The camera is front-facing and in the launch games I’ve played, barely used. When it is used, it’s a reminder that there are lots of new possibilities available when something is standardized and included with every console. In fact, the Wii U controller’s camera is the first camera that is included, by default, with every console of its type. Two generations of PlayStation cameras shipped separately with the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, respectively. The popular Kinect sensor doesn’t come with the Xbox (my best industry sources continue to maintain that the next Xbox, the one coming out late next year, will include the new Kinect).
Front-facing cameras are more common on portable devices: on phones, tablets. Sony’s PlayStation Vita and Nintendo’s own DSi and 3DS machines. On many of those, as with the Wii U, that camera can be used for video chat. On a Nintendo machine it’s surely going to be used for gaming, too.
The question is if the camera is good enough to do more. Can it be used to detect facial expressions? Or scan bar codes to unlock bonus content? Can it read the brightness of a room or track a gesture? Can it change the way we play games in meaningful and enjoyable ways? Or will it be the least used feature a game controller has ever had? We shall see.