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Wii U controller's latest secret revealed

Nintendo revealed a previously-undisclosed feature of the Wii U's tablet controller: near-field communication tech, which sets the stage for gameplay -- and shopping -- innovations.
Just when you think you know everything about Nintendo's innovative -- and risky -- new Wii U tablet controller, the company throws another factor into the mix. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata revealed this week that the touch-enabled controller will also implement near-field communication (NFC) tech. As an NFC device, the controller will be able to interact with objects equipped with NFC tags. It's the same set of standards used in some smartphones and smart cards. By touching an NFC-tagged item -- or bringing it in very close range -- with an NFC device, the objects interact via radio communication. "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," Iwata said during an earnings briefing. "Adoption of this functionality will enable various other possibilities such as using it as a means of making micropayments," he said, a hint at Nintendo's expanding digital distribution plans. NFC technology has been around for years. But for game development, one interesting implementation of NFC only recently saw commercial release: Activision's console game Skylanders, in which players can buy NFC-tagged figurines, place them on an NFC-equipped pod, and bring those figurines to life in-game. Iwata described the tech in terms of the Wii U, but did not give specifics on implementation. "The NFC I'm referring to here is the noncontact NFC standard that is compatible with FeliCa and MIFARE, and is expected to be widely used around the world in the near future," he said.

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