Nintendo revealed details about its Wii U console and its GamePad controller days before the 2012 E3 Expo, the game industry’s biggest annual trade show, officially opens on June 5 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In a streamed presentation, Nintendo’s global president Satoru Iwata outlined several key points of the device and the strategy it represents.

Iwata indicated how the nearly finalized device differed from the prototype Nintendo demonstrated last year. Mainly, however, he emphasized Wii U’s social interaction capabilities, including video calling, and a Miiverse chat system (shown at top of photo) with features like customizable avatars, an ongoing feed of posts, and the ability to share things that were drawn or written on the touch-sensitive screen.

Nintendo plans to make Miiverse available on its 3DS handheld as well as on all internet-connected computers, tablets and smartphones.

“We believe that six years ago Wii introduced a new form of ‘together.’ If there’s a way to describe Wii U in a similar sense, it’s this: together better,” he said.

One of the GamePad’s more intriguing features is an NFC reader/writer. This could be used as a way of adding things into games – for example, tapping it with a collectable card could add a virtual item to the gameplay.

The GamePad also can be used for web browsing, playing a game on its own screen when the TV is in use for something else, and as an infrared TV remote control.

For more hardcore gamers, Wii U also will have a controller designed for comfort over long periods of time and that looks similar to an Xbox controller.

Iwata concluded by summarizing Nintendo’s prevailing attitude toward the Wii U. “We believe it can help solve the issue of ‘alone together.’ We believe it enables the sharing of more smiles, more laughs, and more empathy,” he said.

Related links:

Gamasutra – Nintendo reveals Wii U’s Miiverse, new hardware specifics

Reuters – Nintendo unveils online strategy for Wii successor

Los Angeles Times – E3: Nintendo Miiverse Social Network unveiled

Ars Technica – Nintendo reveals new Wii U details ahead of E3