Wii U's much-needed speed update arrives next week

Wii U background downloads spring system update
Wii U system update will add background downloads

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata spent the first half of this morning's Nintendo Direct live stream talking about the 3DS, but 17 minutes in the conversation swung around to the Wii U and its eventual update.

The Wii U spring update will arrive next week, Iwata revealed, bringing with it a laundry list of welcome changes to the hardware.

Not least of those changes will be a boost to the Wii U's UI speed, which since launch has been laggy and slow.

Loading times when switching between software and returning to the Wii U's home menu will be noticeably improved, Iwata promised.

That's not all

The Wii U spring update will also add the ability to copy and move data between two USB drives, plus change the way the Nintendo console downloads and installs software and updates.

With the update, software can finally be downloaded in the background, while updates can be downloaded and installed without having to start the software and even while the Wii U is off, much like Sony's PlayStation 3 already does.

Finally, the upcoming Wii U system update will allow users to boot the console directly into legacy Wii mode by pressing the "B" button during startup - a welcome feature.

Virtual Console

Wii U Virtual Console Super Mario World

Super Mario World will become available on Wii U Virtual Console next week

Along with the Wii U spring update will come the Wii U Virtual Console, a digital store filled with classic games that will go live one day after the update.

At launch, the Wii U Virtual Console will be filled with classic games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo systems starring favorites like Mario, Kirby and the Ice Climbers.

Wii U Virtual Console games will be playable on the Wii U GamePad screen, and each will feature its own MiiVerse community.

And as was previously announced, games you already own on the Wii's older Virtual Console will still be playable from the Wii U's Wii mode (confusing much?), while they can also be upgraded to their new Wii U versions for $1 for NES titles and $1.50 for Super NES games. (International pricing was not mentioned during the U.S. stream, but we've asked Nintendo to provide it to us.)

Iwata also revealed plans to add Game Boy Advance and Nintendo 64 games to the Wii U Virtual Console in the future.

Wii U Panorama coming

Wii U Panorama View London

A tour of London in Wii U Panorama View will cost $2

Iwata lastly reminded us of a feature that we had, frankly, forgotten about: Wii U Panorama View, which will also launch next week.

Wii U Panorama View allows users to take tours through real-world spaces, such as London, using the Wii U's GamePad as a virtual, movable window.

Previews of Wii U Panorama experiences will be available for free, while each individual 360-degree video will cost $2.

During today's Nintendo Direct stream, Nintendo also announced new games like Yoshi's Island 3 and a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and gave fans updates on several other titles.

You can watch Nintendo Direct yourself for those announcements plus some awkward shenanigans involving Nintendo's president and some life-sized Mario and Luigi costumes.

Michael Rougeau

Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.

Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for Playboy.com, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.