Feature: Wii Controllers - What Could Have Been

Wii never knew...

Part of our mission at Nintendo Life is to highlight parts of the gaming world that were previously unknown. To that end, our experienced researchers have been rooting around the archives of Wii history and discovered the original patent application for the Wii Remote. Reading patent documentation isn’t the most stimulating of activities, but we’ve completed this arduous task to discover a world of concept ideas that never saw the light of day, though it would have been fun if they had.

Accessories Galore

What is clear from the patent document is that development of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk posed serious ideological questions for Nintendo. While pursuing a controller system that allowed more freedom of the hands and a move to motion gaming, there were concerns that certain experiences would require a more conventional controller. There are references to ‘accessory units … designed to mimic earlier or different videogame platforms’, as backwards compatibility and traditional gaming were clearly an important focus. Of course, the Classic Controller delivered on this, and gamers in Europe with plenty of Club Nintendo ‘stars’ may have even got hold of a SNES Classic Controller for the Wii. It seems, however, that early stages of development explored alternative options.

Look, no wires…

While Wii gamers are accustomed to the wire and connector when using a Classic Controller, it appears that initial ideas would have worked differently. Concept diagrams show a Wii Remote being docked with three different retro controllers: Wii iterations of GameCube, SNES and NES controllers were conceived, with each being a relatively faithful recreation of the original. Each controller has an indentation in the middle where the Wii Remote would sit, which on the surface looks like a strange idea.

Cynics may suggest that, if this idea had come to fruition, it would have been a cash-grab to have three versions of a controller that, in reality, is provided by one Classic Controller. That would be unfair as, after all, these are concept documents. What we find interesting is the potential gaming opportunities that these setups could have provided. Think about it: with the Wii Remote docked in the controller and pointing towards the TV, it could have been a Classic Controller with pointer functionality. Imagine the gameplay possibilities with two analogue sticks and a pointer; confusing initially, perhaps, but possible with practice. Let’s take Super Mario Galaxy as an example: move Mario with one stick, move the camera with 360-degree freedom with the other while gathering star bits with the pointer. It sounds crazy enough that it could have worked.

Conceptually, perhaps these drawings represent the first spark of imagination that led to the Wii U controller. If the touchscreen was inspired by the success of the DS and tablet devices such as the iPad, perhaps the idea of having conventional control inputs aligned with motion controls began with the development of the Wii Remote accessories. Whereas the existing Classic Controller works completely separately from the Wii Remote, these early patents suggested a possibility of integrating these ideas together. It is entirely possible that issues of cost and practicality put these ideas back, but they were clearly not forgotten.

Finally, to end with a bang

To be honest though, there was one part of this patent document that grabbed the attention of the Nintendo Life team. A combination of surprise, confusion and wonderment was expressed at first sight of what we’ll unimaginatively call the ‘Nintendo Gun’. It’s not a zapper, or a blaster; it’s quite simply a big gun. If we were to guess on the model, with a knowledge based on video games and movies, we’d suggest it’s a magnum. A powerful one.

In fact, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the House of the Dead: Overkill Hand Cannon. Let’s not forget that was an X-rated on-rails shooter with enough foul language to make a rapper blush. The Nintendo Gun, however, would have been a change of strategy for the big N. Had enough of cuddly mascots and playing Wii Sports with your granny? Just bust out the Nintendo Gun and shoot some baddies, sucka! If this gun had ever made it to stores, we would have snapped it up and waved it in the faces of ‘hardcore’ gamers with HD consoles and asked a simple question: does your console have anything as bad-ass as this?

So there you have it, a few intriguing controllers that could have made gaming on the Wii that little bit different. There’s also the Nintendo Gun, let’s not forget that.