Nintendo reveals Wii U's Miiverse social network ahead of E3

Wii U Game Pad connected to the Miiverse Users will be encouraged to share messages and gaming tips via a new social network called the Miiverse

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Nintendo's new Wii U console will embrace social networking, according to a video presentation released ahead of the E3 video games conference.

The machine will promote the Miiverse in which users can see what others are playing, share self-created game content and swap gaming tips.

The firm said members would eventually be able to connect to the network via its 3DS handheld, PCs and smartphones.

The Japanese firm posted its first annual loss in April.

Its share price has nearly halved since it first announced the Wii U last year after investors expressed doubts about the potential of the next-generation device.

Satoru Iwata holding the Wii U gamepad The Wii U Game Pad, held by Satoru Iwata, is larger than previous controllers

The revelations, ahead of the Los Angeles trade show, may be designed to create a new buzz about the product ahead of a more detailed press conference on Tuesday.

However, the announcement did not excite the investors much, with Nintendo's shares rising by only 0.2% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Monday.

Zombie tips

The presentation, by the firm's global president Satoru Iwata, said that when users turned on their console it would show animated avatars on the television screen flocking towards the most popular games at that time.

However, the focus of the network is on a smaller touchscreen on the Wii U Game Pad.

This can be used to send typed or handwritten messages to other Miiverse members as well as drawings.

A video trailer showed one player using the device to quiz other gamers about how to kill a zombie. The actor then placed the handset next to his television to launch a video chat with another user.

"We believe it can solve the issue of 'alone together'," said Mr Iwata.

"We believe it enables the sharing of more smiles, more laughs and more empathy."

However, Patrick Garratt, founder of gaming website VG247, expressed reservations.

Wii U presentation screenshot The presentation showed the game pad being used to allow video calls on connected television sets

"The social aspects in the presentation show Nintendo realises people now need to be constantly connected through their digital devices, but my concern is that the entire system appears to be closed," he said.

"Without a wholesale embrace of Twitter and Facebook I think you have to ask serious questions about how well Nintendo understands the social networking space."

The presentation also showed changes made to the game pad from the version displayed last year including redesigned thumbstick controllers, extra buttons and a card slot to add data to the device.

Cyborg swordfights

Video games publisher Konami also opted to release a pre-show announcement video.

It included trailers for the firm's upcoming Metal Gear Rising Revengeance - an action title featuring a cyborg ninja due out "early 2013" - and the latest in its vampire series, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2.

The coming days will bring a plethora of announcements from other firms at the trade show. Close to 200 are hosting exhibits.

Keynote presentations from Microsoft and Sony will be the focus of the event's first day.

Both companies have said they would not debut their next-generation consoles at this year's event. So the focus will instead be on how they will attempt to maintain interest in the seven-year-old Xbox 360 and six-year-old Playstation 3.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance screenshot The Metal Gear trailer suggests the focus of the series has switched to action from stealth
Streaming software

News site Examiner.com has reported that Microsoft's announcement might include a new service called Xbox Smart Glass.

It said the product would allow users to control their console remotely via devices running Windows, Windows Phone, Android and iOS systems.

It added that the software would also work the other way, allowing consoles to screen content streamed to them by third-party devices.

Microsoft's presentation is also likely to focus on its Kinect motion and voice recognition sensor, possibly including footage from a recently announced Harry Potter title.

E3's key announcements

Microsoft Xbox keynote

Monday 4 June 17:15 BST/09:15 PT

Electronic Arts press conference

Monday 4 June 21:00 BST/13:00 PT

Ubisoft press conference

Monday 4 June 23:00 BST/15:00 PT

Sony Playstation keynote

Tuesday 02:00 BST/Monday 18:00 PT

Nintendo keynote

Tuesday 17:00 BST/09:00 PT

Nintendo software showcase

Thursday 02:00 BST/Wednesday 18:00 PT

Cloud gaming

There has been speculation that Sony will announce a tie-up or even a takeover of a cloud gaming company. This could allow Playstation owners to continue playing games when they do not have access to their consoles by streaming titles off remote servers to other types of devices.

Trade magazine MCV has reported a deal could involve one of two California-based companies: OnLive or Gaikai.

It noted that Gaikai had sent out a press release promising news that had "the potential to change the future of video games, game consoles and how we play".

Cloud-based gaming services have had limited appeal to date because of issues including compromised picture quality and lag - delayed responses to button presses or joystick moves caused by the fact that commands have to be sent to a remote server.

However, one analyst noted that new technology might be about to solve these problems.

Assassin's Creed 3 screenshot The latest Assassin's Creed game bases its action against the backdrop of the American Revolution

"A few weeks ago we saw Nvidia come out with a cloud GPU [graphics processing unit] product," Brian Blau, research director at Gartner's consumer services group, told the BBC.

"Up until now cloud gaming vendors had to cobble together their own servers and graphics solutions and you can't build those in a way that is easily maintainable and extendable over a long period of time.

"Now all of a sudden you can have standard Nvidia graphics with the same drivers you use on your desktop in a virtualised environment, and it provides a really great production environment for someone who wants to deliver cloud games."

Tech site Engadget has also reported that Sony is expected to cut the price of its Vita handheld console. A similar move helped boost sales of Nintendo's rival 3DS last year.

Familiar franchises

Away from the hardware manufacturers, extensions of existing gaming franchises are likely to dominate this year's show with a raft of sequels, prequels and reboots set to be shown off.

Titles including Halo 4; Assassin's Creed 3; Tomb Raider: Crossroads; Hitman: Absolution; Gears of War: Judgement; Dead Space 3; New Mario Super Bros 2; Disney Epic Mickey 2; God of War: Ascension and Star Wars 1313 are all set to be teased at the event.

Stars Wars 1313 teaser art LucasArts said a new "mature" Star Wars game, set in a criminal underworld, would debut at E3

However, hopes that the much anticipated Half Life 3 would be finally unveiled have been confounded by PC-developer Valve's announcement that it would not announce any new products despite hosting a booth at the show.

Social games specialist Zynga is also exhibiting at the event - its first appearance. However, it has also signalled it would not launch any new products.

"We don't have a big flashy show presence - it's all business," said the firm's head of partner publishing Rob Dyer.

"We are focused on finding and signing partners to publish on our platform."

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