Nintendo’s self-imposed goal of getting players to connect in different ways was always going to be a key feature of the Wii U, but today they’ve revealed exactly how this will be implemented.
In a Pre-E3 Nintendo Direct video, Satoru Iwata described the Miiverse (an obvious amalgamation of “Mii” and “Universe”), which looks to be a deep and intuitive system for communication between players.
An expansion of the Mii Plaza already seen on the Wii and 3DS, the Miiverse acts as the initial system menu on booting up the Wii U console. Icons for games and apps float above a Plaza, where Miis are gathered around them, indicating how many people are currently playing each game. It can be brought up either on the TV screen or the GamePad, without ending your current game session.
Iwata explains that it will display Miis created on your console, so yours, your friends and family; Miis streamed across the Nintendo Network from your friends’ consoles; as well as a bunch of other Wii U users in your region.
The Miiverse features a forum-like chat setup, where the GamePad touch screen can be used to type or handwrite messages, like the 3DS’ Nintendo Letterbox. Iwata believes that “what you physically write or draw can naturally convey stronger feelings than what you simply type”, so it looks like both typed and written messages will co-exist.
If you can’t communicate enough with handwritten messages, Nintendo have given you an extra way to implement “smileys”: your Mii icon to the right of your message can be altered for each post, to display the appropriate facial expression.
Native support for all Wii U games will allow developers to implement the system however they see fit. While Nintendo are keeping their software news under wraps until their E3 conference, some interesting examples were given using the Mario prototype we were shown last year. Players are seen writing messages on specific levels or even parts within levels, which their friends can see when they reach that point.
It feels like those Facebook posts you get from people playing Words With Friends or something, detailing their high scores, good moves, etc. So while it is pretty cool, let’s hope they include the ability to turn it off, if players wish.
Iwata also stated that the Miiverse can be used for players to share screenshots and user-generated content, and that some time after launch, players will be able to access the Miiverse while away from their Wii U consoles, on their 3DS, PC or any web-enabled mobile device.
All up, it looks like Nintendo are achieving their goal of connecting people to each other, even if there’s no one else in the room. Of course, all this will only be as good as the Nintendo Network connection allows, but with such a huge improvement in online functionality over the original Wii, I think it’s safe to trust them.
We’ll have to wait until the official conference to get any news about the software, but I’m already genuinely excited for this. If they have a decent launch lineup of games (and having learnt a bitter lesson from the 3DS, I think they will), the Wii U will be a Day One purchase for me.
See the full Nintendo Direct video here.