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E3 2011: Nintendo's next game console to have touch-screen controller

June 7, 2011 | 10:00 am


Nintendo Co. took the wraps off its next video game console, which will feature a touch-screen controller and better graphics than its current Wii device.

The Japanese game company showed off the new console at a news conference Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, the opening day of the E3 video game industry conference, saying it expects to begin selling the device sometime after April 1, 2012.

The console is called Wii U, "for unique, unifying," said Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime at the company's news conference.

Nintendo hopes the new console will rev up sales for its products, which have fallen off a cliff after enjoying three years of double-digit growth that was fueled by demand from a broad audience of female and older consumers who bought into its novel motion controller and fitness games.

While sales of Nintendo's Wii and portable DS game consoles were responsible for the lion's share of the industry's rapid growth between 2006, when it introduced the Wii, and 2009, its loss of momentum last year conversely became a drag on overall industry growth.

"As Nintendo goes, so went the market," said John Taylor, a longtime game industry analyst and managing director of Arcadia Investment Corp. in Portland, Ore.

The company is betting that its new console will reignite consumers' appetite for video games. The most visible difference is the new controller, which looks like a cross between a traditional video game controller and a touch-screen tablet. Equipped with an accelerometer and a gyroscope, the controller senses players' physical orientation and how they move, allowing for augmented reality games.

The controller's screen measures 6.2-inch diagonally, allowing the player holding it to potentially get a different view of the game than another player looking at the main television screen.

The new console will also support 1080p high-definition graphics, addressing a shortcoming of the Wii, whose standard-resolution graphics often seemed low-tech compared to its more high-powered rivals, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. To curb piracy, the device will use a proprietary, high-density optical disc for its games.

Nintendo did not disclose how much it plans to charge for its new console.

-- Alex Pham


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Photos: (Top) Todd Arostegui plays Shield Pose with the new Nintendo Wii U game console at E3. (Bottom) Nintendo's new look. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times