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7 Things You Didn't Know About the Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo joins the tablet craze -- sort of -- with a new touchscreen game console called the Wii U.Reuters

The Wii was kind of a big deal ... until interest fizzled over the last year.

That’s not a knock on the wonder-console. It’s just that it will enter its sixth year this November. And historically, Nintendo (as other console makers) release new hardware in five-year intervals -- at least that’s been the case with Nintendo’s four previous home consoles.

Whatever the reasoning for the delay, Nintendo this week finally announced the successor to Wii. Its name is a clever oxymoron: Wii U. Go on, sound it out. It features a nifty touch-screen controller that doubles as a personal display. And it's launching sometime next year at an undisclosed price.

But despite all the media frenzy surrounding the announcement this week, there are some surprising details about the Wii U you may have missed:

1. Despite its looks, the touch-screen controller is not a tablet. With a screen over six inches wide, the new controller may look like a tablet, but it’s really just a dummy display/controller. It sends and receives information streamed to and from the console itself, which does all the processing and dual video output.

2. Wii U is compatible with all Wii peripherals. You know that balance board you stored in your closet for the last few years? It’s not totally worthless! Nintendo’s new console works with all the stuff -- some great, some not so great -- that you bought for Wii, including games and Wii remotes.

3. The console is reportedly powered by the same technology as IBM’s famous Watson computer. Remember Watson, the supercomputer that beat all those Jeopardy champions? It's in the Nintendo Wii U -- at least that’s what IBM told Engadget. If it’s smart enough for Jeopardy, it’s good enough for my game console, I suppose.

4. The controller is only single touch. Multi touch is the hot new thing, at least according to Microsoft, Apple, and pretty much every other tech company. So the Wii U is a bummer for multi-touch fans. That said, perhaps the built-in microphone, speakers, gyroscope, accelerometer, rumble, camera, and stylus can make up for it.

5. Only one touch-screen controller can be used at a time. At first, this seems like a bit of a head-scratcher, as reported by Popular Mechanics. Wii U controllers will not be sold separately and cannot be used together. Since Wii U supports up to four remotes, however, complaining about it feels similar to crying on the playground whenever you don’t have the ball.

6. Wii U blurs the line between handhelds and the big screen. Arguably one of the more unique features of Wii U is that it can be played on the TV, independently on the controller (in case another family member wants to use the TV), or on both to inspire new forms of gameplay. The range between controller and console is unclear, but Nintendo has said you won’t be able to leave the house. Bummer.

7. It’s the first Nintendo console with HD graphics. Finally, gamers will be able to fully appreciate Mario’s pudginess and Link’s green tights. Nintendo says this also means the console can truly appeal to gamers of all walks of life, from grandma to the absent husband that spends all night on Xbox Live.

Let the games begin!