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

Countdown to Wii U:
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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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  • Wow, just in time! I was looking around GenGAME to see what was there, I refreshed the page, and this popped up. WiiU for the win!!

  • Gabriel Gomez

    i have 5 friends, problem solved!

    i have max 3 cousins at my house, and one sibling, problem solved!

  • Terrak

    Sorry this is a pretty ridiculous. 4 Gamepads? are you serious? Yes the first thing is that the console will struggle with 2 gamepads (frame rates will halve from 60 to 30fps) and you want 4 gamepads? Lets not forget the price – say $150 a gamepad and thats if its cheap. so you think one person will pay like $450 for 3 gamepad controllers? thats more then the console costs!.

    2 gamepads are enough, and if you want the same local multiplayer experience as other console you can with Wii U pro controllers, you are not at any disadvantage multiplayer wise on the Wii U but you have a few more options thanks to the gamepad.

    4 gamepads = ridiculous, lets be happy we have 2

    • Zach Jackson

      I never said that having four GamePads would be plausible, and I actually did say that it would be both financially and technologically unreasonable. I was simply putting an idea out there; as much as having four GamePads would be awesome, it won’t happen for now at least. And as far as not being disadvantaged in multiplayer on a Pro Controller, or even on a Wiimote, we can’t say for sure whether or not that’s true until we see the games that have different multiplayer control options. Hopefully they will be able to remain balanced despite being different ways to play. And don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly happy with 2 GamePads, since they are awesome controllers. In a perfect world though, I wish technology and cost didn’t have to limit availability to 4 GamePads per console.

      • Terrak

        I guess that i was surprised anyone was considering 4 gamepads, because honestly i wasnt even thinking past two gamepads. I just think its good to start of with one at launch, showcase they new gameplay styles that the new controller offers, then as it gets cheaper offer 2 gamepad play.

        Secondly i understand the possibility of arguments or fighting over who gets to use the gamepad, but that to me is a small price to pay for asymmetric gameplay. I dont think that having 4 gamepads at the moment would be the answer though not at the price it will probably retailing at (maybe up to $200 each). Maybe for the successor of the Wii U.

        • Alex Plant

          Nintendo actually said that the vision was originally to allow four Wii U GamePads. I think it’s definitely something to consider.

  • Gano

    This for me is a stepping stone, consoles cannot yet be affordable if offering 4 player with each person having their own gamepad. No doubt next gen it will be and Nitendo consumers will allready have 2 gamepads meaning after the controller that comes with the console, players would only need 1 more to play 4p without using the tv screen.
    I would like to see an update come to the 3ds so players can use them as additional controllers also. The on board caching abilities of a 3ds would allow it to demand less of the console than a standard gamepad. This could be the perfect middle ground for Nintendo allwing u to also take a mini game with u that u downloaded from your Wii U game.

    • Zach Jackson

      I never considered that actually, that maybe on their next home console you can use four. That would be cool!
      And yeah definitely, I’d love to see the 3DS as an alternate controller! I’m really hoping for another Four Swords game that will allow this, with maybe one or two people on GamePads and the other two or three on the 3DS. That way everyone can have two screens to play on, just like Four Swords Adventures on the Gamecube. Ahhhh, so many possibilities!!

  • MicroRed

    i really couldn’t be bothered to care at all about 2, much less 4, gamepads being compatible at once. This would probably be a problem for younger people who have siblings or friends over all the time but I’m a college student who mostly plays alone or online when i’ve got the time. One of the reasons I didn’t care for the Wii was because it appealed more to people who wanted to play in the same room.

    Bring on the Wii U. Getting it this christmas :)