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Thu February 14, 2013
Your Move: Wii U
Like tens of millions of other people, I bought the Nintendo Wii back in 2006.
The console was wildly successful. Although hardcore gamers later eschewed the Wii because of its poor graphics and meager game selection, many of the people who bought it had not purchased a video game console before. Sales of the Wii eventually leveled off, and Nintendo's profits went along with it.
Nintendo's follow-up is the new Wii U. The system starts at $300 and includes the new Wii U Gampad. The Gamepad is a new controller that includes a six-inch touchscreen between the controls. This is the main innovation with this new system.
Like the Wii, the Wii U's focus is on local multiplayer gaming, also known as "couch multiplayer." One player uses the Wii U Gamepad, while up to four other players use the Wii remote that was introduced with the original Wii.
The use of this second display varies by game. At its most basic, it allows you to play games away from the TV. If my wife wants to keep playing New Super Mario Bros. U, and I want to switch off to watch a DVD, she can continue playing on the Gamepad's screen seamlessly. In other games, the second display is used as a status display. For example, a racing game can have a rear-view camera and a map of the racetrack displayed.
The most interesting use of the Gamepad's display, however, is when used in multiplayer games. In one minigame included with the game Nintendo Land, you play a kind of hide-and-seek. The player with the Gamepad can see where all the other players are, which the other four players only have a few clues to where the first player is hiding.Even this simple kind of game is something that hasn't been done with video games before.
Due perhaps to the higher cost or the fatigue people have with the original Wii, the Wii U is not selling nearly as well as the original. We saw this slow launch more recently with Nintendo's newest handheld, the 3DS-- which is now finally starting to pick up steam, especially with the announcement of a new Pokémon game for the system. I hope to see Wii U sales pick up the same way so I can find out what other ways designers find to use that screen to create new kinds of games.