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Nintendo working to make GamePad crucial to Wii U experience

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nintendo isn't giving up on the touchscreen-equipped GamePad controller that's included with every Wii U, president Satoru Iwata said at an investor and analyst briefing in Tokyo today.

Acknowledging that GamePad recognition is low and confusion about the controller being an accessory for the original Wii is an issue for Wii U — not to mention being an obstacle to a system price cut — Iwata said Nintendo isn't giving up on the unique controller.

"We intend to take on this challenge, and I would like to have this solved before the year-end sales season," Iwata said.

To do that, Nintendo is working to develop software that makes the most of the GamePad's capabilities.

"We have managed to offer several of such software titles for occasions when many people gather in one place to play, but we have not been able to offer a decisive software title that enriches the user's gameplay experience when playing alone with the GamePad," Iwata said. "This will be one of the top priorities of Mr. Miyamoto's software development department this year."

Nintendo also plans to take advantage of the GamePad's near field communications technology, and expects to reveal titles that use NFC features at E3 2014.

"Pokémon Rumble U has already taken advantage of this function, but aside from this title, Wii U has failed to make use of the full potential of this function so far, despite it being a built-in feature," Iwata said. "This year, we will make full use of this function by preparing multiple proposals, including the implementation of NFC payments with JR East's 'Suica,' which we announced on a previous occasion. We will showcase our detailed propositions for utilizing the NFC functionality at E3 in Los Angeles in June."


The company also plans to bolster one of the big advantages of the GamePad: the ability to play video games without using the TV. Currently, Iwata said, it takes more than 20 seconds before a person can select a video game to play, which isn't ideal. To solve this problem, Nintendo plans to add a quick start menu for the GamePad through a future system update planned for early summer.

The quick start menu, demoed in a video here, will allow players to load a recently played software title without having to go to the console menu first.

"We think that this function will make you feel that the time to start up a Wii U software title is cut by more than 50 percent, and that it will also lead to more Wii U users understanding the appealing nature of the GamePad," he said.