Nintendo of America is giving attendees at this year’s Consumer Electronics show some hands on time with their new gaming console, the Nintendo Wii U. The new console was first shown last summer at E3 and should be available to purchase some time on the second half of 2012.

Although the original Wii, launched back in 2006, won over millions of casual gamers, it now faces much stronger competition from smartphones and tablets capable of playing simple games. The firm’s 3DS handheld device has done little to sway the growing phone and tablet gaming market, with poor launch sales that later forced the company to slash the device's price in an effort to boost demand.

The most notable new feature is the new controller (below), which has a large touchscreen enabled display. In many respects it looks like a tablet, and initially seems like it would be a hindrance to gamers.

 

It could prove useful for multiplayer gaming, for example, where each player would use the screen on the new controller to keep their movements secret from others. We should note that when Nintendo first announced the console it said the Wii U would only support one of their tablet controllers to be used at once. While the company hasn't officially changed their stance, rumor has it that they're working to make it technically feasible.

For those that prefer the old controllers, Nintendo has confirmed the new console will work with the previous generation Wii remotes just fine. While the older versions are tracked by a sensor bar plugged into the unit, the new controller will have its own sensor bar built into the device, enabling it to find where the older remotes are in relation to itself and the TV being used.

Nintendo's newest console will be further showcased at the Electronic Entertainment Expo hosted in Los Angeles this June and is scheduled for release sometime in the second half of 2012.

Note: The story was edited for accuracy, before we had stated the Wii U would be available around June, but Nintendo's official word if only 2H/2012.