Nintendo shows off Wii U

Nintendo has released a sneak peek of its upcoming Wii U gaming console, touting a new GamePad and Miiverse social network.

It’s the first time the device has been seen in public, and a video posted on Facebook shows a tablet-come-controller with a 6.2-inch touchscreen in the center.

The touchscreen can be used to create text messages, drawings and hand-written messages using a stylus or finger. The grip and thumbsticks have been modified from a previous version to make playing more comfortable. An NFC writer has been added, along with a button allowing the GamePad to work as a television remote control.

When players have a fight on their hands over use of the TV,

“Not only will you see high-quality console graphics on the big-screen TV, but those images can be displayed on the Wii U GamePad without delay, somethiong no existing hand-held game devices can do,” says president Satoru Iwata.

Miiverse, meanwhile, is the company’s new social network, allowing Mii avatars to communicate in real time with other players. In the long term, says Iwata, the 3DS, PCs and smartphones will also be able to link in.

In a demonstration, a player gets into difficulties with a zombie, and then asks for advice from other players. Messages offering help stream in, and the player also makes a video call with another player to discuss it. Iwata says the company will work to prevent this feature being used to deliver spoilers – although he doesn’t say how.

The launch of Miiverse marks a change in strategy for Nintendo. It’s got a long way to go before it catches up with Sony and Microsoft. Last year, the company made its first ever annual operating loss.