Nintendo reveals early Wii U prototypes

The game designer shows an early Wii U Game Pad concept: two Wii controllers stuck to a monitor with double-sided tape

By Jay Alabaster, IDG News Service |  Personal Tech, Nintendo, video games

The original concept for Nintendo's new Wii U game controller?

Two older Wii controllers soldered and attached to either side of a small monitor.

The company discussed the prototype in an "Iwata Asks" column published over the weekend, in which Nintendo president Satoru Iwata interviews several company engineers on the development of the Wii U.

"It's very high-tech - a monitor and controllers stuck together by double-sided tape," jokes Takayuki Shimamura, a software engineer, in the column.

An earlier prototype, which Shimamura says was the first to include a smaller screen to supplement the main TV output of a home gaming console, consists of a tiny monitor mounted on the nose of a Wii Zapper gun peripheral for the Wii.

"This was the start of two-screen gameplay," says Katsuya Eguchi, a general manager in one of the company's software development teams.

Iwata discusses the development of the Wii U with the engineers, saying Nintendo's development strategy in playing with new ideas is often to "make something makeshift and actually try it out."

The Wii U is the long-anticipated successor to the Wii, launched in 2006, which introduced motion-based gaming to the masses and has been a smash hit for Nintendo, selling nearly 100 million units total worldwide. Unlike main rivals Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo is strictly a gaming company, and its business relies on just a few game consoles it sells worldwide.

A main feature of the Wii U is its "GamePad" controller, which is similar to a full-fledged tablet in itself. The advanced controller has features including a touchscreen, motion detection, camera and stylus. Its small screen can be used to supplement game play on the main TV, or serve as a main display.

The new console had a warm reception in its Japan launch last week, with dozens of gamers lining up outside electronics stores before sales began. The company sold out of consoles in its U.S. launch, despite software problems including a large, required update at launch and outages on its new "Miiverse" gaming social network.

Nintendo aims to sell 5.5 million Wii U consoles globally by the end of March.

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