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Wii U Promises to Be a Family-Friendly Bloodbath

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E3 is this week, which means an unveiling of all that’s new in the world of video games. Among the more exciting of the show’s revelations were new details on the Wii U, Nintendo’s follow-up to the groundbreaking Wii console.

Although the Wii U was officially announced last year, this year’s presentation provided more detail about the new machine, which will go on sale in time for the holidays. Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) have yet to release their next-gen consoles.

The Wii U is replete with gadgets. For example, the follow-up to the Wiimote has a 6.2” touchscreen. Beyond new toys for users, though, the Wii U presents an interesting dilemma for the bigwigs over at Nintendo.

Since its release, one of the main selling points of the Wii has been its accessibility to a broad spectrum of users. The idea, as far as I can tell, is that entire families might gather in front of the television and pretend to bowl.

However, with the new console, Nintendo is looking to appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers. The trouble is, those demographics don’t really overlap.

In a recent interview with the website AllThingsD, Nintendo president Saturo Iwata discussed his ideas for appealing to both groups. While there will certainly be mature content on the new system, Iwata says that Nintendo plans to remain the company of Super Mario and Zelda.

Chief among his concerns will be player interaction in online forums. The Wii U will include the online “Miiverse” where player avatars can interact via digital speech bubbles.

While online gaming on other consoles is often replete with trash talk and obscenity (like a lot of the Internet) Iwata wants to avoid that on Wii U. Instead, he envisions the gaming community as one that “encourages empathy for other players.”

Because, if there’s one thing the Internet’s good for, it’s fostering empathy.

Of course, focusing on younger and more casual players is probably a good move for the company. Thanks to the iPhone (AAPL) and Android (GOOG), casual gaming has exploded with people who might previously never have bought a system. I’m not sure if Nintendo can make the Wii U’s online component empathetic, but it’s a smart move not to alienate anybody.
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