Multiplayer voice chat finally arrives on Wii

Nintendo's tardy but unique answer to Xbox 360 and PS3 headsets for online trash talking.

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The speaker-phone peripheral sits atop the Wii sensor bar

In a crowded press room last Wednesday, Nintendo demonstrated the WiiSpeak microphone (sold separately) for the first time to GamePro and other journalists hoping to learn more about the multiplayer voice chat peripheral.

The demo was driven by Nintendo, but we successfully spoke with two other persons via their remote Wii consoles while playing Animal Crossing: City Folk, the first game to support WiiSpeak; Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario) in New York, and a second Nintendo representative one floor down in the Los Angeles Convention center.

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WiiSpeak allows anyone in the room to communicate online

I was one of five people in the living-room size, um, room, and could clearly hear and communicate with those on the line. When Martinet said, "It'sa me, Mario!" it sounded just like it had a thousand times before. In short, the newly unveiled device works, and we're thrilled that Wii owners will finally be able to interact with others online like Xbox 360 and PS3 owners have before them.

But unlike headsets, WiiSpeak is the equivalent of a console speaker phone, and lets multiple people in a single room communicate with up to three other systems, all of which could potentially have multiple people in their respective rooms. "It's like you're all in the same room," Nintendo says. And from what we heard, they're right.

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Animal Crossing: City Folk the first game to support WiiSpeak

It's unclear at the moment if the number of total systems (currently at four for Animal Crossing) will increase to support greater numbers, but High Voltage Software says it will support WiiSpeak on The Conduit, which promises 16-person online multiplayer.

Nevertheless, it's apparent the USB-connected mic should do the trick when it arrives later this year. Let's just hope the list of supported games rapidly increases in the coming months. Given the constant clamoring by gamers, we're confident it will.

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