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Reaction: Wii U's Social Potential Takes Shape

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

A bold new direction for Nintendo

With just 11 days until Wii U arrives in North America — at the time of writing — it's perhaps surprising that substantial details on Nintendo's online services have taken so long to emerge. That said, it's not unprecedented, as Nintendo often likes to keep its cards close to its chest, withholding details and then releasing them on its own terms. It's undoubtedly an effective way to build anticipation, with snippets and hints eventually dispelled, in many cases, with a Nintendo Direct broadcast, a series of videos that have transformed Nintendo's relationship with its most enthusiastic supporters.

Today's broadcast from Japan, with key sections since translated alongside an additional summary produced by Nintendo of America, directly addressed the social elements built-in to the Wii U system. Once you complete a day one system update, Miiverse promises to be a prominent part of the console's experience, while the included WaraWara Plaza will be the first screen that you'll see on your TV screen, with dozens of Mii's gathering around bubbles that represent popular games, each sharing comments on what they're playing. WaraWara Plaza, the Japanese name being incorporated in the West in a bid to bring more Japanese terminology to worldwide gamers, is also the perfect visual representation of what Nintendo is trying to achieve with Wii U — it wants to make an exceptionally social console, but on its own terms.

After the primitive and cumbersome online functions on Wii, Nintendo's new system is bringing a much needed fresh approach. The WaraWara Plaza footage, particularly in the NoA video, showed how viewing Mii's around a game of interest can prompt the gamer into going a step further, with an eShop link to purchase the game or the option to add an entertaining Mii as a friend. That's the most basic interaction, but it's the immersion into Miiverse that offers the most positive sign of the social possibilities on the system, not only delivering functionality but, most importantly, accessibility.

The accessibility on display is truly possible thanks to the GamePad. The Miiverse demonstration showed how the press of a button can pause the TV screen and allow messaging and interaction with instinctive taps on the touch screen. That ease of use is imperative to making these functions a success, and based on what we've seen it looks like the right balance has been found. The example featuring New Super Mario Bros. U demonstrated how pausing a game and jumping into Miiverse can enable an immediate connection with a community of gamers. You'll be able to post and filter messages to avoid spoilers, with the ability to send friend requests to anyone that seems worth your time. The comparisons to Twitter, in terms of how it'll work, haven't just been made on this site.

Wii U Chat, meanwhile, will bring a Skype-style service to the console, utilising the GamePad camera — though its resolution is modest — to allow video conversations with those on your friend list. Chatting with a friend on the TV is an option, but the ability to have the whole conversation on the GamePad means that you'll be able to video chat while watching something else on TV. This can easily be done on any laptop, tablet or smartphone, of course, but it contributes to an impressive integrated whole for Wii U's social abilities.

Behind it all, of course, is the system's UI — seen briefly for the first time today — and the Nintendo Network ID, which will provide the foundation for Miiverse, WaraWara Plaza, Wii U Chat and the eShop. The user interface is very similar to the 3DS equivalent, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, while the support for 12 distinctive user accounts — all with access to any purchased eShop content — emphasises that the system isn't just concerned with connecting gamers from around the world, but also within homes. Let's not forget the internet browser, either, which can run alongside a paused game, sure to be handy when a walkthrough or guide is needed. It all adds up to a fairly substantial range of social options, some which are standard in modern consoles, and other features perhaps adopting an approach that's typical Nintendo, while making good use of the GamePad to add a simplicity perhaps unmatched elsewhere.

There are still some questions, of course, that may or may not be addressed before the system arrives. One is the eShop, which is still a mystery to all but the most high-level Nintendo employees; considering the sudden nature of this Miiverse Nintendo Direct, however, we wouldn't rule out another broadcast to provide a big reveal. The other area yet to be addressed is the capability of Nintendo Network to deliver top-notch online multiplayer experiences. While the onus in that area is mostly on developers, there's still uncertainty in terms of how robust the Nintendo Network platform will be. Complex gaming servers and "season pass" bundles of DLC are still relatively up in the air, with Activision saying in mid-October that it was unsure whether Call of Duty: Black Ops II would have an Elite service on Wii U, and Assassin's Creed III DLC being confirmed, but not necessarily in a cut price season pass, as will be available on Xbox 360 and PS3. It's early days, of course, and these features may arrive at launch or in the near future, but doubt will remain until they're confirmed.

While doubts may remains about online multiplayer gaming's robustness on Wii U, many similar concerns about the social aspects of the system were eased today. While we all need to get our hands on it and experience it in practice — especially to test the speed and efficiency of planned content filters and moderating — its potential was clear to see in today's Nintendo Direct. After lagging behind with Wii, Nintendo seems to be on the cusp of bringing its gamers together with Miiverse; it could be an exciting new era for all of us.

What do you think? Are you excited about what we've seen of Miiverse and Wii U's social options today, or are you unimpressed? Let us know in the comments below.

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User Comments (53)

ReindeerDasher

#1

ReindeerDasher said:

I'm very excited! I can't wait to try it out and see all of its features! Also yes that does look like the 3DS, but it also looks like the Wii's home menu too! Cool!

eviLaTtenDant

#2

eviLaTtenDant said:

I hoped for Mario Kart 7 - like communities as a main feature of the system's OS. A shame that doesn't seem a part of it imo.

TrueWiiMaster

#4

TrueWiiMaster said:

I don't know how I feel about using video chat with random friended people, but this still looks beyond awesome. I can't wait to try it out when I get a Wii U (hopefully in December).

GazPlant

#5

GazPlant said:

Using the 3DS interface feels a bit, well, lazy to me. I dunno, I'd just liked to have seen a new layout for a new console. I guess if it ain't broke...

19Robb92

#6

19Robb92 said:

Everything about this looks really nice IMO. I hope everything works out as planed for Nintendo. Seems like a great service and it's a huuuuge step in the right direction for them.

Moguri

#9

Moguri said:

I don't really like the menu interface, but I think the Wii U is going to be the best console ever made by Nintendo.

rjejr

#10

rjejr said:

Nice summary.

So say we have 4 accounts/IDs on the WiiU - are all of our Miis in WaraWara Plaza and we click on the one we want? {The PS3 has a list on XMB - though mine is set to auto in for the PS+ updates.} Would be nice if Miiverse can work as a type of Animal Crossing for us to interact and leave messages for each other.

@Red_Kinetic - I don't know about naughty video chat, but I know the first thing my girlfriend and I did when we got the PS2 EyeToy ;-) Wonder if I can mount the Gamepad on a tripod?

No-longer-postin

#11

No-longer-postin said:

When I get my Black WiiU its only going to have one account. Mine. The kids will have their own. Eventually ... they're still very young.

Whopper744

#15

Whopper744 said:

Already coming up with username ideas for Wii U...Joshers needs retired....I'm thinking something about TURBO-TASTIC (for those of you who know where that comes from) or something.........

WesCash

#20

WesCash said:

Cools. Hopefully a few people I know will purchase WiIUs so I can at least get a chance to use and try out a lot of these features.

NintyMan

#21

NintyMan said:

Even if it all sounds like something Apple would do, it still sounds really cool for Nintendo and a good step in the right direction for them. I hope it all works smoothly and the download of the features is quick enough. It'll definitely add a new depth to Nintendo games.

ogo79

#22

ogo79 said:

since im old school, the only way i chat/communicate with people is by smoke signal, all these fancy devices make my head hurt. now if youll excuse me i have to go wash clothes in the river

Wonder_Ideal

#24

Wonder_Ideal said:

@WesCash I have the same predicament. I'm not sure how many of my friends are getting a Wii U or not. Even if they don't get one, I'll still enjoy the paint off of this thing!

Suportedcofe

#25

Suportedcofe said:

This might not matter to most people but I really hope there will be disc channel intros like it was on the wii.

Varia01

#27

Varia01 said:

Do you mind if I say my results? The menu looks good and Miiverse sounds greatly used, but the eshop secrets are a little disappointing and the console doesn't seem to have as much online power as the other two though. But the controller (Wii U gamepad, is way way better than Xbox 360 and PS3's outdated garbage). 8.8/10

GameLord08

#31

GameLord08 said:

I'm rather underwhelmed with all I've caught up on today, but it does indeed look swell.

Ren

#32

Ren said:

great! now I can video chat with those 3 people that have only a Wii U and no access to a computer, phone, or tablet and play video games all day long. I know so many adults like that! And cameras, and cartoony people that can send messages about gaming to each other and even watch movies on demand, all with up to 32gb of storage for HD games! It's like a magical carpet ride to 2009!

Nin-freak

#33

Nin-freak said:

I just want Pikmin 3 right now, and NSMBU is looking to be an amazing 2D Mario title. I hope they spent these 10+ years making Pikmin 3 the best it can be!

treeofmana

#34

treeofmana said:

I'm incredibly excited. I would make a day one purchase but unfortunately, finances dictate a wait. I just hope I can still buy a white version for a while. I'm not a fan of the black, personally--even with the extra internal storage.

WhiteTrashGuy

#36

WhiteTrashGuy said:

Looks way more enticing than the 360's constant updates which has finally moved the interface to looking like Windows 8. Personally, I really like the 3DS' and Wii's UI.

luminalace

#38

luminalace said:

Awesome Wii U is going to rock. I would have liked a slightly updated take on the UI because it's very much like what we have already seen on Wii and 3DS - Maybe they could have added a bit more colour this time around to make it a bit more techy but we already know it works and has proven to be very user friendly! I actually thought that Wara Plaza was the new interface which would have been cool!

NiBar

#41

NiBar said:

Hopefully there is a wiimote pointer option . That is really the best way to control this thing. Are you listening Nintendo?

SullKid

#44

SullKid said:

I'm super let down by the UI. It just looks plain ugly and old-fashioned. It's similar to Wii and 3DS, designed to SD. With HD graphics they should have done something different.

Hokori

#45

Hokori said:

@Ren Or you know for people who don't want a computer or phone just to video chat, I prefer my games and that's just an added bonus, think of it as useless for the computer, not the wiiu

ei8htbit

#46

ei8htbit said:

@GazPlant I kind of agree with you. I wouldn't call it "lazy" so much as "a little boring" in terms of re-using the simple grid 3DS-style interface on the gamepad. I guess I just sort of hoped it would look a little more slick, maybe even sexy - or maybe even make use of fun bright happy characters in it's presentation (for example, how they used retro Super Mario in the Wii Shop Download screen - why not incorporate some character interaction in a very Nintendo way for the general user interface).
They've got this gorgeous sleek glossy black gamepad that comes to a screeching halt with an excel spreadsheet interface slapped on the screen. BUT then again, this is a very family-friendly, Lego-Block/Fischer-Price simplified interface that is very much Nintendo, and I'm okay with that too. After all, it just takes one tap to get wherever you want to go (similar to how even the nicest hotel room is really only used to sleep at night, it's the rest of the city that you actually explore, not the inside of the hotel room so you might as well only pay for a Motel 8 and spend the money you save on a nice meal instead).
All of this is a wash anyway in the real world of firmware updates so the interface could always evolve dynamically in the future if it really doesn't work out..

ei8htbit

#47

ei8htbit said:

Actually I just took a closer look at that summary video (linked at the start of this article) and I have to say that even though the 3DS style menu may seem bland at first glance, they actually seem to have done a really good job of making the tiles themselves appear glossy and reflective and hi-res as they have some movement to them as well (especially compared to the chunkiness of the resolution on 3DS) so I guess I can concede that at least in that respect it does look a little cool.

TheRealThanos

#52

TheRealThanos said:

I REALLY don't get all the negativity. From what I've read in this article and others and from the videos I've seen, it looks like a very solid and well thought out concept that is going to bring something extra to console gaming.
It isn't going to be PSN or Xbox Live, but then it was never designed to be, it's designed to be a Nintendo Network, pun intended.
All I read is I want this, I want that, it better have this or that, just like whiny little children. What a load of crap!
It is their solution, so they decide what it's going to look like, not people like you.

Sure, we could have had some nicer graphics and the Mii's could have grown up a bit more to be similar to Xbox Avatars, but then I once again tell you that it's not supposed to be like the other solutions, and personally I'm not at all happy that my Xbox 360 now has this disgusting Windows 8 look and feel. With every update they also changed around layouts and renamed stuff, so I don't think it's an improvement at all.

So, to all the haters: maybe, if you really dislike it that much, you shouldn't buy a Wii U and please let somebody else that does appreciate it as it should be get one instead, you don't deserve one.
Have a nice wait for the next PS/Xbox....

@Ren
The storage argument is ridiculous and already null and void, seeing as you can add at least 64Gb by inserting an HC SD card and then there is the imho rather wonderful option to be able to decide yourself what external hard drive you plug into the USB port, with as far as we know, no limit on size and you can use whichever brand you like (or is cheapest?) and that is something that Sony and Microsoft haven't been offering up till now.

Sony is the absolute worst offender here, forcing you to use all their proprietary memory sticks, SD cards and what not, followed closely by Microsoft that also have proprietary hard drives (actually normal hard drives in a plastic shell with added connectors, so why the hell they have to be so expensive is beyond me) but at least offer the possibility to also use third party hardware besides that.

I actually don't think that you're really that narrow-minded or short-sighted, but if you are, then by all means: take your magic carpet ride to 2009 and stay there... ;)

metalpants

#53

metalpants said:

@espinozac7

That's the Wii emulator. When you open it, it's like having a Wii inside the Wii U, not as part of. I think I read that it will take you to the old Wii menu where you can access the games, Wii shop, VC titles, etc. Think of it as Wii having GC backwards compatibility. It's just an emulator as opposed to an app that blends the older system with the new one shrug. Oh wells. At least the option is there...

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