A model demonstrates Nintendo Co.'s new game "Wii Fit" which allows players to weigh themselves, check their balance and play fitness games, during a press event at Makuhari Messe in Makuhari, east of Tokyo, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007. Nintendo Co. said Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007, profits more than doubled in the six months to Sept. 30 on the soaring success of its hit Wii and Nintendo DS game consoles. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Nintendo is taking the idea of the "second screen" to a new level.
The company on Tuesday showed off a prototype gaming system called Wii U, which consists of a smartphone-like remote control that lets gamers play on two screens at the same time.
The controller has a touch-sensitive, 6.2-inch screen -- kind of like a giant Android phone -- that players can use to zoom in on TV images and to interact with games that show up both on the remote control and on the television.
For example, in a video demo of the system, which Nintendo showed off during a press conference at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, a player puts his finger on a throwing star on the remote control's screen. With a swipe, the player throws this weapon at the TV screen across the room, and the object shows up there immediately -- as if it really flew through the air.
The Wii U remote also connects to the Internet, allowing users to essentially throw photos or videos from the controller onto the television.
Nintendo executives say the Wii U is just a prototype. They did not offer details about when the system will be available in stores or how much it will cost. Only one game is officially in the works for the system: "Lego City Stories," which Nintendo is developing in partnership with TT Games, the company said.
Still, Nintendo is banking on the fact that Wii U will change gaming.
Executives compared the Wii U's release to the 2006 debut of the Wii, which was the first system to let players control games with movements of their bodies instead of clicking at buttons on hand-held controllers.
"It's a system we will all enjoy together but also one that's tailor-made for you," said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo America. "Is it unique, unifying, maybe even utopian? The answer is also yes to all of this."
He added: "It's different from anything you've played before. It's infinitely complex and yet perfectly simple at the same time. It can change the way you game personally, and it can change the way you interact with family and friends."
The new system is also an attempt by Nintendo to capture hardcore gamers, who have shied away from the company's family-friendly titles. The remote includes lots of hardware buttons -- on the right left and back of the control -- in order to allow these more traditional gamers to play complicated games.
"As an industry, what we haven't achieved yet is a game platform that is equally satisfying for all players," said Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's global president. "Yet this is exactly what we intend to create with our new home platform."
To that effect, the company trotted out an executive from EA, the major gaming company, to give his endorsement for the Nintendo prototype.
The Wii U controller includes all the technical innards of a smartphone -- accelerometers, a gyroscope, cameras and a microphone -- which make the controller act in some fundamentally new ways when compared to the remotes that control other console gaming systems.
It also gives players some options.
Wii U users can turn the controller's screen off to play Wii games just as they would on any other console -- like the Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony Playstation. They also can play some games -- a board-game example was shown -- on the Wii U remote by itself, without the help of a television screen. Or, uniquely, players can use both the remote and TV screens together, creating new possibilities.
A shooting game demo showed a sniper using the screen on the Wii U remote to zoom in on target inside a building's window while the image on the television remained static. Another clip showed a player using the remote's screen to aim at a fly ball and make an outfielder catch it in a baseball game.
Another player weighed herself on the Wii Fit Balance Board while holding the Nintendo remote in her hand. She got graphics about the progress of her health over time right on the remote's screen instead of on the TV.