Home Editorial Two big problems that could kill the Wii U – from E3...

Nintendo Wii U Ghost Recon Online E3 2011

Please say the word "nub" aloud. It sounds just as shitty as it feels.

After talking our way into the Nintendo E3 2011 press conference,* Ferret and I had the distinct honor of watching** Iwata-san unveil what would quickly become the talk of the event: the new Nintendo Wii U.

It has a camera, a gyroscope, a touchscreen, real buttons, analog sticks, and wireless streaming capabilities. If it didn’t cook me dinner I’d be fucking astonished.

And, true to form, the entire Nintendo presentation had an air of magic to it, offering a none-too-subtle suggestion that just like the Wii, the Wii U could magically change gamers’ lives. Just like the Wii. What could possibly go wrong?

After playing the new system in person, I’m pretty sure there are precisely two things that can and will go wrong with the Wii U.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: the Wii U, despite the flaws I’m about to present, is still an impressive piece of hardware, one full of seemingly magical contradictions. It’s huge (as one would guess), but it’s incredibly lightweight. It’s packed with input mechanics, but it feels simple and intuitive.The screen is bright, sharp, and vibrant; the spacing of the triggers comfortable, even for someone with gigantic paws like myself.

So, insofar as Nintendo seeks to wow hardcore and casuals alike with a new gaming experience, they will probably succeed.

But it’s not the new features Nintendo has to worry about. In stead, mainstays of console gaming for the past decade are what raise my concerns. I’ll stop screwing around and just say it: the Wii U’s analog sticks are absolutely terrible. In fact, I hesitate to call them analog sticks; they’re basically glorified PSP nubs. And anyone who’s twisted those digital nipples before understands that this is a huge mistake.

Playing Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Online immediately revealed just how bad these plastic plates were. Aiming didn’t feel analog, since the tight snap of the inputs forced me to go for all-or-nothing sliding, resulting in imprecise gunfire. The game looked fine… much better than anything on Wii… but without the ability to carefully nuance shots, I was left firing into empty air half the time.

And while this handicap could be overcome with a lot of practice, it presents another problem: that doing so is utterly tiresome. I like to believe my thumb muscles are stronger than the average non-gamer’s, but using these heavily-taught analog inputs for just a few minutes left my opposable digits feeling weary. How would casual, non-gamers with weaker hands deal with this strain?

They won’t. They will break their thumbs and cry, then sue Nintendo. This is my scientific hypothesis.

All right, so that’s an ergonomic issue. It could get fixed, or people might get used to it, or it could just be that I’m an incredible baby. Exceedlingly unlikely, but fine. However, the Wii U’s other problem won’t be so easily addressed.

U see,** the Nintendo Wii U only supports one new controller per console.

E3 2011 Cooking Mama

What does this have to do with Wii U's controls? Nothing. It's just more interesting.

Let that sink in for a second. Feel the pain of your dreams shattering and plummeting through your soul, and savor that shit.

That’s right, your fantasies of four-player, independent screen Goldeneye just died. Your hopes of dual-manning the guns of an Imperial Star Destroyer with a friend are over. Your aspirations of simultaneously playing golf and watching Japanese porn are no more. Why does this restriction exist? Perhaps the tech just isn’t there. Or the costs and demands weren’t worth it to Nintendo to tackle. That’s understandable. But what will happen when (not if) Sony announces that the PS4 will trump the Wii U not just in horsepower, but also in innovative controls? If the PS4 could use four PSVita systems as controllers, the scheme would already usurp Nintendo’s tech, if not its price point.

Just as with SEGA’s Dreamcast, I feel the Wii U threw down the glove too soon. Yes the games we played were fun, but they could mostly be replicated by Sony’s tech, without unfortunate ties to legacy Wii controls. And if that is truly the case, it may soon be Sony who does what Nintendon’t.

*More on this later.
** Yes, I am that lame.

18 replies to this post
  1. Well, this is a bit disappointing. Really hoping they reconsider the analog sticks, and can work around the one controller limit. That’s really lame, I was hoping for some extreme co-op gaming, like that with the Four Swords Adventure on Gamecube.

  2. Well I agree with you on all those points, I’m pretty sure Nintendo will fix the issue of the nubs on the controller. I am also worried about the price range on that controller, but my theory on this is maybe MAYBE, you can take your controller to another system and connect with it. I’m sure that’s what most ppl will end up doing and Nintendo will figure out a way to make the console work with just more than one, but consider this
    the Wii U is no supporting 5 controls (4 wii motes and one huge one) maybe the option can be changed that you can disconnect a wii mote and connect the new control in it’s place. :/

    Also lets just say that PS4 can use 4 PSVs as controllers, the downside with that is that you would have to buy the console version of the game and you would also have to purchase the individual game for the handheld to play it on the go. (so it’s gonna be one main game + handheld version of said game) so even more money will be spent :| ( I could be wrong on that one but I’ll look it up to be sure)

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4e3qaPg_keg As seen in this video not only the new Wii U tab is hook to the console but also a Wii controller. I know that doesn’t solve the problem of having more than one “new” controller at a time, but parties won’t be completely hampered by it assuming you can hook more than one old Wii controller in.

  4. The controller has to be one of the most important things for a console.. that’s why I barely used my Wii since I don’t like motion controls although it’s cool they wanted to try something new.. But this new controller seems even worse.. it looks like a handheld system, not a controller.. plus the fact that there’s a 1 controller limit that pretty much guarantees I won’t be buying this system, unless they up the limit and offer different controller options.. and I was pumped for a new smash bros…..

    Sony will always have the best controller.. and the Sexbox controller is pretty good but Nintendo hasn’t had a good controller since the SNES in my opinion.. Gamecube controller was decent.. I miss the days without touch screen, 3D, Motion controls, etc..

  5. I am very surprised about these analog sticks. Nintendo is usually very good with ergonomic controls and user-friendly systems, this seems like a huge mistake.
    Here’s hoping they fix this in some way. It’s pretty rare to have innovation in the console world, I wouldn’t want to have it fail because of such a simple error.

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