The next wave of video game home consoles begins this Sunday, November 18 when Nintendo ships the successor to the Wii dubbed Wii U. We know pretty much all there is to know about the Wii U already: the HD console’s main selling point is its tablet-like controller that enables new forms of gameplay and second-screen interactivity; the Nintendo Network will finally usher Mario and the gang into the modern online gaming era; over 30 launch day games will be available for purchase alongside the system; and Nintendo is offering two SKUs starting at $300 for the basic set. For all things Wii U, refer to these marked posts.
Leading up to release day, Nintendo shed light on a couple new system features. First, up to 12 players can register on a single console. Your personal profile is directly tied to your game saves, settings, play history, and Internet browser bookmarks. Next, we already know that the Wii U GamePad enables video chat with its front-facing camera, and now Nintendo has divulged that the magic happens with an app called Wii U Chat. With an Internet connection, users can connect to other Wii U owners and video chat across their GamePads and TV screens. Using the GamePad you can draw on top of your recipients face and they will see your creations in real time. If you’re playing a game, you’ll be notified of an incoming call when you see the controller’s Home button flash a blue hue.
Besides online gameplay via the Nintendo Network, another way the house that built Mario is jumping ahead is by offering up entertainment consumption apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and its own interactive second screen experience that curates video content called Nintendo TVii. Originally it was planned that these apps would arrive via a software update on launch day, but this week Ninty shared unfortunate news spilling that they will be delayed until December. Netflix told Engadget that their app will indeed ship when the console does on Sunday, but as for the rest of them we’ll have to wait a few weeks.
With its unique GamePad, the Wii U hopes to once again revolutionize the way gamers play games. And with their newfound approach to providing entertainment content, Nintendo offers yet another way to consume movies, TV shows, and sports. With Xbox SmartGlass just finding its feet, will the Wii U steal the spotlight and provide an even better second screen experience with games and other content? The second screen is built into the Wii U’s DNA and that’s what Ninty is banking on. Get in line, pick one up, and give it a spin. (If you didn’t preorder, you’re likely out of luck, unless of course you live in the NYC area and are willing to participate in Nintendo World’s midnight launch event!) PR after the break.
Update (11/18): If you managed to pick up a Wii U today, you should know that the console does not come preinstalled with many of its touted software-based functions. In order to access and run Miiverse, Nintendo eShop, the Internet browser, and WiiU Chat, you must download and install a chunky software update. This update also enabled backwards compatibility with Wii games and even reproduces the last-gen Wii menu interface when a game disc is inserted. Netflix is also available via a separate update, and the other video consumption apps Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Nintendo TVii are coming later this year as previously reported.
Update 2 (11/22): Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube have officially joined Netflix on the Wii U. When Nintendo TVii decides to drop, you’ll know! READ MORE Nintendo’s Wii U launches this Sunday