Wii U
Nintendo's new Wii U console Nintendo

Last night at this year's E3 fans finally got a glimpse of Nintendo's new Project Cafe console, which as it turns out is actually called the Wii U.

The Key Points

First and foremost, Nintendo revealed that its new console is actually called the Wii U.

Past this, the company confirmed many of the rumours surrounding its new console. It will have a tablet sized controller with its own touch screen and it will be capable of running HD 1080p graphics.

The console will also have upgradable flash memory that can be added to using USB and SD memory cards.

Like the Wii, games will be available for download online and through high-density optical discs.

Additionally, the Wii U will be backwards compatible with all Wii software and devices -- including the odder peripherals like the Wii balance board and classic controller.

What Nintendo didn't say

Unfortunately despite showing off its flashy new console Nintendo were frustratingly elusive when it came to the details.

Fans are yet to hear even a rough price tag or get a firm release date. As it stands all Nintendo has said is that it will be out some time in 2012.

The Controller

The Wii U's new controller is actually fairly similar to what the rumours hinted at. It is a large tablet like affair just smaller than the iPad.

On its front, as rumoured, it has a built in 6.2-inch touch screen and a stylus similar to that of the DS range of handhelds that slots in and out of the controller as required. The conference saw demo's of players using the controller and its stylus to create fairly complex sketches indicating a high degree of responsiveness -- unfortunately it has been confirmed as not being multi-touch capable.

While no actual figures were given, the screen seemed to be of a similar or higher quality than most modern smartphones -- we are yet to hear what its actual resolution is.

Unlike its predecessor the Wii remote, which had very few actual buttons, the Wii U's new controller is full of them. The controller houses two circle pads on its front, a D-pad residing on its left, four additional A, B, X, and Y buttons on its right as well as two shoulder and trigger-like buttons on its top and bottom -- it also has all the standard start and select buttons.

Additionally the Wii U controller will feature motion controls, how this will work given its rather large size remains to be seen.

The control also has a front-facing camera that sits at its top. Nintendo revealed at its E3 2011 press conference, that the remote will house video chat capabilities.

Like the Wii remote the controller will have its own built-in speakers. It will also have a dedicated headphone jack.

As was expected the conference revealed that the controller will be capable of playing games even if the TV that the console is plugged into is being used for other things. This is apparently done by streaming the game from the console directly to the controller.

As mentioned, the console will be fully backwards compatible, the old Wii remote and nunchuk will still work.

The games on display actually showed four players using the old controllers battling one single player using the new Wii U's controller -- the details of how this actually works depends on the game in question.

The Wii U's updated graphics

Aside from the confirmation that the console will indeed be capable of playing HD 1080p graphics, Nintendo was very quiet about the specific hardware it is planning to use. All that it confirmed in regard to its CPU was that it would be a IBM Power®-based multi-core microprocessor.

This makes it very difficult to know whether the graphics are going to be a radical improvement on those of its chief competitors the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Whatever the case, the graphics on show at the press conference did at least show a marked improvement on those of the Wii. The games on show displayed dynamic lighting, bump mapping, full reflections and high dynamic range rendering -- all things the Wii struggled to do or didn't do very well.

UPDATE: Since the Wii U's announcement Nintendo stock value has dropped.