Commentary

Critic Gushes About Nintendo Wii U As Stock Market Yawns

Nintendo yesterday unveiled Wii U, a new gaming platform whose controller contains a tablet-like hi-def screen that can be used to play video games on a monitor or serve as a stand-alone viewing device. It will be available sometime after June 2012.

TheNew York Times' Seth Schiesel got a sneak, hands-on peek at the new device a couple of days ago under strict security precautions that included being ushered into a "huge, sealed metal box-room meant to repel all external surveillance and interference." He emerged duly impressed, writing in his "Critic's Notebook" this morning that the Japanese company "has another hit on its hands, an innovative new system that has a chance to shake up electronic entertainment."

The self-contained monitor does not process information itself, and is therefore not a portable player, Chloe Albanesius reports in PC. "The images displayed are generated only by Wii U [and are] wirelessly transmitted without latency issues," said Nintendo's global president Satoru Iwata at a press event at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. "We decided on this new structure because we want to create a strong bond between games, your TV and the Internet," he said.

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But, as Schiesel demonstrates through examples of playing several games using "Mii's" (avatars), the device can provide a different perspective than traditional controllers. If you're into things like deflecting arrows, it sounds very cool.

"Nintendo and Apple stand alone at the top in finding new ways for consumer technology to entertain and inform," Schiesel writes. "And that is because both companies actually put technology second in their design process. What comes first is the consumer experience; for these companies technology is useful only as it allows everyday people to have new experiences."

The Wii U controller includes a camera enabling video conferencing capability over the Internet, and also innovative graphic manipulation that, for example, allows a user to look down the shaft of a golf club. It also has a microphone, speakers, an accelerometer and gyroscope. But, Schiesel points out, the real test will be how clever third-party developers can be in utilizing these features to create apps for the device "that consumers can't even imagine right now."

As positive as Schiesel was after his private showing, the stock market was not so optimistic about the device yesterday. Bloomberg's Mariko Yasu and Cliff Edwards report that Nintendo shares "fell to the lowest in more than five years after the unveiling of its high-definition video-game console prompted some analysts to question the company's ability to repeat the success of its Wii model." The price dropped as much as 7.5% in Osaka trading, with more than 1.67 million shares changing hands. On a normal day, about 724,000 shares are traded.

"There were high expectations from the new version of the Wii and this fell far short," Yusuke Tsunoda, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities Co., told Bloomberg's reporters. "People had expected to see something more at a big event like the E3, but there wasn't really anything more than what's already reported."

Nintendo did not disclose a price for Wii U, but it will likely cost more than 20,000 yen ($250) in Japan when it goes on sale next year, according to one report.

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