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Here's Everything Nintendo Would Tell Me About Wii U

Will all games support screen transfer? USB hard drive support? Unreal Engine 3?

Battle Mii was just one of several conceptual demos shown at E3. It may not become a game.
Battle Mii was just one of several conceptual demos shown at E3. It may not become a game.

Getting specifics about Nintendo's new console was like extracting teeth at E3. The company showed what it showed and had little interest in committing to more.

It didn't help the only person I was able to talk about the device was the head of Nintendo's public relations department.

Believe me, I'd requested a chance to speak with Reggie Fils-Aime or Satoru Iwata. They were busy, I was told. I don't doubt that.

In any other case, I wouldn't spend time at E3 speaking with a public relations person, but as Wii U was the biggest thing at E3, I wanted to extract as much information for you as I possibly could.

What follows is an edited conversation with Mark Franklin, where I tried to address concerns and questions about Wii U. I came away with plenty of vagueness, but some answers, too.

Are developers required to implement the screen transfer feature into every game?

Franklin: We're not making any prerequisites to any of the developers to say "you have to do this, you have to do that." What we're showing at this year's show is just the possibilities. That's just an example. Certainly, that's a possibility.

How easy is it for a developer to implement the screen transfer feature, if they choose to?

Franklin: I'm not going to get into the technical side, but it's certainly up to the developers to make that choices. We've shown what's possible and now it's up to the developers to come up with content.

What's the range of the Wii U controller? Can you take it out of the room?

== TEASER ==

Franklin: We're not talking about range, but the vision is that the controller resides in the living room. That's where the central entertainment is going to be anyway. You've got your TV and you've got your new controller. And just imagine the Chase Mii experience, where you've got four buddies on your Wii remotes and one guy on your new controller, but you're all gathered in the same room having that experience--two different experiences but sharing in the experience. That's the vision.

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Can you have multiple Wii U controllers connected to the same console?

Franklin: At this year's E3, we're just showing this one experience and not really talking beyond that, which is just the one controller, plus up to four Wii remotes. We are showing specific experiences along those lines--you've got Chase Mii, Battle Mii. They all provide a different scenario. We've got a true, social multiplayer experience versus a single-player experience versus a multiplayer experience but two people getting two very different experiences in Battle Mii.

Again, showing off the possibilities of what the system can do, what the new controller can do, and seeing what developers can come up with.

Does the Wii U controller have its own specific name?

Franklin: Right now, we're just calling it the new controller. Don't have another name for it yet.

What about backwards compatibility with Wii? GameCube?

Franklin: Yes, backwards compatible. Just one generation. You can have Wii software and Wii devices, so your Wii Remotes, Wii Remote Plus, Classic Controllers. [...] No Wavebird. [laughs]

Could you theoretically control the Wii U interface with just a Wii Remote?

Franklin: It's so early in the process right now that, again, the thing that we're showing right now is having the new controller, the wireless new controller interface with the system, and having the Wii Remote interface with the sensor bar. There's also a sensor bar on the new controller, so your Wii remotes could read off of that.

All of the demos shown at E3 featured only on Wii U controller. Will it support more? Unknown.
All of the demos shown at E3 featured only on Wii U controller. Will it support more? Unknown.

How would that work? Do you put the Wii U next to the TV?

Franklin: We haven't talked about any examples, but the capability is there, so that the Wii Remotes could read off of your new controller. What that means [is] there could maybe be a game that is just on that new controller, but we haven't discussed anything like that yet.

How long have third-parties know about the hardware?

Franklin: We don't talk about timing like that, but we did announce the system earlier than E3, and so development kits have been out there to all the major developers.

How does the 3DS interact with the Wii U?

Franklin: Mr. Iwata announced on stage something I'm really excited about. Mr. Sakurai [is] one, making a new Smash Bros. game and two, there's going to be cross-platform compatibility between the Nintendo 3DS and the new system. [...] There's no more details other than that, but the prospect of being able to have some experiences shared on two different devices with the same game is exciting. Smash is a huge game, so you can imagine what kind of possibilities could come up with having that on Nintendo 3DS and the new controller.

Have you had any conversations with Epic Games about Unreal Engine 3?

Franklin: Nothing to announce on that. We're not really talking about the technical specifications or the behind-the-scenes engines that are running the system or anything like that. What we want to focus on, and what consumers have continued to look at, especially with Nintendo products, is they want to see what the experience is like.

Is this the last we hear about the system until next E3?

Franklin: It's hard to say right now. We just announced it, so that's what we're focused on it. We want to make sure that people have time on the system, that they get a chance to experience the unique opportunity that the system offers, so that's what we're focused on right now. In terms of next steps, that'll come. We'll be figuring that out in the weeks and months ahead.

The Super Mario Bros. Mii game shown was little more than a polished up Super Maro Bros. Wii.
The Super Mario Bros. Mii game shown was little more than a polished up Super Maro Bros. Wii.

What about the disc format?

Franklin: It's going to be a high-density disc that's a proprietary format. It'll be a high-density disc format, but we don't have anything to share besides that.

And storage?

Franklin: We'll have SD cards, but we'll also have USB slots.

You'll be able to use a hard drive at personal storage?

Franklin: Yeah, theoretically.

If a developer wanted to, could they just leverage the Wii remotes and not the Wii U controller?

Franklin: It's going to be up to the developers to make those kinds of decisions. There's tons of possibilities. It's going to be up to them to figure out what those possibilities are going to be.

Should we expect an online experience on par with Xbox Live and PlayStation Network?

Franklin: We see Wii U as a flexible system. It's not a one-size-fits-fall. It's not a centralized system. What John [Riccitiello, Electronic Arts] was describing [at the press conference] was his vision. We'll work with third-parties to understand what the opportunities are, and I think what's going to drive maybe the best examples are individual approaches, the best of class individual approaches both from third-party and from Nintendo. John was just referring to what he thought might happen.

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