When you play a console video game, you generally need a television. And when you use that television for a console video game, you generally can't use it for anything else.
Nintendo's Wii U, an upcoming video game console whose controller is embedded with its own screen that can be used to play games, hopes to change that. You'll be able to play some of its games both on the television and on the controller in your hands, and you'll be able to switch between the two at will.
Speaking to shareholders during a Q&A this week, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had some choice words about the Wii U's advantages here (bolded words bolded for emphasis by me):
I am not sure this is an appropriate expression, but video game consoles have long been "parasites" of TV sets at home. In other words, game consoles have used TV sets in a family instead of being equipped with their own screen. However, the Wii U will be the first console free from TV sets, in which you can play the Wii U while someone else is watching TV or you yourself can watch TV while using the Wii U. As you can experience deeper entertainment with both the Wii U GamePad and the TV screen, we would like to enrich it but, at the same time, we hope to furnish it with games you can enjoy only with the Wii U GamePad.
In addition, games on two screens are not just the same with what we did for the Nintendo DS. As the TV screen can be distant from the Wii U GamePad, not like the Nintendo 3DS, we can offer different options for use. Also, in multiplayer games, a player with the Wii U GamePad will play a different role from those with Wii Remote controllers. We are thinking of what we call "asymmetric game play," in which players have different roles in one game, like in Tag. The player with the Wii U GamePad will be able to know what other players are doing when they are playing on the TV screen. The Wii U GamePad will work as a window where you can communicate with other players in their living rooms. We say that the Wii U GamePad could be a "Social Window," or a window to link your living rooms to others'.
Furthermore, the Wii U can change the way you use the TV set in your living room, although the Wii U is a video game system in its nature and this is just an added component. More specifically, there are currently many videos on the Internet, many of which are very interesting and suitable for family entertainment. You have seen them by PC, smartphones or tablets, but with the Wii U you can search a good movie on the Wii U GamePad, tell everyone there to see it and easily move it to the TV screen. In this way, a video-sharing website can be a great form of entertainment.
In addition, the Wii U can make it easier to use video-on-demand services, where you can enjoy films and TV programs through the Internet and which are more popular overseas than in Japan. Not only by competing with other platforms only in regard to the machines' spec. figures but proposing various ways of using the Wii U, we would like to create a future so even family members who have never touched any video game systems will consider the Wii U something that is convenient to use so that we can maintain its competitiveness for a long time.
So Nintendo is staying on target. At E3 last month, creative mastermind (and Mario creator) Shigeru Miyamoto told Kotaku they want people to head for the controller's screen first:
"With Wii U, really the hope is the screen on the Wii U game pad is the screen people will go to first in the living room. If you think about a device that is the screen people go to first in the living room and the things it can do, it becomes sort of this window, whether it's social or a bulletin board where you can read messages from the family or whether it's a channel guide or something or you can do whether it's gaming or Internet or video, that type of experience is something you don't understand the benefit of until you really start to see that take form in the house."
What do you think? Will the Wii U really be that different an experience from standard console gaming?