Nintendo Answers Our Burning Wii U Questions

Nintendo will have a less-annoying Friend Code system for the Wii U, four layers of protection in its online service and system-level Achievements, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime tells Kotaku.

The Nintendo boss and I rapidly ran through a list of questions about the Wii U's features during a wide-ranging interview a few days ago in Los Angeles. I sought clarity about some of the less-publicised aspects of Wii U that will surely matter to the most fervent gamers.

We started by talking about Nintendo's own claim that its vaunted screen-based controller, the GamePad, will only have a battery life of 3-5 hours. (Notably, when I arrived at the interview, the GamePad was being recharged — while being turned on.)

Fils-Aime ducked nothing.

Battery Life Nintendo had said earlier in the week that Wii U controllers would only hold up to five hours of charge but could be recharged while playing. Prototype controllers at E3 had a power input a the top of the controller; Fils-Aime said finalised units will take charge from the bottom, below the screen, for better comfort if you have it plugged in while playing.

On the length of the battery life, he said, "I have to say that, as a company, we are amazingly conservative when it comes to giving guidance on things like battery life. If you go back to the 3DS discussion on battery life, the numbers we gave before launch versus the reality of launch were very different. So what I would tell you is that Nintendo is absolutely committed to making sure that the battery life for the Wii U will not get in the way of the gaming experience."

Nintendo had claimed 3-8 hours for the 3DS. Users can judge for themselves if that was a) too little and b) inconsistent with what their 3DS holds.

Off-TV Play The ability to view and play Wii U games on the GamePad screen rather than on a TV screen is a "capability [that] is there for every game but it's a developer's choice if they want that to be part of the experience." Nintendo calls it Off-TV Play and the feature will likely be flagged on Wii U game boxes.

The Xbox-Like Wii U Pro Controller Come on, Reggie, doesn't your new hardcore-gamer Wii U controller look like a 360 controller? "And you could say that our competitive controllers look a lot like our controller," he retorted. "Fundamentally, ergonomically, it's driven by what feels good in the hand. The controller has been in development for quite some time, and it's based on feedback that, for certain games and for certain experiences, that type of controller offers a richer experience."

Big Brother in the MiiVerse Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata (Reggie's boss) recently told the Los Angeles Times that users of Nintendo's expansive new Wii U online service, MiiVerse, will see any messages they submit subjected to several layers of moderation. Given that Nintendo prefers its systems to be kid-safe, and given that MiiVerse is designed to fill the Wii U's boot-up screen and many of its games with text messages from friends and fellow gamers discussing games, the heavy moderation isn't surprising. But it seems potentially heavy-handed, possibly ineffective and liable to slow online communication if messages have to wait to be screened.

Fils-Aime clarified: "The way to think about how we will ensure a positive consumer experience with MiiVerse… first, there are parental controls. As a parent you can choose for your child not to have any MiiVerse conversation. You can do it only with friends. You can do it with everyone.

"The second level is going to be essentially a technology-driven scan to make sure that inappropriate words and inappropriate pictures don't make it onto MiiVerse.

"The third level is going to be the community that will police and flag items.

"The fourth level is for a human review at Nintendo."

But what if, as in the example given by Nintendo when debuting the MiiVerse, I want to post a request for help for a game I'm stuck on? Do I have to wait a while for that to run?

"Let's take that example. I need help with level so and so. The technical scan happens. There's no bad words. It happens." No queue? "Correct."

This, Fils-Aime said, is when a Nintendo rep would step in: "If the community is flagging it or if there's an issue where the consumer is continuously trying to send inappropriate content. Because this is account driven, if Stephen Totilo is continuously trying to send inappropriate content, then we have the ability to message this."

System-Level Achievements Some of Nintendo's top game designers don't want to put Achievements in their games, but Nintendo has put an Achievement-like system in the 3DS, mostly to reward people for feats involving the system's Street Pass networking system. In other words, the system itself has Achievements. "We will have that," Fils-Aime said. "Once you start getting into game-specific [Achievements] that's developer driven." Microsoft may require every game to have Achievements, but, Fils-Aime said, "That is not our philosophy."

Those Notorious Friend Codes First the bad news… maybe. Nintendo has not chucked the idea of requiring people to have friend codes, which, on the Wii, were 16-digit codes that people had to exchange before being linked as friends on the system.

And now the better news… "There are friend codes, but it's not the existing friend code system," Fils-Aime said. "What do I mean by that? Here's what I mean: you will be able to identify people as friends and have a certain level of interaction vs. a different level of interaction for the more general population. The method by which you identify someone as a friend is a lot simpler than what's happening today with Friend Codes." (He declined to lay out the new Wii U friend code program just yet.)

The problem I believe people had with the Wii version, I told Fils-Aime, is that adults who owned the system felt like, hey, if I'm an adult, treat me like an adult and let me friend people I've met online without having to call a person and exchange a code or something like that. "Agreed," Fils-Aime said.

"You feel like those people will be happier?" I asked.

"Yes, they will be."

Wii Digital Content Survives Fils-Aime confirmed that Wii owners will be able to transfer their game saves and any purchased content from the Wii to the Wii U.

Data Storage? Still no big hard drive for the Wii U, but, Fils-Aime said, "The main message we've communicated is that it's got USB ports so you can keep adding storage to your heart's content." It's not clear how Nintendo expects players to store lots of downloadable expansions and to games like, say, Mass Effect 3. That'll be a follow-up for another day.

Wii U-3DS Connection? "It was last year that we talked about a new Smash Bros. that will have some interoperability, some linkage between Wii U and Nintendo 3DS," Fils-Aime said. "Obviously [Smash Bros. lead designer] Mr. Sakurai, having just finished Kid Icarus, hasn't made a ton of progress on that game, but that's going to be the one where we talk about how the two systems could work together on one game."

Multitouch The Wii U GamePad is not multitouch. Not a problem, Fils-Aime said, holding a GamePad in his hands. "When we went through the building of this and, given some of the functionality, we thought that single-touch was a more appropriate option, especially when you've got other button configurations."

As he held the controller he reached into the touch screen with one of his thumbs and then tapped the screen with a forefinger. Each time, he kept his other hand on the controller.

Then he put the controller down so he could touch the screen with a finger from each hand. "Is this really the way you want to play a game? I don't think so."

Surely it would be nice to give people options? I suggested it was a cost thing. "Certainly there's a cost to it. Again, we envision this as a controller that you're putting in your hands and you're doing a two-screen experience. The concept of putting it in your lap to do multitouch for us just feels unwieldy."

Used Games "We don't have a policy surrounding used games," Fils-Aime said. "We have not put in place any technology to go after the used game business."

Black and White Wii U? Fils-Aime: We are the showing white and black [Wii U] here [at E3]. We haven't said anything about launch."

Topics for which Fils-Aime had nothing to announce New Virtual Console platforms; whether VC games can run on the GamePad, Wii U launch price, Wii U launch line-up.

Note: I discussed several other Nintendo topics with Fils-Aime, including the issue of how powerful the console is and what that augurs for long-term third-party gaming support. Those will be the subjects of other stories here on Kotaku in the days ahead.


    Most of what he said seems reasonable.

    The biggest concern in my mind was the small hard drive. If we don't need to use Nintendo branded external hdd then I am a fan of their approach.

      Really thats your big concern?? How about the online system and the layers of security or how about 3rd party companies going fuck it i will make games for xbox720/ps4.... That would also be a major concern for me

        We dont have any real information on third party support or online capabilities. What we do know is that there was an extremely small built in harddrive and this could have affected everything to do with the system.

    I would like interviewers to get some balls and ask some hard questions like for example:

    Why was e3 showing of the wiiu really really bad is it because you are a Japanese company and would rather show it off at TGS????

    The e3 show was shocking and if anyone liked it they would be made to hand in their man card...

      I think Nintendo tried way too hard to connect w/ its "everyday" audience.

        Like the wii did but they won't if they are going to have a price point of $400+ so im not sure... I think you are right i just wonder are they saving themselves for tgs....

      That's the realm of Current Affair "journalism" there, man.
      I enjoyed the Wii U showing, it's a fascinating piece of tech. And this interview has allayed my concerns about some of the potential problems. People are just too quick to lay the hate on Nintendo, despite some genuine attempts at rectifying some of the issues people previously complained about.

      I think it's a bit unfair to attack the interviewer - I though he asked good, concise yet important questions that were appropriate to this stage of development.

    The thing about the controller seems to say "Microsoft found a good design that's comfortable for the hands, why design something that's different for the sake of being different"

      I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft had derived their controller from the Nintendo Gamecube.

        *throws up a little in mouth* please don't mention gamecube controller and xbox controller in the same sentence please.

          Why not. The 360 is exactly the same except with an extra shoulder button and a smaller A button.

          The Duke for the Xbox was comfortable, but the "S" and 360 controllers feel/felt like GameCube and GC Wavebird respectively, get over it. Remember that Nintendo has introduced a lot of video gaming innovations (including but not limited to) vibration feedback (Rumble), analogue thumbsticks, + Control Pad, "A" "B" "X" and "Y" (Square, triangle, X and Circle for Sony users) "bumper" buttons, touch-screen, and glasses-free 3D. Sorry to say, the closest-to innovations from the competition are Xbox Live and Kinect (still in its "natal" infancy form though)

          The 'cube controller is the best controller ever made, hands down. Or hands on, whatever. When a game used its unique button layout and the buttons at the extremes of the triggers it was utterly perfect; eg Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, MGS: Twin Snakes.
          I like the 360 controller too but there's no denying the intelligent design of the Wavebird,. unless you've never really used one extensively.

            Personally I found the little yellow joystick to be in an uncomforable position and was too small. I found the D-pad too small and it dug into the thumbs because it was so damn pointy. Also didn't really like the button/triggers on the top. It wasn't really a trigger, but wasn't really a button either.
            I also thought it was overall a bit too small for my hands, sorta like a PS3 one. I find the 360 one a little larger.

              Case in point: Metroid Prime only used the C-stick for weapon changes, MGS: Twin Snakes used the trigger for "draw" and the button for "fire", and I can't remember too much about the controls of Eternal Darkness but it sold me on the controller, and therefore the console.
              Modern twin-stick shooters suffer using the C-stick for aiming (I tried using a 'cube controller for the Goldeneye remake when that first came out and it suuuucked) but when the controls were thoughtfully mapped out - or, in Metroid's case, specifically designed for the layout - it sang.

    This all sounds very reasonable, especially for something new and untested.
    I'm looking forward to the WiiU and with full Wii backwards compatibility, this may even be a day-one purchase.

    Am I the only one that lol'd at the headline on the bus this morning?

    Who uses fingers from separate hands to do multi touch? If you're taking one hand off the controller to touch the screen with one finger you would think it wouldn't be anymore different to use two fingers. I think most people would see this as very backwards. People are so use to multi touch these days. Gives me visions of a large press here to win button being displayed on the screen.

      I'm not sure of that, I have a 3DS and as far as I can tell it's one touch and it's never seemed like much a hinderance. For comparison I played Plants vs Zombies on the and my iPad, the experience felt very much the same with and without multitouch. Depending on the size and feel of the WiiU controller, the single touch might be more natural

        For whatever reason - the DS screen has always felt more accurate to me than a phone.

    My only concerns are the achievements NOT being implemented and the friend code nonsense. The privacy issues aside, if I play with someone on PS3 or 360 and really enjoy the game, I'll shoot them an invite and continue playing, after a couple of matches I'll send them an invite since that's how I enjoy the games, I never even thought of that on Wii since I didn't want to deal with their damn numbers and having to know the number ahead of time or no communication can occur. Seems a little nanny state to me. Hopefully this has been fixed in the WiiU.
    As for the achievements, they sort of defeat the point if they aren't in all games. If, for example, Microsoft had said achievements! but they're optional, not a lot of games would have put them in and the experience it is today would likely never have existed since it wouldn't have taken off. By saying achievements! if you want, a lot of developers, for the WiiU only, will either not get the idea or will say nah, bugger it. Which would limit the overall score available across the system. On 360, the points are almost limitless, but if the ceiling was at 30,000 people would likely hit that and then not bother since they can't get any more immediately and would not care when the next game came out that would allow for more points. But that is all just a theory

    No Multi-Touch (even if it was just the ability to have 2 fingers at a time.. 5 would be preferable.. 10 would be overkill) is a big mistake I think for the future-proofing of this console. Sure.. that's your idea of how it should be used but things change.. and painting yourself into a corner is not a good thing..

      I'm sure they will release a new version of the controller 2 years after launch. It'll be a selling point for people who haven't got the Wii U yet and it'll force the early adopters to pick up a new controller if they want the full experience.
      If you think Nintendo won't do this you're kidding yourself! (and not looking at their history of doing similar things)!

        WiiU Controller Touch Plus anyone?

    I don't care about friend codes as long as I can search on a username, add someone I meet online and be notified if someone adds me so that I can add them back.

    Achievements... it might have bothered me a couple of years ago but ever since I got 100% achievements in 1 game and 100% trophies in another I haven't bothered going for them. I don't mind them for bragging rights if you make it through some section of a game but it sounds like the MiiVerse will allow that sort of thing anyway.

    I also hope that it will accept any usb drive to act as external storage for games and dlc. I have a 250gb portable drive lying around not in use so if I can plug that in and leave it hidden behind the console then I am happy.

    Other than wondering about the price (the only thing now that could kill a day 1 purchase for me) I am looking forward to the console.

    "Fils-Aime confirmed that Wii owners will be able to transfer their game saves and any purchased content from the Wii to the Wii U."
    This sort of thing will be a deal-breaker for me with the next Xbox when it is revealed - I don't care about B/C with disc games so much, but DL games are a different matter.

      I was actually surprised that Nintendo made this announcement. I hope the remaining Nintendo Points balance transfers over too because I have over 4000 unused points remaining.

        Pretty sure Nintendo Points go across 3DS and Wii currently, so extending it to Wii U shouldn't be a huge problem.

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