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7 Things You Didn't Know About Wii U

Miyamoto and Iwata share their secrets.

You've likely seen the big headlines by now and decided whether or not you're impressed by Nintendo's latest vision for the future of gaming. But how much do you really know about Wii U?

In an enormous 7000-word interview, published as part of Nintendo's essential Iwata Asks series, the Nintendo president has had a good old natter with his star employee Shigeru Miyamoto about all things Wii U.

It's a treasure trove of insight and trivia, and we've pulled out the seven most fascinating facts that you probably weren't aware of.

1. The original idea for Wii U was simply to have "a small monitor" to check the console's status.

Miyamoto: We started from the notion of, "It would be nice if there was a small monitor of sorts other than the TV, where we could always see the status of the Wii console".

The Wii console did have the blue illumination lamp to notify new messages, but the amount of information a lamp could get across was limited...

Iwata: It was only able to say whether there was new information or not, so it had limits on what it could do.

2. Nintendo decided on a tablet controller before anyone cared about tablets. (AKA: "We're not just copying Apple.")

Iwata: It's been just about three years since we started having meetings about [Wii U]. There was a lot of back and forth before reaching where we are now.

Miyamoto: Right, we did. We started from scratch many times.

Iwata: When we were first talking about this, tablet devices weren't very common. It's a classic controller with a screen.

But because people outside the company do not have an insight into our development process, when people see this for the first time in 2011 when this is revealed, they might think, "Oh, Nintendo is going to add a tablet to their console". I think that's how people may see it.

3. The way Wii U works was actually inspired by... Karaoke.

Miyamoto: In Japan, karaoke is very popular. It comes with a remote control, and on the larger screen (TV) it displays the information of the song that's currently playing, and the person who's up next is selecting the song on the screen of the remote. I think the same function exists with the new controller.

Iwata: It's very similar with how in karaoke, the information of the song that's playing now is being displayed on the bigger screen, while someone's choosing what to sing next in the palm of his or her hands.

Searching and selecting the next picture or video, reading text and then looking for detailed information is easier to do on a handheld device, and sharing that with a group of people is better suited on a big screen. So including that structure, it's critical that this environment is available to everyone from the very beginning.

4. The potential for Mario in HD makes Miyamoto's heart pound.

Miyamoto: Um... I can't really talk about [Mario and Zelda Wii U] a whole lot yet, but Nintendo is finally entering a level of HD graphics, where we're now using shaders and such. In that way, it's more... How should I put it, I think people can expect to play more immersive game experiences than before.

And with Mario... Let's see. It's actually a little heart pounding for me when I test the landings after Mario makes a jump, because the graphics are finer than ever before.

I haven't really figured out the direction for this yet, in terms of whether it should be combined with the new controller, or using it as a sub-screen like in Ocarina of Time 3D, or whether it should be playable just with the new controller. With a Mario game, there are both possibilities.

5. If your eyesight's rubbish, Wii U makes watching TV easier.

Miyamoto: What I noticed as we were making it was that when I was watching something like the website on a larger screen, I couldn't see it very well with my eyesight!

Iwata: You end up getting closer to the screen anyways because you can't see! TVs in recent years usually have a programming guide display on the screen, but with my eyesight even that's pretty hard to see.

Miyamoto: I call it the magnifying glass feature: you're able to see it in any size you like on the screen of the new controller in your hands so you can easily read what it says, while everyone's enjoying the bigger picture on the big screen.

6. Wii U marks the end of clumsy text entry on Nintendo consoles.

Iwata: There were things [with the original Wii] that weren't suited to do [on a console]. Like when trying to enter text on Wii, even though we placed a lot of effort into it, I do not think we ever reached a point where we could proudly say that it was a stress-free experience. But this time, I feel that will change greatly.

Miyamoto: Yeah. It's more convenient to have things like a software keyboard at your fingertips.

7. Wii U could feature Kinect-like facial recognition.

Iwata: It certainly seems possible from an engineering standpoint that the camera will recognise you if you position the new controller to look at you. It would be much more accessible if all you have to do is to hold it, press a button and stand on the Wii Balance Board.

Miyamoto: I think so. I hope it turns out that way.