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Nintendo Wii U controller will include near-field communication

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The Wii U's hefty touchscreen controller will support near-field communication (NFC), for contactless payments and augmented reality game props

Nintendo Wii U hero from E3 2011
Nintendo Wii U hero from E3 2011

Nintendo's ramping up for a big re-reveal of the Wii U video game console at E3 2012 — the device will ship by the end of the year — but company president Satoru Iwata is already spoiling surprises this evening. Not only might the Wii U finally ditch friend codes, but its hefty touchscreen controller will also support near-field communication (NFC). Iwata revealed the new functionality in a Q3 financial presentation, explaining that there are several potential uses for the tech:

By installing this functionality, it will become possible to create cards and figurines that can electronically read and write data via noncontact NFC and to expand the new play format in the video game world. Adoption of this functionality will enable various other possibilities such as using it as a means of making micropayments.

Remember, Nintendo was a playing card company long before it started producing video games, and NFC could bolster the augmented reality play it fostered with the 3DS cameras. According to the company president, this particular NFC implementation is based on the same contactless smart card standard as the widely-used FeliCa and MiFARE, so it shouldn't be too hard to find the necessary chips to build such things, or for Nintendo to offer (or perhaps even use existing) NFC payment cards to purchase downloadable games and content on the new Nintendo Network.

Of course, the most exciting possibilities revolve around use in actual games, and given that previous, arguably more exciting possibilities like Wii MotionPlus, WiiSpeak and the Wii Balance Board didn't see wide adoption in new titles, we wonder what kind of reception the developer community will give NFC. At least this feature will be built right in.