One of the big disappointments at E3 was the news that Nintendo’s weird new console, the Wii U, would only support one of their tablet controllers at once. But recent losses have made them reconsider their situation and the opportunities presented by allowing a second controller to be used in the home — and sold at stores.
We were initially skeptical of the new system, as rumor after rumor piled up and eventually were mostly proven to be true. A six-inch touchscreen with built-in motion and traditional controls — a big gamble, but not as big as only allowing one to be used at a time. The Wii was all about being in the same room as people and flailing about like crazy. Taking that away removes the keystone from the arch and it all comes tumbling down, revealing the last-last-generation graphics and laggy controls.
The reason for having only one controller available was technical. They didn’t elaborate at E3, but given what we know, it seems that the Wii U central console only had enough bandwidth to send a video signal to one controller at a time. As the CPU and amount of RAM in the console haven’t been specified yet, there’s still room to give it a bump. But as a developer told Develop:
Nintendo now know they absolutely need to support two tablets… Even if that affects framerate, as a developer and player, I don’t care. It needs to work. Developers will design appropriate games for this. If you’re building a quiz game you’re not going to give a shit about the framerate.
True. It’s about the unique experience, the fun factor. The rest will get figured out in time. Has Nintendo forgotten that they released an accessory for the Wiimote after a year that made it act the way it should have at launch?
Not to mention the fact that two tablet controllers equals accessory sales. Satoru Iwata has said having to buy another controller is a “cost barrier.” Earth to Iwata: If you wanted to play four-player Mario Party or any of the other major sellers, you had to shell out for four controllers. And if you want to play whatever the killer app is for two tablet controllers, you’ll need to shell out again. That’s how it works. Nintendo desperately needs that money. And if it expects to sell 100 million Wii Us the way they’re looking right now, they’re going to have a rather ugly awakening.
Nintendo led a tectonic shift in gaming habits. Now they’re scrambling to make ends meet. The right decision now could make the Wii U a truly interesting development in the gaming world, but the wrong one could make it an albatross they have to support half-heartedly for three years.