in From Software's Demon's Souls and Dark Souls games in which players who were connected to the internet with their console could leave messages at places of their choice, providing useful or misleading hints for other players to randomly stumble across.
Iwata mentioned that while they are working to prevent people from spoiling moments in games with this feature, it was envisioned to increase empathy among gamers around the world. Because the Miiverse is integrated into the Wii U firmware, even strictly single player games with no online functionality can make use of this feature, potentially turning every game into a social experience with your friends.
The video demo also hinted at a possible achievement feature but that has yet to be confirmed or clarified.
Wii U Chat
The built-in microphone and video camera in the Wii U GamePad allow for easy video chat among gamers. The basic idea was born in the N64 days when Genyo Takeda first expressed the desire to include a TV phone capability with Nintendo's home consoles.
Wii U Chat lets displays the incoming video either on the GamePad or on the TV screen, depending on whether the user might be using it alone or wants to make a family call with more people around. If the Wii U is online and a call is coming in, the Home button on the GamePad will start to glow, informing players that there is a call waiting for them. If the system is not turned on, the caller can leave a message notification via Miiverse.
In addition the video feed, users can actually draw on the touch screen over the image of video with a glowing line.
The Wii U also launches with an Internet Browser that can be manipulated with the touch screen even while in-game. The browser can be used independently on the GamePad as well as across both screens. Videos can be displayed at full size on the TV while the GamePad is used for browsing while the video plays. It is also possible to prepare a video and conceal it behind curtains for audiences.
Using the browser is possible without having to close the game that is being played to possibly search the internet for help.
Video playback formats H.264 and HTML5 are supported while Flash is not.
At E3 2012, Nintendo announced that the Wii U would also feature various video streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube. In their Wii U preview event on September 13, 2012, Nintendo revealed more details about the service they are now calling Nintendo TVii.
This service, only announced for North America, will give Wii U users access to all their video streaming services as well as their local network and cable TV programs in a central place.
Retail Game Box Design
In moving away from the simple and clean white box designs, Nintendo went with process cyan-colored boxes accompanied by a half-oval shape at the top of the box surrounding the plain white Wii U logo. As a transitional color, a yellow line is placed between the shape and the actual game artwork. This basic design mirrors that of the Nintendo GameCube boxes which also featured a half-oval shape with a transitional line (in white) below it to separate it from the game artwork.
As has been common practice since 2010 in Japan with games released on Nintendo platforms game boxes for titles rated CERO: C and above, the actual case is black and the platform logo design is on black background. In the case of Wii U games, the logo banner is placed on a gradient background that goes from black to the normal cyan color.
Retail Launch Software
* also available via download from the eShop
Wii U eShop Launch Titles