The Nintendo Wii U is the company's sixth home console since the original Nintendo Entertainment System and follows the hugely successful Wii. In keeping with their design philosophy, the Wii U is not a system focused on high-end horsepower but instead a new take on gaming interfaces and online integration with efficiently designed hardware.
Its core hooks are the integrated second screen in the Wii U GamePad and their online social hub called Miiverse. The former introduces a focus on asymmetric gameplay in local multiplayer games which means the different players doing very different things in a game depending on which controller they use as well as more involved experiences and interactions in single player games with added functionality not previously possible. The latter is supposed to function as a seamless online community that makes it easier to discover what games people are actually playing and offers simpler ways to share stuff from within games and to communicate with other players around the globe.
The system's backwards compatibility with Wii peripherals also ensures a wide variety of gameplay possibilities for all kinds of games.
With rumors hitting the week prior, Nintendo announced its next console on April 25, 2011. The news was issued via a terse update on Nintendo of Japan's investor site, stating that the Nintendo Wii's successor would be launched in 2012.
On June 7, 2011 at their E3 press conference, Nintendo unveiled what they promised to be a new way to enjoy home entertainment with Nintendo's next home console, the Wii U. With a new touch screen controller that also includes all standard buttons, precision motion controls, and full 1080p HD graphics, Nintendo promises a whole new world of play styles and gaming possibilities for Wii U players. As Nintendo of America president and CEO Reggie Fils-Aime explained on stage that the Wii U is about tailoring the Nintendo game experience not just to a casual perspective, but for so-called hardcore players as well.
In October 2011, Nintendo confirmed that they will be re-revealing the Wii U at E3 2012. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata mentioned during the company's Financial Briefing in January 2012 that the Wii U would launch during the 2012 holiday season.
Iwata announced during Nintendo's Financial Briefing in April, 2012 that all Wii U games would be available for purchase as traditional packaged software in retail stores and via digital distribution on from day one. Nintendo is partnering with retailers to allow the sale of digital codes through retailers to achieve a "win-win" situation. Additionally, he let it be known that, while the details and software line-up for Wii U would be announced at E3 2012, the actual launch date and price would be revealed at a later date.
Nintendo revealed the final launch details for all territories on September 13, 2012. The Wii U launched in Japan on December 8, 2012 with 2 SKUs (Basic and Premium) but without pack-in software with the exception of Monster Hunter 3 HD Ver. bundle. In western territories, the Wii U also launched in both the Basic and Premium/Deluxe versions but the latter came bundled with Nintendo Land.
Japan (December 8, 2012)
"Basic" SKU (White)
- 8GB internal flash storage (can be expanded with up to 32GB SD/SDHC cards or up to 3TB external USB hard drives)
- Wii U GamePad (White)
- Wii U GamePad Stylus (White)
- Wii U Console AC Adapter
- Wii U GamePad AC Adapter
- HDMI cable
- Price: ¥26,250
"Premium" SKU (Black)
- 32GB internal flash storage (can be expanded with up to 32GB SD/SDHC cards or up to 3TB external USB hard drives)
- Wii U GamePad (Black)
- Wii U GamePad Stylus (Black)
- Wii U GamePad charging stand
- Wii U GamePad stand
- Wii U Console vertical stand
- Wii U Console AC Adapter
- Wii U GamePad AC Adapter
- HDMI cable
- Nintendo Network Premium: provides points for purchases by Premium Set customers, 10% points back on digital purchases depending on the title/publisher, to be redeemed once 500 points ($5) have been reached for future purchases. Valid until December 2014
- Access to the Dragon Quest X Wii U Beta
- Price: ¥31,500
North America (November 18, 2012)
Same as Japanese Basic Set, plus
Same as Japanese Premium Set (minus DQ X Beta Access), plus
Europe/Australia/New Zealand (November 30, 2012)
Same as Japanese Basic Set
Same as Japanese Premium Set (minus DQ X Beta Access) plus
- Sensor Bar
- Price: €349,00 / £299.00 / AU$ 429.95
Special Launch Bundles
Monster Hunter 3G HD Ver. Premium Bundle
- Wii U Premium Set (Black)
- Monster Hunter 3G HD Ver.
- Wii U Pro Controller (Black)
- Price: ¥38,850
ZombiU Premium Bundle
- Wii U Premium Set (Black)
- (does not include NintendoLand)
- Wii U Pro Controller (Black)
- Price: €399,99 / £329.00
These are the official Wii U accessories, ranging from additional controllers, stands to microphones. Available upon release.
Wii Remote Plus Accessories Set
- Wii Remote Plus
- Wii Sensor Bar
- Japan: ¥5,250
- EU: €59,95
- US: Not sold in North America
Wii U Pro Controller (Black or White)
- Includes USB-charging cable
- Price: ¥5,040
- EU: €49,95
- US: $49.99
Wii U GamePad Stand / Cradle Set
- Charging Cradle
- GamePad Stand
- Japan: ¥1,890
- EU: €19,95
- US: $19.99
Wii U Console Stand (Vertical)
- Only sold through Nintendo's online store
- Japan: ¥315
- EU: N/A
- US: N/A
Wii U Microphone
- Japan: TBA
- EU: TBA
- US: $24.99
Wii U GamePad Accessory Set
- Wii U GamePad Screen Protector
- Cleaning Cloth
- Wii U GamePad Stylus (Large)
- Japan: TBA
- EU: €9,95
- US: $12.99
The Wii U supports retail and downloadable software. Nintendo stated that from day-one, all first party retail software will also be available day-and-date in the Wii U's eShop. The exception being games that come bundled with hardware such as SiNG Party which comes with a microphone. Those would not be available as a download. In addition to retail software, the Wii U eShop will also offer download-only software like Virtual Console titles and original games.
The regular price of retail Wii U titles is raised to $59.99, bringing Nintendo's software prices up to the same level of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 titles.
Retail Launch Software
* also available via download from the eShop
Wii U eShop Launch Titles
Retail Game Case Design
In moving away from the simple and clean white box designs, Nintendo went with cyan-colored boxes accompanied by a half-oval shape at the top of the box surrounding the plain white Wii U logo. As a transitional color, a yellow line is placed between the shape and the actual game artwork.
This basic design mirrors that of the Nintendo GameCube cases which also featured a half-oval shape with a transitional line (in white) below it to separate it from the game artwork.
As has been common practice in Japan since 2010 with games released on Nintendo platforms, the game cases for titles rated CERO: C and higher come in black cases. While on Wii and 3DS the platform banner is on black background, the Wii U logo banner features a gradient background that goes from black to the normal cyan color.
Titles supporting any type of online functionality feature a Nintendo Network logo in the top right corner below the platform banner.
According to specifications released during E3 2012 by Nintendo, the Wii U is approximately 1.8 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide and 10.5 inches long while weighing about 3.41 pounds (1.5 kg).
- Media: A single self-loading media bay plays 12-centimeter proprietary high-density optical discs that can hold 25GB of data for the new console with a transfer speed of 22.5 MB/s. It also reads 12-centimeter Wii optical discs.
- Video Output: Supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i. Compatible cables include HDMI, Wii D-Terminal, Wii Component Video, Wii RGB, Wii S-Video Stereo AV and Wii AV.
- Audio Output: Uses AV Multi Out connector. Six-channel PCM linear output through HDMI.
- Storage: The console has internal flash memory, as well as the option to expand its memory using either an SD/SDHC memory card (up to 32GB) or an external USB hard disk drive (up to 2TB).
- CPU: IBM Power®-based multi-core microprocessor.
- GPU: AMD Radeon™-based High Definition GPU.
- Network: Wireless internet via IEEE 802.11b/g/n connection.
- RAM: 2GB of total RAM with 1GB for games and 1GB for system features
- Ports: Four USB 2.0 connector slots are included (two in the front, two in the back). The new console is backward compatible with Wii games and Wii accessories, including the Wii LAN adapter.
- Power consumption: The Wii U consumes up to 75W of power at most. Average usage comes in at around 45W.
Wii U GamePad
During the Pre-E3 2012 Nintendo Direct feature, Satoru Iwata revealed the official name for the Wii U controller. The name was inspired by the original NES controller which was the first controller to be referred to as a "game pad" by players due its flat design. Nintendo decided the name was also appropriate for the Wii U controller and thus they named it the Wii U GamePad as a call-back to the good ol' days.
Controller Design Concept
The Wii U GamePad features a touch screen along with button and stick inputs in line with with other controllers. This combination allows games to be augmented with real-time data displayed on the controller while the primary action occurs on the big-screen. The GamePad will function similar to the bottom screen on Nintendo's DS system, displaying information such as inventory systems or maps but also allowing for touch or stylus based gameplay input. The Wii U will allow using the GamePad screen as a primary display, so that other content can be viewed on the TV. There was some indication that this manner of screen swapping could even be taken a step further, giving split-screen players their own dedicated view, for example. The possibilities for so-called asymmetric multiplayer/co-op are a major part of the system's design.
The original prototype of the controller shown during E3 2011 incorporated two analog Circle Pads. These circle pads were not clickable and they were aligned vertically symmetrical directly above the D-Pad and face buttons on each side of the controller. The backside was flat except for a horizontal ridge that allowed the controller to be placed on flat surfaces at an angle and also housed the digital ZL/ZR triggers. The prototype neither featured the TV-button nor any NFC capabilities.
Revised Wii U GamePad Leak
In May 2012, a QA Tester for TT Games tweeted a picture of a revised Wii U Controller. This revision changed the Circle Pads to traditional, clickable Analog Sticks (with a circular gate instead of an octagonal one - a first for Nintendo) that are slightly offset from the Directional Pad and face buttons in addition to a host of other superficial changes, such as the appearance of the Wii U logo, rearranged Start and Select buttons, an unlabeled button that later turned out to be the TV-Control Button next to the power button, and the inclusion of the NFC reader/writer below the D-Pad.
This leak cleared up speculation based on previously discovered patents showing these changes (and more) months earlier but was falsely believed to be an older design than the one shown at E3 2011. The patent also showed added grips to the bottom and a wider form factor.
The controller includes a Power button, Home button, +Control Pad, A/B/X/Y buttons, digital L/R buttons and digital ZL/ZR buttons, two clickable analog sticks, a TV-Control Button and an NFC reader/writer. It also includes a built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and geomagnetic sensor, rumble support, a front-facing camera, microphone, stereo speakers, a sensor strip and a stylus. It also includes a 6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio resistive LCD touch screen (does not support multi touch).
The GamePad is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and weighs approximately 1.1 pounds (500 g). The battery life is given as lasting between 3-5h. By purchasing a separately available official High-Capacity Battery (2550mAh) (Product Code WUP-A-DLAA), battery life can be upgrade to an estimated 5-8h.
During Nintendo's January 27th, 2012 Financial Briefing, they revealed that the controller would also support NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, ultimately allowing functionality similar to the figurine-scanning in Skylanders and enabling the scanning of Wii U eShop cards or credit cards for micropayments by placing an object or a card on the NFC Reader/Writer below the D-Pad. This would later be heavily utilized for Nintendo's figurine initiative called Amiibo.
Next to the Wii U GamePad's power button is the TV-Control Button. This button can be used even if the Wii U and TV are turned off. With the TV button, the Wii U GamePad turns into a "fully independent infrared TV-remote". Users can use the touch screen to switch channels, change the TV volume, view the TV Guide and turn on the Wii U system simply by using the touch screen on the GamePad.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was quick to point out that the controller device was “not designed to be a portable video game machine, even though it shares some of the characteristics.” Killing the idea that the controller could be used as a legitimate portable gaming tablet (like Apple's iPad) which everybody was quick to compare it to. This becomes especially clear when one considers that none of the gameplay is rendered on the controller hardware itself.
Wii U Pro Controller
The Wii U Pro Controller is a secondary peripheral for use with the Wii U that functions as a standard console controller without the extra elements such as the touch screen display. It is primarily meant for use with multi-platform console games ported to the Wii U without GamePad-specific gameplay elements and for local multiplayer.
The controller's shape resembles that of the standard Xbox 360 controller with button and stick placements mirroring that of the Wii U GamePad. It also includes rumble support and has a battery life of up to 80 hours. The Pro Controller is available in black or white everywhere except for Europe and Australia where the only Pro Controllers sold are black.
Technically the Wii U supports usage two Wii U GamePads at the same time. It has been confirmed that using two GamePads simultaneously limits games to run at a framerate of no higher than 30fps due to the game outputting images to three screens at the same time. Initially it was said that launch-window titles would not make use of that functionality, however, since the system's market performance was behind Nintendo's expectations, implementation of support for two GamePads has been put on hold indefinitely.
Up to four Wii U Pro Controllers can be used at the same time. The system will also support up to four Wii Remote (or Wii Remote Plus) controllers connected at once along with the Wii U GamePad (allowing for five players simultaneous multiplayer). The new console supports all first party Wii controllers and input devices, including the Nunchuk controller, Classic Controller, Classic Controller Pro and Wii Balance Board.
At E3 2014, Nintendo revealed a special GameCube controller adapter that would allow original GameCube controllers (including Wavebirds) to be connected to the system via two USB connections. This adapter was specifically intended for use with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and launched alongside that title.
Software Backwards Compatibility
The Wii U is fully backwards compatible with most Wii titles. However, it will not feature the GameCube backwards compatibility of the Wii. Wii title compatibility excludes software that required usage of the GameCube controller ports built into the original Wii models since these are also not available on the Wii U hardware.
During E3 2012, Nintendo announced that it is possible for Wii users to transfer all their WiiWare and Virtual Console purchases to the Wii U, along with all the save data. This makes it the only 8th Generation console with full backwards compatibility covering both retail and digital libraries.
To access all Wii-specific software, players have to access the Wii Mode from the Wii U main menu. This is a separate environment that disables all Wii U-specific features for optimal compatibility with the software.
All transferred Wii data like save games, Wii Shop Channel purchases (Virtual Console, WiiWare) including leftover Wii Shop funds will be accessible via this mode. The Wii Shop Channel is not tied to the Wii U eShop and is thus completely walled off. Nintendo also announced a special upgrade program for Virtual Console software purchased on the original Wii and then transfered to Wii Mode (or bought directly in Wii Mode) which allows users to upgrade titles available on both Wii Virtual Console and Wii U Virtual Console for a fraction of the price to the Wii U VC version.
In October 2013, a system update introduced the ability for Wii Mode to stream video to the GamePad meaning all titles in Wii Mode could be played in Off-TV Mode as well. However, since the Wii system does not recognize the wireless tech in the GamePad, games cannot be played with the actual Wii U GamePad or even Wii U Pro Controller and users have to stick with the original Wii controllers. Since the Wii U GamePad has a built-in sensor bar above the touch screen, players can utilize it to play even games using the IR pointer on the GamePad screen (or place a sensor bar elsewhere to increase comfort).
During Nintendo's Financial Briefing on January 27th, 2012 Satoru Iwata announced the Nintendo Network platform. An overarching online platform that covers Nintendo 3DS as well as Wii U and future platforms, Nintendo Network supports various online services. Nintendo Network is an evolution from the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection that was used in Wii and DS titles.
Each Wii U console will allow for the creation of 12 unique user accounts. The console itself can go online by signing up for a Nintendo Network ID which manages eShop purchases, friend lists, Miiverse, online play and other functions.
Unlike with the 3DS, the Wii U's eShop was made available at launch and offers a variety of download-only games as well as retail games for purchase.
On November 14 2012, Satoru Iwata announced in a Nintendo Direct presentation that they are working on Wii U Virtual Console service that would have support for Off-TV Play with further details to be talked about later.
On January 23 2013, Iwata confirmed that Virtual Console will be available starting in Spring of 2013. Confirmed consoles supported will be NES, Super NES, and Game Boy Advance. Any games that were previously purchased for Wii Virtual Console and transferred over will be deeply discounted for buyers of the Wii U version - down to $1.00 US for NES and $1.50 for SNES. Wii U Virtual Console games will feature additional features and are undergoing additional development beyond simple emulation. Starting that same day, a preview of the Virtual Console service to celebrate 30 years of Famicom was launched, showcasing a different game for 30 days at the price of 30 US cents.
On June 3, 2012, Nintendo started its E3 presentations early by releasing a Nintendo Direct video detailing non-game aspects of Wii U before their official E3 Media Briefing on June 5. Aside from highlighting the changes made to the Wii U GamePad, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata presented a first look at Miiverse, Wii U's central hub for community/social features. Miiverse is essentially an evolution of the Mii Plaza and StreetPass Mii Plaza that first appeared on Wii and Nintendo 3DS respectively.
Players enter the Miiverse upon booting up the system and are greeted by all the Miis tied to accounts on the system itself, Miis of their friends as well as Miis created by people either in the same region or speaking the same language in the Wara Wara Plaza (wara wara being a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound a bustling crowd makes).
Miis are the main anchor for Wii U's social features. Messaging works like a Twitter feed that can be sorted by certain criteria. Users can filter messages pertaining to specific games, messages from people in their Mii Plaza, view their own activity log and other categories. Users can choose to either type the message using an on-screen keyboard on the touch screen or by going old-school with actual handwriting or doodling with their finger or stylus. The interface also allows the selection of emoticon-like expressions that will be represented on their Mii's face alongside the message.
Since Miiverse is web-based, it was also made accessible via Nintendo 3DS, PC or any web-enabled mobile device later in 2013. To illustrate real-life use, the Nintendo Direct presentation showed a young man playing a Wii U game at home, suspending his game to post a Miiverse message asking for help with the game while his friend checked his own friend activity feed on his phone and called the former up to offer advice (and mockery).
Users are able to post screenshots and transmit user generated game content via Miiverse communities. Miis in the Wara Wara Plaza and the Nintendo Land Plaza, for example, can also display speech bubbles representing posts their creators made to the related Miiverse community.
Miiverse is a feature native to the system that can be accessed at all times and by all games. This allows developers to integrate Miiverse directly into their games. Nintendo showed an example of this with New Super Mario Bros. U gameplay. Player-created messages pop up on the world map and at a certain point where Mario ended his life prematurely by, for example, running into a Koopa Troopa. This is reminiscent of a similar feature found in FROM Software's Souls series in which players who were connected to the internet with their console could leave messages at places of their choice, providing useful or misleading hints for other players to randomly stumble across.
Iwata mentioned that while they are working to prevent people from spoiling moments in games with this feature, it was envisioned to increase empathy among gamers around the world. Because the Miiverse is integrated into the Wii U firmware, even strictly single player games with no dedicated online functionality can make use of this feature, potentially turning every game into a social experience with friends.
Alongside Super Mario 3D World in November 2013, Nintendo introduced Miiverse Stamps. A Nintendo-take on achievements that ties in-game progress to unlocks of pre-made Miiverse drawings that players can use to create posts using official character art of a game. A user posting a stamp unlocked by a particularly hard unlock could thus be fairly easily recognized.
Wii U Chat
The built-in microphone and video camera in the Wii U GamePad allow for easy video chat among gamers. The basic idea was born in the N64 days when Genyo Takeda first expressed the desire to include a TV phone capability with Nintendo's home consoles.
Wii U Chat displays the incoming video either on the GamePad or on the TV screen, depending on whether the user might be using it alone or wants to make a family call with more people around. If the Wii U is online and a call is coming in, the Home button on the GamePad will start to flash, informing players that there is a call waiting for them. If the system is not turned on, the caller can leave a message notification via Miiverse. In addition the video feed, users can actually draw on the touch screen over the image of video with a glowing line.
The Wii U also launches with an Internet Browser that can be manipulated with the touch screen even while in-game. Videos can be displayed at full size on the TV while the GamePad is used for browsing while the video plays. It is also possible to prepare a video and conceal it behind curtains for audiences.
Using the browser is possible without having to close a game that is being played to possibly search the internet for help or post 720p screenshots of the current gameplay scene to any image hosting services or social networks.
Video playback formats H.264 and HTML5 are supported while Flash is not. Support for reading PDF files was later added via a system update.
At E3 2012, Nintendo announced that Wii U would also feature various video streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube. In their Wii U preview event on September 13, 2012, Nintendo revealed more details about the service they are calling Nintendo TVii.
This service, only available in North America, will give Wii U users access to all their video streaming services as well as their local network and cable TV programs in a central place.
Standby Mode & Quick Start Menu
Various system updates introduced new functionality to the system. Among them an evolution of the WiiConnect24 concept of potentially receiving content at any hour of the day, even when the system was turned off. Wii U automatically checks for content while in standby mode (according to user preference) and can download and install software updates as well system updates in standby to make updating the system or games completely seamless.
This also enables automatic content distribution, meaning users can opt-in to automatically receive available free software or demos in standby mode. Additionally, with the introduction of the Quick Start Menu that offers shortcuts of the most recent applications or games used upon turning on the GamePad, an optional messaging feature was made available. If enabled, users may receive notifications that display on the Wii U GamePad for a user-determined amount of time with information about all sorts of things like eShop promotions or upcoming events - all while the system itself remains in standby.