In Defense of the Wii U’s Controllers

While I don’t quite yet understand the social networking aspects of the Wii U that Nintendo showcased in their “direct” message on Sunday, I think people need to finally stop whining about the controller.

Not only am I disappointed at how much negativity I’ve seen thrown towards the Wii U touch screen, I think it’s one of the best things Nintendo could have done when it comes to innovation. Not to mention we’ve now got an alternative.

I think the Wii U’s controller corrects a possibly critical mistake Nintendo made with the Wii. Way back around 2005 I think an IGN article speculating about what the “Revolution” controller might be like suggested that in order to succeed it needed to be an addition to the current establishment, not a replacement of it. Trying to throw the book out might have been too bold a maneuver for the Wii remote, and it likely contributed to 3rd parties’ policies to ignore the platform. People have the same problem now with PlayStation Move and Kinect – they are largely incompatible with conventional console game design.

If you look back at the additions to the standard console controller layout that took hold, none of them took away from what had already been established – they were all additions that expanded possibilities. To that end, I think the tablet makes at least as much sense as two analog sticks or four shoulder buttons. Certainly no one is complaining about touch screens on handhelds anymore.

I just hope the whole platform doesn’t end up being doomed by a bunch of nitpicks. I think it actually sucks that Iwata had to take time to indicate that the Wii U’s sticks were now clickable. Was the absence of that feature really gonna ruin shooters on the platform? Little complexities like that is part of why the mass audience is so averse to game controllers.

The Wii U Controller Pro is basically an admission by Nintendo that “real gamers” basically just want to play all their games on an Xbox 360 controller. Even after that I’m already hearing nitpicks about the stick placement and even the fact that the triggers are digital.

As for the Pro’s layout itself, I can think of three good reasons for the right analog stick placement: 1) It matches the placement on the tablet controller. 2) It might actually be more ideal for shooters with the sticks and triggers closer together. 3) The bottom half actually resembles an SNES pad with the D pad and face buttons directly across from one another. But really though, the main point is that this is an Xbox 360 controller with a good D pad. I’m definitely not the only one who’s wanted that for a long time.

Look people, Nintendo is the company that basically created the modern console controller design. They popularized most of the innovations that became the status quo over the years. If anyone has the right to add to the design, it should be them.


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