Meet The Wii U Gamepad, Nintendo’s Answer To Gaming On The iPad

Details are still just mainly technical, but Nintendo just took the wraps off the final version of the Wii U’s controller, now named Gamepad. This came during Nintendo’s somewhat surprising pre-E3 press conference. The controller itself looks somewhat similar to the prototype unit Nintendo unveiled at last year’s E3.

This pre-briefing speaks to the confidence of Nintendo. These sort of details are generally reserved for Nintendo’s big E3 event. It’s sort of brilliant, really. The last few years Microsoft has generally kicked off the festivities with the first major press conference of the show. But just a few days ago, Nintendo announced today’s online press conference, effectively stealing a bit of Microsoft’s E3 swagger with the announcement of the Wii U hardware prior to the start of the trade show.

Now that the Wii U hardware has been unveiled, Nintendo can spend even more time during its Tuesday morning press extravaganza showing off the games. Brilliant.

The Gamepad houses a pressure-sensitive touchscreen along with traditional buttons and directional pad. Nintendo also packed an NFC reader/writer and a gyroscope/accelerometer although the exact use cases have yet to be detailed for these goodies. The screen’s specs weren’t revealed but it seems to be the same 6.2-inch, 16:9 screen used in the original public concept. Price and availability were not announced.

Along with the Gamepad itself, Nintendo also took some time to detail a home theater remote app. This app provides users with a basic number pad and electronic programing guide, but also likely foreshadows a larger home theater announcement later this week.

Nintendo needs to have a good showing with the Wii U. The iPad, and the entire tablet movement for that matter, is eating away at Nintendo’s appeal while reconditioning gamers to think titles should only cost $1.99.

With the Wii U, Nintendo is attempting to merge the magic of the Wii’s motion gaming with the emergence of gaming on tablets. Even the Gamepad itself is some sort of unholy marriage of the old and new. Much like Apple, Nintendo has never been about the hardware. It’s all about the experience and those details will come.

Tune in Tuesday morning as we liveblog Nintendo’s E3 press conference. If today’s announcement is any indication, the event should be epic.