In 2005, Nintendo unveiled the Wii at the Electronic Entertainment Expo - but it showed the console without its controller.
In 2011, Nintendo has come to Los Angeles and shown a controller, but not a console. Kind of.
After some slightly muddled messaging at today's grand unveiling in the Nokia Theatre, confusion reigned. Was this touch-screen controller a handheld computing device in its own right? A new interface for Wii? Those were Wii remotes people were waving around, and the sports games and Mario Bros. in the promotional video looked awfully familiar.
So let's be clear: Wii U is a new console capable of HD resolutions, and having considerably more graphical power than Wii.
But you'd be forgiven for not picking this up, because in its playable demos, Nintendo has chosen to highlight a few novel interactions and gameplay possibilities of the controller rather than Wii U's grunt. Several demos feature familiar Miis and Mario characters running around simple, colourful environments - albeit in crisp HD.
At a preview event immediately after the Nintendo conference, you could just glimpse Wii U's sleek, curved remodelling of the Wii base unit design through glass letterboxes in locked cabinets. (Presumably these were empty shells accompanied by hidden dev kits.) Meanwhile, the only graphically intensive demo, a Legend of Zelda themed 'HD Experience', was interactive but not actually playable. The message was clear: we'll get to this part later.
Today's star, then, is the part of Wii U you can pick up. Good job it's absolutely sensational.
"As soon as you pick that controller up, you understand the genius of Nintendo's idea."
The Wii U controller is Nintendo hardware design at its absolute best. It displays innovation, lateral thinking, supreme ergonomics and a finish that, while not luxurious, makes you happy the instant you pick it up.
It actually has more in common with the DS than the Wii remote, and not just because it presents you with a second gameplay screen. It's rich with unexpected features and offers a subtly different way of relating to games, rather than a single high-concept gimmick.
And with its full suite of physical controls, its touch screen and its impressively sensitive gyroscope, it offers precision and control feedback the Wii remote simply does not. Also, crucially, it ensures Wii U is fully compatible with standard gaming control layouts and interfaces.
It's big, but very light and extremely comfortable to hold. A pronounced ridge across the back makes it easy to grip and it has that classic Nintendo rugged-plastic feel, with a matte surface. It's friendly rather than slick, and feels reassuringly familiar - the similarity now being with tablet devices, phones and portable consoles rather than a TV remote. The size is perfect for a device that will never leave the home; although we don't know what's inside it, or what its range is, we do know that the controller is useless without the base unit.
Large triggers on the back, bumpers and the twin analogue sliders are all perfectly positioned and pleasingly tactile. The d-pad and face buttons are a little more out of the way. The decision to go for 3DS-style 'circle pad' sliders with a flat profile rather than proper analogue sticks seems odd initially; but it's probably to make them more discreet, and to be fair they don't seem to give away anything in precision.
The controller is dominated, of course, by that 6.2-inch touch screen. It's a very high-quality display with a beautiful picture. The HD Zelda demo looked identical on this screen and on the TVs in the demo suite. It's clear that playing HD Wii U games on this controller, away from the TV, will be a fully satisfying experience. It has small speakers, but you'll probably prefer to use the headphone jack for audio. A camera points towards you on the unit's face and can be used for voice chat. Start, select and home buttons, a recessed sync button on the back and a power supply port complete its simple layout.
The idea of continuing your gaming uninterrupted in bed, at the kitchen table, in the garden or while the other half watches X-Factor or the football is hugely appealing, of course. And Nintendo had plenty of other possibilities to present at its press conference.
The five demos available to play at E3 really only seem to scratch the surface.
Of the bunch, the HD Experience is the only concession to graphics whores and Nintendo fanboys. The demonstrator was very keen to stress that it was a tech demo of what an HD Zelda game with a Twilight Princess art style might look like, rather than a game in development.
A movie of Link fighting a giant spider boss in a cathedral runs in real-time on the Wii U hardware, and touch-screen controls allow you to change the lighting between day and night, switch camera angles and move the display from the TV to the controller and back.
It's undeniably beautiful, although you can attribute this in part to Nintendo's exquisitely hand-crafted art assets. The lighting is excellent, with many changing sources and a few particle effects in evidence - but my untrained eyes saw nothing here that an Xbox 360 or PS3 couldn't do. Perhaps Digital Foundry will say different.
The most fully-realised game is New Super Mario Bros. Mii, with five levels of fun co-op platforming for four players available. It's hard to figure the point of this demo - the gameplay seemed identical to the Wii game, and as with all the other demos, only one player could play on the Wii U controller, with everyone else using Wii remotes. At least that player could choose whether to watch the TV or the screen in their hands.
Shield Pose is a rhythm-action posing mini-game in which you need to move the Wii U controller to protect yourself from arrows incoming from a ghost pirate ship in time to music. It's not really essential to watch the controller screen for this game, but thanks to the gryoscopes it gives an accurate viewpoint at all times.
It's fun, it gets you used to the idea of the controller as an extension of yourself as well as an input device, and the sensation of having a second window into the game world in your hands is remarkable - in a way, it's much more involving than 3D. Will Wii U be able to push out two viewpoints in more graphically rich games, though?
Battle Mii is a Metroid-themed three-player deathmatch, with two using nunchucks and Wii remotes to control Miis in Samus costumes on a split-screen TV display, while a third pilots a ship on the Wii U controller attacking them from above.
The idea is clearly to demonstrate more involved gameplay styles and the potential of putting players with different displays and capabilities in the same space. The ship controls were rather fiddly - three-dimensional strafing and steering on two sticks, plus weapons aiming using the gyroscopes, is a lot to cope with.
But aiming using the gyroscopes and controller screen is wonderfully precise and intuitive, and a clear indication that this controller, surprisingly perhaps, is a much better motion interface for shooters than the Wii remote's pointer ever was.
Finally, Chase Mii had four players using Wii remotes trying to hunt down and tackle the fifth player with the Wii U controller in a maze. The former could only watch the split-screen TV display and hope to catch glimpses of the fugitive, while the latter had a top-down twin display on the controller, showing the locations of all players.
It's an interesting asymmetrical gameplay idea that Nintendo has explored before, way back in the days of GameCube/GBA link-up, with Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Pac-Man Versus. It was exciting and, with Battle Mii, a good representation of the unusual multiplayer dynamics the Wii U controller makes possible. But will anyone dare design games for multiple Wii U controllers?
It's at this point that you bury yourself under unanswered questions. Foremost has to be how much these controllers will cost, whether Nintendo ever expects you to have more than one and whether the base unit can indeed handle more than one, with the processing demands of feeding multiple displays.
Nintendo's not answering those questions yet. Given the confusion around Wii U currently, it probably should have considered saying more, showing more of the machine's core capabilities, and in particular saying something about its online plans - always the Kyoto company's weakness.
But as soon as you pick that controller up, you understand the genius of Nintendo's idea. It has understood that marrying the ubiquitous touch screen device with big-screen home entertainment is the future, and it's got there ahead of Apple. It's created a controller full of unique possibilities, but, unlike Wii, one that's entirely compatible with the gaming mainstream.
No question, Wii U is Nintendo having its cake and eating it. If the ingredients are right - on this showing, quite a big if - it could change everything all over again.