Blog Post

Nintendo’s Wii U takes its cues from the iPad

Nintendo unveiled its next generation console today, with the Wii U. The Wii U has a new controller that features a 6.2-inch touchscreen built-in, which effectively acts as a tablet. We couldn’t help but think that Nintendo, far from innovating in this instance, borrowed liberally from the iPad (s aapl) and the way people use it for gaming and watching TV.

Two-screen gaming has a history that predates Apple’s iPad, and Nintendo proved that it works for portable gaming with the DS, which launched in 2004 and has been successful ever since, but the iPad is the one that made it make sense for TV gaming. Ever since Big Bucket Software used the iPad and the iPhone to create a working beta of The Incident running on one and controlled by the other, the potential for Apple to become a force in living room gaming seemed limited only by developer creativity. More recently, Real Racing HD 2 expanded on that concept with a true two-screen gaming experience for the iPad.

Nintendo Wii U extracts the two-screen experience from the model used by Real Racing HD 2 and discards most of the rest. The Wii U controller can’t act independent of the Wii U console, but it can handle gaming visuals entirely on its own screen, and it appears to support stylus input for functions beyond gaming, like drawing.

Making two-screen gaming the entire focus of Nintendo’s next-gen console is a very smart move at this point, since it’s happening before the concept takes off in a big way with iOS devices. It should work out well for Nintendo, but it could be even better for Apple device owners in the long run, if the Wii U concept inspires iOS developers to take two-screen gaming further.

Of course, gaming isn’t the only thing iPad users do in front of their TV. Television viewers have been distracting themselves with laptops and mobile phones for years, and the iPad was lends itself to be the ideal second screen device. Nielsen said in May that 70 percent of all tablet owners use their devices while watching TV. And last year, a study found that 86 percent of all mobile users access the Internet while watching TV.

Nintendo also added some media sharing features that were clearly inspired by efforts to use the iPad as a second-screen device. Wii U users will be able to flick photos and videos that they find online towards the TV to watch them on the big screen, something Yahoo (s yhoo) demonstrated at this year’s CES, and a key feature of Apple’s AirPlay technology. And the handheld controller will feature a front-facing camera to give users a chance to video chat while watching TV — a feature that will sound familiar to any iPad user as well.

Nintendo obviously concentrated on gaming during the introduction of the Wii U, but we shouldn’t be too surprised if the new controller was being utilized for other kinds of second-screen activity like Twitter and Facebook that has so far been the domain of the iPad as well.

16 Responses to “Nintendo’s Wii U takes its cues from the iPad”

  1. netwiz

    Its true, that apple was not the first company to think of augmenting the gaming experience with a second screen. but you guys fail to see what other cues nintendo has taken from apple that could play a major role in the future of gaming. Such as the cameras, and perhaps the most major piece of the wii u — THE FREAKIN BIG HONKING TOUCH SCREEN…

    if you ask me, and I consider my self an avid gamer, the part of the wii u that I liked best was the ability to use the screen as a sniper scope with the new zapper. I believe this feature will be difficult for apple to implement, and is a new element to gaming, that I’m looking forward to.

    • Touch screen has been around since the first DS. There also were touchscreen laptops out well before the iphone/ipad came out. The gameboy had a camera eons ago, you could even take your own picture and paste it onto video game characters. Nintendo has always been very forward thinking and not afraid to take chances, regardless of past failures.

      I wouldnt say just because Apple’s ipad and ios devices are wildly popular, and unbelievably well made/designed, that they are the originators of those technologies. This article seems to insinuate that. If Nintendo is copying Apple, then apple copied others as well. So whats the point?

      Companies like Nintendo and Apple have tons of cool concepts and technologies on the drawing board. Engineers who are part of these teams also jump ship and/or move on to other endeavors many times taking ideas and concepts with them. This article could have been much more productive if it concentrated on the rapid change in technology and its accessibility to the common non-tech person.

      What is exciting about the nintendo controller is that it has levels of touch sensitivity, which directly mimics the DS touch screens. Not just on/off.

    • totally disagree. while im sure the ipad didnt hurt nintendos idea, it didnt take its cues from them. cameras and gaming were in use well before the ipod touch was a thought, think gameboy camera. as for the touch screen, nintendo did touch gaming at least three years before apple, plus those that came before those.

      i love apple and like this blog, but they got this story wrong from the start. its poor reporting.

    • netwiz

      You guys are both right, I completely forgot about the gameboy camera, and I didn’t bother to double check whether or not the DS came out before the iPod touch. That being said I don’t think that the authors meant each individual feature but the way all of the hardware “and” software that was showcased behaves much like the dual screen gaming of the iPad. We can argue specifics all day, but I think that the wii u pretty much cements dual screen gaming “while” in front of a TV as the way of the future. But you can get a very similar experience from an I pad today.

  2. I agree w/Avneesh. The interactions between the screens is a totally different than what Apple has shown.
    If anything, this harken’s back to the Dreamcast controllers mini-screen (which I would never say Apple ‘took it’s cue’ from.

  3. You guys are crazy… There is a difference in multiscreen environment and video out…. I am not saying, Nintendo didn’t take a clue from Apple, but you should have come up with better reasoning if you are making this as headline…. All iPad examples are similar to usage of Laptop in office environment with Docking station.

  4. Chris K

    GAmeCube had games that used Gameboy as a controller. This will be first setup to have everything in the same box among other things.

  5. aside from harking back to the dreamcast, nintendo also used a gameboy advance to gamecube and ds to wii as second screens well before apple came up with it. kinda sloppy reporting and misinformation on gigas part.

  6. james braselton

    hi there yeah wii U will still se apple ipad aproch useing raly fast lighting fast flash storage for high read write speeds sony and microsoft needs fast read write speeds

  7. “Making two-screen gaming the entire focus of Nintendo’s next-gen console is a very smart move at this point, since it’s happening before the concept takes off in a big way with iOS devices.”

    Uuuhhh…. Devs have until the 2nd half of ’12, when the WiiU comes out to develop iOS 2-Screen Games, so its not really a fair competition, the iOS Game Center gets a big headstart…..

  8. Miyamoto claims to have come up with the idea ~4 years ago and to have never used an ipad.

    its basically the DS format in bigscreen home console form. Not an ipad ripoff