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Does Nintendo’s Wii U only support 1 touchscreen controller?

Wii U ControllerThough the masses don’t seem to have picked up on this yet, one of the first things we noticed when Nintendo unveiled the Wii U this morning was that, though it showed plenty of multiplayer game concepts for the new console, none of them involved more than one Wii U controller at a time. We can confirm that the console definitely supports a Wii U controller and up to 4 more Wii Remotes, but we are becoming fairly certain that Nintendo is not currently planning to support more than one Wii U touchscreen controller on its upcoming system.

Below are a few reasons why we think Wii U only supports one touchscreen controller (at this time).

Nintendo’s press release talks of “a” controller: The official press release for the Wii U is titled “Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console features a controller with 6.2-inch screen.” The press release also speaks of “a” new controller, but never mentions more than one.

No Wii U demos use multiple controllers: As far as we can tell, none of Nintendo’s proof-of-concept demos utilize more than one Wii U controller at the same time. Nintendo’s mock-up Wii U living room shows only one of the touch controllers.

Representatives refuse to comment: I went through a litany of Nintendo booth attendants, representatives, and other personnel asking whether the Wii U would support more than one controller and none of them would comment on the subject, at all. In the end, I was told that this is not something Nintendo is prepared to reveal at this time.

This controller is expensive: Just looking at the 6.2-inch touchscreen on the controller is enough to know that the Wii U controller will likely be the most expensive default controller ever released for a home console. If it were to retail as an accessory, we expect it would be priced far higher than the $40-$50 price tag of current generation controllers. Possibly a great deal higher, like $100-$200 or more.

Omission is often admission: Nintendo is a quiet company, but when it revealed the Wii, it was very open about the console’s 4 player capabilities. Today, it readily showed us that the Wii U can pair up with four Wii Remotes, but it very deliberately has never shown more than one Wii U touchscreen controller at a time.

If true, this is sad news for gamers

Nintendo is pushing the Wii U as a console that is as equally suited to hardcore games as it is casual games. In its press conference Nintendo executives repeated this fact and even had EA’s CEO come out and pledge hardcore game support. But how can Nintendo say it is fully supporting hardcore games if its new console only supports one hardcore game controller at a time? Last weekend, I played through Portal 2‘s splitscreen multiplayer co-operative mode. This would be impossible on the Wii U without one player using a Wii Remote in some fashion. While it’s likely that Nintendo will beef up its online gameplay (it will need to now), only supporting a single touch screen controller greatly limits the gameplay possibilities of the system for hardcore games.

Of course, multiplayer games could still use the familiar nunchucks, but that would rob the Wii U of what is easily its best and most innovative feature.

Casual gamers should also be disappointed. Many of the game concepts Nintendo showed off today, including augmented reality, using the Wii U controller as a gun sight, etc, will only be possible as single player experiences. Multiplayer modes will have to be limited to concepts where players pass the good controller from person to person, taking turns.

Remember Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures? At E3 2003, Nintendo unveiled several games for its GameCube console that let players use their Game Boy Advances as controllers. This concept never took off for various reasons, but it spawned several fun games like FSA, which let players hold inventories and actually play on their handheld screens. There are a number of great game concepts that could arise from having more than a single touchscreen controller. It’s a shame to think we may never see them.

Whether it has to do with screen streaming limitations, the power of the console itself, or the cost of these touchscreen controllers, Nintendo doesn’t seem to want us to have more than one. Hopefully they change their collective minds.

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Jeffrey Van Camp
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