Nintendo Unveils Next Generation Of Wii

This week, the video game industry converges on Los Angeles for E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. New games, new technology and new devices are unveiled. One of the biggest announcements comes from Nintendo. The company Tuesday unveiled its new video game console, a product that's been informally called "next generation Wii." Well, now it has a name — and a release date. Melissa Block talks to NPR's Nina Gregory for more.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Today, the video game industry converges on Los Angeles for E3. That's the Electronic Entertainment Expo. New games, new technology and new devices are being unveiled in hopes of reversing a five percent drop last year in video game spending.

One of the biggest announcements so far came from Nintendo. The company known for industry game-changers revealed its latest video game console today. It's called Wii U. That's W-I-I space U.

And for more, we're joined by NPR's Nina Gregory who was at E3 earlier today.

And, Nina, let's start with the Wii U. How does it work?

NINA GREGORY: Well, the Wii U is a game console, and it also has a controller, a wireless controller. It's a little smaller than a tablet, but it does have some tablet-like features, like a touch screen.

On the side of the controller, it has controls that are familiar to Nintendo fans: buttons and a joystick. It also has a microphone, speakers and a camera on it.

The idea is that this will satisfy both serious gamers, a group Nintendo has moved away from, at least with the Wii, which sought to satisfy casual gamers, but it's easy to use with the familiarity of things that you know from touch screens on phones.

The idea is that you can use two screens now. You have the one in your hand and the TV. But if somebody in your family wants to come in and watch TV, you can sort of throw or wipe the game so that it hits your controller and just sit down and play it on the controller. So you can sort of toggle between screens. You can also set it down on a table and use it like a board game.

BLOCK: OK. So that's the Wii U from Nintendo. Sony has got in the action too with a new handheld, the PlayStation Vita. What is that like?

GREGORY: Well, it looks good. The Sony press conference started with an apology from the company, which is significant. They suffered some pretty serious network hacks. This has been an ongoing problem at the company, so it's important to acknowledge. At the same time, they did have big products to announce, and they were really well received.

I played the Vita. It, too, has some touch screen functionality to it, as well as controllers and buttons and a gyroscope and cameras. You can tilt the machine. You can point it. You can move it in space. I figured out how to use it pretty quickly, and I'm not the most sophisticated gamer. But this is geared at serious gamers, and it seems last night like they were really pleased with it, especially with the price. Sony hasn't always been the most price-sensitive company, so its $249 base model was welcomed by those in attendance.

BLOCK: OK. So Sony and Nintendo. What about Microsoft?

GREGORY: Well, Microsoft had some big announcements for serious gamers which included the premiere of the trailer for the game "Halo 4." That's their blockbuster intergalactic first-person shooter game.

For casual gamers, there was also some really cool stuff, especially for the toddler set. There's something called "Disneyland Adventure," which takes you on rides, into the park. And there's also "Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster," where parents and kids can together be Sesame Street monsters. The parent can be, say, Cookie Monster. The kid can be Elmo. If you jump up and down and wave your arms, Elmo and Cookie jump up and down and wave their arms.

And there's also "Star Wars," where you can literally, you know, use the force.

BLOCK: What does that mean, Nina?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREGORY: Well, you are waving your hands in space, shzoom, shzoom. You know, you can wave your lightsaber around. You kind of look silly doing it, but it's really fun to finally get to, you know, use the force.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Nina Gregory, who's been waving her saber at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

Nina, thanks so much.

GREGORY: Thank you.

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