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Nintendo reveals new Wii U controller functions

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Wii U

Nintendo just couldn't wait for E3 to share some big news about the Wii U.

Scooping itself two days before its scheduled pre-show press conference, the company released a 30-minute YouTube video Sunday unveiling a revamped Wii U controller and divulging new details about its forthcoming game system.

The company will reveal the launch line-up and other details later this week.

The controller, now called the Wii U GamePad, if you'd like to be formal, has been tweaked since gamers first saw it a year ago, with analog sticks replacing the touch-sensitive circle pads and some adjustments to button positioning.

The changes weren't all cosmetic, though. The GamePad will also act as a TV remote --even when the Wii U is turned off -- and it will have near-field communications technology imbedded, potentially letting the controller interact with real-world objects.

Nintendo didn't go into the reasons for this, but near-field communications is a growing tool in game makers' arsenals. It was most recently used successfully in Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure.

Also in the works is a Wii U "Pro" Controller, which "may be more attractive for longer, more intense forms of gaming," according to Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.

As expected, current Wii remotes, nunchuks (as well as the Wii balance board) will be compatible with the Wii U.  All Wii games will be playable on the system.

Nintendo, often criticized for its lacking online element, also used the video to showcase the social aspects of the Wii U. The "Miiverse" is a default tool that will let players communicate, get help when they're stuck and challenge each other to an online game.

A video shown during the feature showed a player engaging in a video chat with another fan of the game to get advice on how to beat a difficult level. Players can also track the Miiverse on their smart phones — the first time Nintendo has offered any integration with the platform.

Online chatting and smartphone access won't be available immediately, said Iwata. However, the 3DS will also offer access to the service, as will any Web-based device.

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