By Bryan Lufkin
June 07, 2011 at 09:10 PM EDT
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Just as the internet rumor mill predicted a couple of months ago, Japanese gaming giant Nintendo revealed its follow-up to the remarkably successful Wii home console Tuesday morning at their E3 conference at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Its name? Wii U. Let the pronoun wordplay marinate in your mind for a sec. Yeah, I’m not sure if I like the name either. But it’s the Big N’s way of building off a console that’s attracted millions of people who were traditionally apathetic toward video games, like septuagenarian school principals. Wii titles top the list of best-selling games of all time, and the system’s Grandma-accessible, motion-sensing gameplay has left Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 kissing Mario’s brown, Goomba-bopping clogs, at least in terms of sales numbers. So, what went down at Nintendo’s presser, and what did we learn about their new hardware?

Wii U — Picture this: You’re playing Zelda, and you’re in the midst of a particularly decisive boss battle. Then your cable-starved SO strides into the living room, demanding to switch on House Hunters, SportsCenter, or whatever your wife/husband/live-in iguana-sitter wants to watch. How dare such whims interrupt your gaming session? You’re already forced to share your toilets and breakfast nooks with these people. But your TVs? Well, cast aside those worries, folks. The Wii U’s controller, which features a 6.2-inch screen, will continue running the video game you’re playing, even as someone else starts to watch television. (For more on the new console’s specs and features, and there are a lot of them, check out our hands-on demo.)

While the technology is way cool, will it compromise Nintendo’s appeal to seasoned gamers, many of whom have felt marginalized by the company in recent years? Will we simply be fed more lightweight Wii Sports-like software in an attempt to build, as well as sustain, an audience that’s new to gaming? No way, implied Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America: “Look, we hear you,” were the first words out of his mouth at Tuesday’s conference. He promised lots of third-party support for the Wii U, something that the first Wii has struggled maintaining, partially because many developers have opted to create games for the more powerful Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But when John Riccitiello, CEO of EA, took to the stage, it symbolized a possible olive branch to the hardcore players who’ve gravitated toward other consoles. Ricciletto called the Wii U “truly transformational,” and described EA and Nintendo’s new working relationship as “unprecedented.”

The Legend of Zelda‘s 25th anniversary — The press conference opened with a choir and full orchestra accompanying a Zelda montage, with scenes spanning from the franchise’s 8-bit era in the ’80s to the Wii’s Twilight Princess. Basically, this was Nintendo’s way of saying, “We’ve been on the video game scene for a while. This is our turf. We will cut you.” Their success with the Zelda series rolls on with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which will be released for the original Wii this holiday season. Look for promotional accoutrements like a gold Wii remote (déjà vu!), a globetrotting concert series of Zelda music, CD soundtracks, a re-releases of Link’s Awakening for the 3DS Virtual Console, and a 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time.

Lots of 3DS content — A new Mario Kart, a 3-D remake of Star Fox 64, Kid Icarus Uprising (which was teased at last year’s E3), a sequel to the GameCube’s Luigi’s Mansion and a new Mario platformer (the tanuki suit returns!). The Kart title, which features customizable karts for the first time in the series, launches this holiday, while Star Fox will barrel roll its way into American consumers’ hearts in September. The others are slated to release later this year.

What were your highlights of Nintendo’s conference, PopWatchers? Does the Wii U Mii Us Them name give the new console the gravitas it needs? Do you think the company’s new hardware, restored third party relationships, and 3DS plans will get you in, or get you out? Sound off below!

Read more:

Nintendo Wii U: We’ve played the successor to the Wii!

E3 2011: EA and Ubisoft tease ‘Mass Effect 3,’ ‘Rayman Origins’ and more

‘Gears of War 3,’ ‘Halo 4,’ and Kinect, Kinect, Kinect: Highlights from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 E3 press briefing

E3: Five Reasons We’re Excited (including the new Wii)