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Guest Article: Will Two GamePad Controllers be Enough for Wii U?

Countdown to Wii U:
- 22 Days Remain -

A Guest Article by Zakabajak

When the Wii U was first announced in early 2011, despite some skepticism, it was difficult to argue that the new controller was truly innovative. Upon confirmation that the system could only handle one Wii U GamePad at a time, however, people began to wonder whether this system would actually be revolutionary. Despite later indication that the Wii U will, further along in its life cycle, support two GamePads, the lack of conventional four player multiplayer being able to take full advantage of the new controller may not rest well with some gamers.

Although Nintendo has come up with all sorts of ways to work around this issue, some will question whether only two-GamePad support will be enough to satisfy.

From a purely business standpoint, most would agree that this decision by Nintendo will financially bode well with a majority of consumers. Nintendo believes in pricing their hardware very strategically in order to have as many playing their games as possible without selling at a loss. Although Nintendo will actually sell the Wii U at a loss, imagine their fiscal situation if they were to support four GamePads.

The Wii U will sell with a GamePad packaged in the Basic Set, which will cost $299.99. This alone makes for the most expensive home console that Nintendo has ever released. If Nintendo was to support multiple GamePads, this already costly consumer investment would skyrocket. Nintendo will not sell standalone GamePads at launch; however, they estimate their value at around $172 (according to the Japanese price point). To do the math, the cost of the standard Wii U bundle and three additional GamePads would amount to a little over $800. To put this in perspective, this price would exceed the absurd PS3 launch prices, which ranged between $499 and $599. All in all, having four GamePads would just not be financially viable, at least (and especially) at this stage in the Wii U’s life.

The inclusion of four GamePads might also be technologically unfeasible. The GamePad can currently function wirelessly with the Wii U console with little to no latency. The ability for the console to receive feedback from a High-Definition-capable device without lag displays the system’s power; however, this may be a limitation as well. I am entirely unsure of the system’s true capabilities, and do not know how receiving feedback from two GamePads will effect latency in the future, but I can only assume that one system processing information for four equally powerful devices could be problematic.

From an entirely gameplay perspective, Nintendo has circumvented the issue of access to a single GamePad with their idea of asymmetrical gameplay. This has made for some truly innovative approaches to game design, since multiplayer really needs to be focused around a solid idea. The many attractions of Nintendo Land display just how many different approaches developers can take when designing games for the Wii U. Having different control interfaces to mix and match will challenge developers to be creative, and their games will be all the better for it.

ZombiU‘s multiplayer pits one player against a GamePad-wielding omnipotent zombie creator, a pretty unprecedented idea for a first-person shooter. One could argue that if four of the same controllers were available, the same kind of creativity would not be encouraged or even necessary. However, one could also argue that having four separate viewpoints on four different controllers while also interacting with another, larger screen encourages another whole spectrum of innovation.

There will be certain limitations that arise as a result of only having up to two GamePads available to players. In certain upcoming games, such as Tekken Tag Tournament 2, it appears that playing with the GamePad will be the optimal choice during multiplayer. As opposed to the Wii Remote or the Wii U Pro Controller, there are shortcuts available to the GamePad players that are not options for other control schemes, making the game rather unbalanced.

Now imagine playing a shooting game, like Call of Duty (please don’t shoot me for the reference). In theory, a four player local match would also be unbalanced, since players on the GamePad will be the only ones able to “screen look” against the other players, while everyone on split screen on the TV will be unable to see what’s on the GamePad screen.

In certain games that take advantage of the GamePad’s other unique features, such as the gyroscope and accelerometer, the other players will be disadvantaged in being unable to use these features. The common way that Nintendo suggests to override this issue seems to be their idea of asymmetrical gameplay. But what if the players all want to play the same game, and have the same objective and the same means to achieve their goal? What if the GamePad objective simply seems more compelling than the other options of play, and only one or two people can play that way at a time? This will lead to many arguments between close friends, and potentially tear them apart forever (“BUT YOU HAD THE GAMEPAD LAST GAME, I WANT IT NOW!”).

Despite these limitations, Nintendo has the opportunity to rectify them through more conventional, symmetrical means of play with a robust online service. It simply will not matter how many of what kind of controller one person has if they’re playing with people across the globe who have the same. In online multiplayer, there can be even ground for all players if they all play with the same controller, and thereby with the same set of rules. No one person will be disadvantaged by not having the same options, since all will have a GamePad bundled with their console. Here’s to hoping that the Wii U’s online capabilities are at least on par with Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.

Nintendo has also changed up the idea of typical multiplayer as well by introducing a fifth player for local play. The Wii U can handle both a GamePad and four other controllers at a time, changing up the quantitative fundamentals of multiplayer for the first time since the Nintendo 64. Gone now are the days when you and your four friends have to constantly swap in and out of the game, leaving one person the bored, little outcast. Oh, you have five friends? Well, looks like you’re still out of luck.

The Wii U’s controller situation certainly has its positives and negatives. Whether or not four-GamePad multiplayer is reasonable, or even possible for that matter, its absence will surely be a point of discussion in the console’s reception. The GamePad will surely innovate gaming, but will that come at the expense of balance? That is for you, the ever important consumer, to decide.

This article was a guest submission by “Zakabajak,” a fan of our sister site, Zelda Dungeon. Find out more about how to submit your own articles for our “Countdown to Wii U” series by clicking here.

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