News Article

Talking Point: The Wii U Controller Options Open Up PC Game Opportunities

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Point and click, swipe and tap

While the Wii U was the first to kick off what will soon be considered the current generation of game consoles, we were left wondering what innovations Sony and Microsoft would be bringing to the table. With the Wii U we've had a major processor power upgrade over the Wii, which was expected, but the control innovation came primarily through the GamePad, and also the continuing support for the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. If you have your old Wii controllers and the new system, you've got diverse control options that, when used creatively, offer experiences beyond what was possible before. Now we have motion controls combined with a second-screen dynamic, all conveniently in one box.

The Wii generation brought major success to Nintendo, perhaps against the will of those that didn't appreciate its modest graphical output and online infrastructure, but a reasonable price-point and motion control innovation delivered an audience of nearly 100 million consumers. We all know that the Wii U is off to a slow start, but much will now be focused on a revival driven by exciting software and concepts best suited to the hardware's concept.

Until recently we were cautious about plugging the Wii U's potential unique selling points, as we weren't sure just how big Sony and Microsoft were going with their systems, or if any wacky new ideas were coming. Early and unlikely rumours for the PS4 suggested VR headsets bundled with the system, while the intriguing concept of full room projected images were mooted as a pack-in for the Xbox One. Both exist, in forms, but neither technology has progressed far enough to be manufactured, bundled in and sold at a sensible price, not if consoles are to cost less than a small car.

So early indications are that, aside from a small touch pad, rumbling triggers and enhanced versions of existing motion tech, Microsoft and Sony's new systems will be driven by powerful PC-style architecture and a lot of multi-functionality. In both cases social networking will play a role, while gamers will be able to capture and share in-game footage on the fly, rather like the Miiverse screenshot capability but with video. Yet in terms of game-changing control, we're seeing enhancement rather than evolution from Nintendo's rivals, with rumours of the new Xbox being bundled with a tablet-like controller also biting the dust — it'll rely on SmartGlass, which will make use of external hardware such as smartphones and tablets.

And so we can say, for now at least, that the Wii U GamePad and backward compatibility with Wii controllers are a unique offering, at least until a few years down the line if Sony or Microsoft bundle a basic tablet with their systems; it happened with the Move, let's not forget. The key difference between the Wii U's GamePad and SmartGlass-style workarounds is that the screen and controller are directly combined, and are integral to the system; with practically zero latency and no online requirement to function, we should remember how technologically sound Nintendo's two screen setup truly is.

In terms of how the GamePad and related Wii Remotes are used creatively, even in these early days we've seen some good examples. Some have been technical showcases, such as the asynchronous multiplayer in titles such as Nintendo Land, maps and inventory systems in many games and off-TV play. Yet what we haven't seen yet, arguably, is a title that utilises the point and click Wii Remote capabilities with the second screen 'tablet' as an additional interface. There are hints of it in titles like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate — where the GamePad still functions even if using a Wii U Pro Controller — while an upcoming title looks set to explore it in greater depth. That happens to be a game that's one of the most long-awaited for Nintendo home console gamers — Pikmin 3.

It perhaps betrays the rumoured development time that supposedly stretches back to when the Wii was in its pomp, but Nintendo is plugging the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as the optimal control scheme for this title. And no wonder, as many Wii owners have often argued that for genres that require precise cursor control — such as first-person shooters — the Remote pointer and Nunchuk is second only to the mouse and keyboard. Whether you agree with that or not, the Wii pointer had a lot of good mileage on the old system, and it's only natural that selecting Pikmin and ordering them around the environment will be quickest and most intuitive — on the big screen at least — with the last-gen controllers. While GamePad-only play will be an option, we're seeing Nintendo make a play of the GamePad as a secondary information screen, always on hand for guidance and for additional touch inputs. It takes the second-player's assist buttons from something like Need for Speed: Most Wanted U and potentially incorporates it into a strategic single-player experience.

It's one of the first examples, aside from in-game gimmicks like those in LEGO City: Undercover, where a game is embracing the GamePad for its tablet-like aspects, with the Pikmin 3 setup potentially resembling the kind of thing we'll see with Microsoft's SmartGlass. The distinction is in the pointer controls, which suggests to us that genres typically reserved for the PC could make a transition to Wii U, but in fuller-fat varieties than are typically found in smartphone and tablet apps that attempt to re-create these games. In fact, the current partnership with SEGA got us thinking about two of its properties that are backbones of its publishing business — these are Football Manager and Total War.

The former, for those unfamiliar, is the biggest selling football/soccer management simulation in the world, and behind its glossy fonts is one of the most dizzying databases in any video game. You can manage one of thousands of football clubs around the world and manage anything and everything to do with your team, before watching the game after all of the preparation is done. Total War, meanwhile, is a large-scale war strategy title, with various spin-offs taking in a number of notable historical periods — the day-to-day gameplay is via a turn-based overworld, before you manage thousands of troops in epic real-time battles.

Both of these series have been PC mainstays, while Football Manager has also had a streamlined version for a number of years on PSP, iOS and Android. As it's already been given life on PSP and touch screen devices, this is the most natural fit for Wii U, while the at-your-own-pace preparation between matches would suit any control system. We've already seen the potential for the GamePad screen to be used for on-the-fly tactical changes in the otherwise unremarkable FIFA 13 port, and the various potential uses and interaction between the GamePad and TV seem ideally suited for the title. Off-TV play could be primarily touch based, while enjoying matches on the big screen while making quick tactical changes on the extra screen would be natural.

The Total War series is one that would push the boat out further, and perhaps incorporate some of the dual controller principles that look set to shine in Pikmin 3. It's easy to see why the dynamic real-time battles are no fit for traditional console controllers, which would make the Wii Remote pointer perfect for quickly moving around the field and selecting units. Even better, however, would be the option to quickly switch to the GamePad for stylus-controlled maneuvers, perhaps as a quick way to redirect reinforcements stationed on the far side of the field. The GamePad could be optional or even work, again, for touch screen strategy in off-TV play, but the level of detail and interactivity that would combine with all controllers in play would make the experience something fresh in the console space.

As with anything in big-budget game development, there are roadblocks to be considered. One is whether these experiences would work well on a technical level: Football Manager would potentially be download-only to enforce and avoid confusion over mandatory installation to the hard drive, while the Total War series would likely require serious optimisation to run on the hardware, as the 3D graphics engine and size of battles necessitate meaty PC rigs to run. Neither are impossible but bring us to the second issue — publisher and developer desire to pursue these sorts of ideas. In the increasingly strained development industry, would budgets and resources be sacrificed to make this happen?

Hypothetically, however, the Wii U does offer control schemes that could introduce PC/Mac-only gaming to a wider audience. While the PS4 and Xbox One may be able to deliver workarounds through their own motion controls or links to external devices, the Wii U perhaps has the benefit of the simplest, most streamlined setup. Games like Pikmin 3 set a potential guideline for Wii U controls enhancing genres such as real time strategy, but will others pick up the mantle?

Let us know what you think of these ideas in the comments below, and if you happen to agree we'd also love to know what PC gaming franchises you'd like to see on Wii U.

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User Comments (67)



Whopper744 said:

It just goes to show the possibilities are about endless. I always like how innovative Nintendo has been.



Shiryu said:

Yet Blizzard denies us "Diablo ]I[". I know it's nowhere near as good as "Diablo ][" but I would still like to play it on the Wii U... or 3DS?

In another note, speaking of "Total War" I haven't replayed "Spartan: Total Warrior" over a year. Time to boot that up on the Wii.



Mahemoth said:

Spartan: total warrior, that game was a lot of fun. But yeah.. Some strategy games would be nice.



Kifa said:

@Shiryu Diablo 3 on 3DS is impossible due to the console being simply too weak.
As for Wii U - I guess Blizzard does not have interest in consoles in general, and PS3/PS4 outing is more of an experiment than something that will regularly happen.

Besides - why even want Diablo 3 on a console? It runs on almost every PC that is not coal-powered and is not all that expensive... Besides - it's worse than D2 or even D1, so... Yea, why even have it?



Therad said:

I think some sort of MMO could be nice on Wii U. Simply put, they usually requires a ton of buttons, which could be mapped onto the touchscreen.



wober2 said:

I would rather a rerelease of torchlight 2 the diablo 3. Maybe some older pc games like ultima series on the wiiu. I doubt it though nintendo seems so distant to pc culture...



rjejr said:

While it's unfortunate human beings only have 2 hands so games making simultaneous use of the Gamepad and Wiimote-nunchuck combo may be ridiculed for the idea I'm looking forward to the experience just the same. I play most of my games reclined on my sofa so I don't see a problem w/ the Gamepad in my lap displaying a map while I interact on the tv screen. Though the game needs to warrant such a design and not just be a marketing ploy. I don't need a map playing a 2D brawler and I don't want to look down during a fast moving 2D platformer, but any open world game using a map and pointing, whether first or 3rd person, would be useful.



Zodiak13 said:

I love the gamepad, hated the wiimote/nunchuck. Enjoy off screen play and yes, new gaming possibilies. I just have this nagging feeling the WiiU will never take off, but I think it will at least survive for a few years. Who knows, the Wii went all crazy with sales, and that is my least favorite console of all time, at least that I owned. Only my son played it, and even then barely. We will see if anyone takes adavantage of these possibilities.



FiveDigitLP said:

This is what I've been saying from the beginning. I think a lot of strategy games that usually work best on PC would be a nice fit on the Wii U.



shake_zula said:

@Kifa Diablo 3 is being released for PS3 as well as PS4, so the Wii U could certainly run it.

I'd love a Civ game personally, or maybe even a Galactic Civilizations port. Either way I definitely want to see the Gamepad utilised for some PC-style strategy, I've been saying this for months.



element187 said:

"Microsoft and Sony's new systems will be driven by powerful PC-style architecture "

Uhm citation please... The AMD Jaguar going into box xBoned and PS4 was originally designed for tablets and netbooks... I mean you cannot even buy a retail standalone CPU that's slower than it.... and the GPU in the PS4 is on the pretty low end, not even a 2 teraflop chip (Raeon 7850, which will be pretty low end by November if it already isn't considered low end today)



Yoshi3DS said:

i know that this is COMPLETELY off the topic but i really need help with something.
you know that deoxys pokemon event for black/white 2, can you actually get deoxys on the 31st may or does it end the night before. i ordered black 2 last week and it hasn't came in yet so im getting kinda worried. should i wait till tomorrow incase it comes in or buy another one on 1-day delivery. please help



element187 said:

@Shiryu Lets skip Diablo and just go straight for WoW... its far more interesting

A console version of WoW, using the touchscreen for setting off spells/attacks would be perfect.



mr_moobs said:

I'd rather see Torchlight 2 on Wii U then D3...

Strategy games though... never thought just how good the Gamepad could be implemented... gimme Warhammer! ^_^



zool said:

It looks like the new Playstation and the Xbox one will both be powerful and expensive and be able to do a lot more than be just a games machine.

But all I want is something to play games on, like the old days, plug my games console into my TV and play. If Nintendo can get the Wii u price down and get a steady flow of good games, they will get sales to equal the Wii sales.
If the price is good enough Playstation and xbox owners will get one as a second console.
If not Nintendo might as well forget the console and just make games for the Playstation, and the 3DS.



banacheck said:

PlayStation 4 will cost $400/£300 UK when it launches, according to “industry sources” and “leaked internal documents”.

The leaked documents & sources have been bang-on so far, and manufacturing cost are a lot cheaper than the PS3 which Sony have already pointed-out.

Doesn't the PS4 have the PSVita which can do what the Wii U is doing now, and haven't Sony already said every game released on the PS4 will be play-able on the PSVita, Apart from the games that uses the PS4 camera.



EverythingAmiibo said:

I'm a HUGE Rome Total War fan (Shogun 2 is alright) and I've wanted it (Well RTW 2 of course) to come to the Wii U since it was announced! Please someone make it happen!



tchaten said:

@banacheck that may all be true (thinking $500 will be the price for both systems) - but I doubt every PS4 owner will have a Vita - the bigger issue is developers won't create unique experiences for the Vita plus PS4 like are being done with the GamePad plus TV screen.

The move and Kinect had similar issues - unless everyone has it you can't expect people to have it. The great thing about Nintendo systems is that everyone has the GamePad or motion control - developers can create games with those being required as a result.



banacheck said:

The Wii U does more than just games, the only console this gen to take it to the extreme's is microsoft's Xbone. The OS on Xbone has never been done before on a console, the hefty 3GB OS three OS plus an OS for app, downloads etc.

create unique experiences for the Vita plus PS4 like are being done with the GamePad plus TV screen.

They already did do with some games on the PS3.



NintendoPro64 said:

Funny. NintendoEnthusiast made an article just like this 2 months ago...

It's also funny how bring up whether developers will be willing to invest in utilizing the Wii U in such a way, because apparently Sony is making it mandatory for developers to support Remote Play for the Vita and PS4.

Not that it'll make people buy the Vita or anything, but it ironically makes the Wii U Gamepad a better investment.



tchaten said:

@banacheck what I'm saying is it will never be as deeply penetrated as the GamePad and developers won't invest the time needed to create top notch games for that experience.

There may be a few cool games, but not enough to warrant a purchase of the Vita. I doubt Ubisoft would invest in ZombiU for PS4 plus Vita - not enough people there to warrant it.



ThomasBW84 said:

@element187 I'm going by spec analysis from the likes of Eurogamer's Digital Foundry, a couple of examples below:

@NintendoPro64 First I've seen of it, but will have a read, thanks This was a thought that popped into my head again when downloading Football Manager at the weekend. It was an idea from a while ago that came back to me, and I held back in previous months because I wanted to see what the PS4 and Xbox One platforms were doing, in terms of controllers. Some of the rumours (which I mentioned, VR, packed in tablets) turned out to be big duds, in the end.



b23cdq said:

There is one way that is guaranteed to get Total War on the Wii U...



strongest_link said:

This is an interesting idea. However, the Wii Remote Pointer and Nunchuck is still a far cry from a mouse and keyboard. When you are pointing the Wii Remote at your television, your hand is suspended in space. There is no stability, unlike a mouse which is constantly resting on a flat surface. It's the difference between taking a picture with vs. without a tripod. That stability allows for much greater precision. So while there may perhaps be greater potential to play strategy games on a Wii U than say on the PS4 or XB1, I find it hard to imagine when the keyboard and mouse remains far superior to Wii U hardware in this respect. As someone who has played his fair share of strategy games, I find it hard to imagine playing one and feel unencumbered without hot keys on a keyboard or the speed and precision of a mouse. That doesn't mean Pikmin 3 won't play wonderfully on the Wii U, but Pikmin was already playable on the Gamecube. I love Pikmin, but we're not talking about Age of Empires or StarCraft here.



TheRegginator said:

I can tell from this article that NintendoLife actually understands very little about PC gaming. The Wii U gamepad or Wii remote (and nunchuck) will never match the precision required by some PC games that use a mouse (and keyboard). I'd also prefer my PC games to remain exclusives. I'm sick of so many games being multiplat these days. The last thing we need is consoles hindering PCs anymore.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Strongo9 I play PC a fair bit! I agree a Wii Pointer isn't as accurate as a mouse, but it's the closest thing in the console world, I reckon.



bunnyking said:

I bought my Wii U because of the gamepad. It lives up to expectations and I know it will have even cooler applications as more games come out.



GraveLordXD said:

@PvtOttobot same here I love those games I cant tell you how many hrs I've put into rome tw already preordered Rome 2
If these games ever made it to the u I'd support it for sure actually any strategy games really



Mizzah_Tee said:

@Strongo9 PC's are hindering consoles. Instead of just playing games that work when you buy them like the old days, now we get patches, on disk day one DLC difficulty levels that should have been a part of the game, game installs to hard drives that will eventually die, DRM and no used games, and a bunch of whiny elitist graphics whores who care only about how many cores and RAM a system has and care little for innovative GAMEPLAY etc.

Phew... I feel better now



Mizzah_Tee said:

Battallion Wars on Wii U would be an AWESOME showcase of this control scheme. Great series.



Ichiban said:

Pfft.....everyone knows the best use of the gamepad (outside gaming on wii u) is doing Ozzy Osbourne impressions! Sitting there with a confused look on your face, randomly mashing the touchscreen and yelling "Shaaaarrrooooon!"



sinalefa said:

I love the asymmetric multiplayer like the one found in Metroid Blast from Nintendo Land.

Pikmin 3 gives me hope that the Wii U Zelda will not ditch the Wii Remote swordplay because the main controller is now the Gamepad. Aonuma said something about rethinking the single player aspect of Zelda games, which even makes me think about a second person having a smaller, supportive role by using the Gamepad.

Not too used to post links:



ledreppe said:

I liked the Gamepad and Wiimotes setup in NintendoLand with Sweet day, Mario chase and Ghost Mansion. My friends and family were instantly comfortable with it and knew what to do, even when we had turns being the gamepad player.

I would like to see more asymetrical gameplay like that, I haven't seen much since NintendoLand, but I think it's on the way with games like Game and Wario.



Dogpigfish said:

I support all systems and developers, but Wii U makes me most excited based on some of the potential games coming out. I'm not a into scary games, but zombi u showed a lot of potential of what this space can provide. Using the screen in a vr setting is what everyone is waiting for. Moving it around as samua or jumping around Mario world using the accelerometers as a face is a thrill yet experienced. Well see what nintendi decides to leverage. The other big two didn't bring anything new to this generation controller, which is a bit of a disappointment. Just rehashes of the ps2 controller, or super nes controller to be completely accurate. I hope this year's e3 shows something new on the competitive side other than a rear touchpad.



bassoongoon said:

I will be surprised if PC developers even consider putting their games on Wii U. It just does not seem likely.



Therad said:

@Strongo9 You are right, the wiimote is not good for pointing. But the gamepad is, especially with a pen. You could have an abstract map on the screen where you give orders and have better visuals on the TV.

In fact, this could work out better than on a PC, since you wouldn't have to worry about obstacles (like trees and buildings) obstructing the mouse. So it could be a true 3d-environment where all the action is and it could have more camera movements to give a more cinemalike experience.



Therad said:

@bassoongoon Firaxis has been doing it for a while now, with civ-ports and Xcom. So it is not impossible that more strategist maker might come over to the dark side.



Scollurio said:

While I agree to the article, lets not forget that the DS and now the 3DS have been around "forever" offering those opportunities and except some very few games on the DS mainly strategy and adventure games have been vastly absent, especially the big titles. Can you imagine a re-imaginated INDIANA JONES FATE OF ATLANTIS on either Wii U or 3DS?! Wow. Just Wow. That said I really hope they open up to the opportunities and bring the big hitters of the PC world and to some extent mobile games to the Wii U and hopefully the 3DS as well.



Araknie said:

We'll see at E3 in 11 days if they pushed some third party developer to do so.



Mortenb said:

I almost never use the wiimote, and don't bother playing games that require it anymore. It's way too much hassle changing batteries all the time.



Schprocket said:

@NintendoPro64 I was about to post the same thing until I got to your post.

Might be worth mentioning that article also linked to some Kickstarter projects.

Additionally, somebody has written a good article over there about using a zapper-mounted Gamepad to act as an FPS screen in a manner similar to that used in Panorama.



SwerdMurd said:

i still think microsoft is doing the best advertising for the wii u at the moment.



Crillan said:

@Shiryu Heroes of Ruin is actually a very good Diablo-like game on 3DS. The only problem it had was being released right before Diablo 3 which took all the hype away from Heroes of Ruin unfortunately. You should check it out.



Shiryu said:

@Crillan Thanks, I have it and finished it with Vindicator! With a little more polish and variety, n-Space could make a super cool sequel if there was enough interest and if the original had sold a little better.

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