Talking Point: The GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii U Should Open Some Doors
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Such a simple idea, but perfect for pleasing dedicated fans
Let's kick this off with a remark that may, when read with fire in the belly, be interpreted as a tad controversial. The GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii U, unveiled by Nintendo in a video advertising its upcoming Super Smash Bros. E3 Invitational event, is unlikely to excite or even interest much of what we'll loosely call the 'mainstream' commercial audience. By that we mean those that may be tempted to Wii U by Mario Kart 8, the upcoming Nintendo Figurine Platform or even simply by the growing range of high-quality, family-friendly games in its library. When you consider the success of the Wii, we'd argue that the vast majority of its sales — over 100 million of them — were to these sorts of consumers.
That's not a bad thing, and Nintendo makes the most money and is in the best position when it successfully appeals to dedicated fans and consumers on a broader level. It's the former group, of enthusiastic Nintendo gamers that love the company's games across generations and continually come back for more, that is the obvious target for this adapter. It's extraordinary that an accessory as simple as this — likely just a USB-powered adapter with some basic firmware support via a system update — can be such a winner with committed fans. Its reveal prompted a lot of excitement, and reactions in the many internal NLife staff emails showed excitement, a bit of surprise and, in this writer, a feeling of "why on Earth wasn't this done sooner". Yet let's not be smug, it didn't seem like this was coming.
Yet still, simple but brilliant products — also obvious in hindsight — typify Nintendo at its best. Branding and tying the accessory to Super Smash Bros. is an absolute no-brainer, too; it's one of the few franchises that's prominent in the competitive gaming scene, and veteran players of various skill levels often cite the GameCube controller as the way to play the franchise, with many continuing that habit after Melee and onto Brawl on Wii. It's also an indicator that this is a series that draws the most committed, serious Nintendo gamers, that Nintendo's felt the need to cater to fans by supporting controllers two generations old.
Yet this adapter should be about more than Smash Bros., so below are areas of expansion that we feel are fairly obvious routes for Nintendo to take.
GameCube on the Virtual Console
We've been talking about this since the Wii U was announced, and it seemed inevitable pre-launch. The Wii's Virtual Console went as far as Nintendo 64, so logically the HD system would go one generation further; after all, Wii discs work in the Wii U, so by extension surely the infrastructure exists to easily support GameCube titles. Of course, it may not be that simple, as it's hard to tell whether there are compatibility issues emulating GameCube in the Wii U mode, rather than the Wii mode. For example, there's a line of thought and some are of the belief that to make Game Boy Advance games work on 3DS for the Ambassador Program, Nintendo somehow emulated those downloads through a forced DS mode on the portable — it's a theory, in any case.
Pushing technical limitations aside, another issue was that titles like Super Mario Sunshine utilise the GC pad's analogue triggers, something that Nintendo's neglected since in favour of the cheaper digital alternatives. Not necessarily a game-breaker in many cases, but worth bearing in mind and an extra headache that Nintendo has had to consider.
Of course, there's still plenty of doubt that GC will come to the Wii U, or whether Nintendo will selectively cherry-pick some games for the HD treatment and throw in GameCube controller support — a recent update added stylus control to Pikmin 3, the same could be done for GameCube controller support in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. It's far from a certainty, but does seem like a smart addition to the system (if feasible) to satisfy the gaming veterans out there.
A GameCube Pro Controller
Plenty of us have GameCube controllers lying around, some of which are still put to use on Wii. Some may be struggling a little now through age and over-use, however, so it seems inevitable that replacements or alternatives will be needed. Not a company to often miss merchandising opportunities for console peripherals, we'd suggest Nintendo will have some controllers on the way.
You can still, if you're willing to look hard enough, buy some 'new' GC controllers at a premium, but Nintendo's reveal image for the adapter hints that new offerings will be on the way. That may have just been a black controller with a Smash icon, maybe even an exclusive for the Invitational at E3, but that would be extremely short-sighted; we wouldn't rule out a 'premium pack' that has the adapter and a controller — the adapter for your old stock along with a shiny new wireless variation, perhaps with a wired option at a slightly lower price. Branding it as a GameCube Pro Controller and promoting it alongside its newer Wii U contemporary may make sense, too. For the dedicated, perhaps there can even be a range of 'vintage' versions including the WaveBird that, if for the sake of convenience to promote the adapter, will still use that famous wireless receiver. If Nintendo's going to make GameCube controllers an option again, it should take the chance to sell updated models.
GameCube controller support for future games
This is perhaps a more contentious suggestion, but is again targeted at the most dedicated, committed Nintendo gamers. Some can rightfully argue that the last thing Nintendo needs to do is add another control option to games and confuse matters further — we already have the GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote, Wii Remote + Nunchuk and Wii Classic Controller / Pro. As we've suggested right from the off, however, this accessory and its possibilities are targeting the GameCube generation, not those that perhaps introduced themselves to gaming on Wii.
It's clear that, though the GameCube is Nintendo's lowest-selling home console to date over the course of a whole generation, its fans are particularly dedicated to it and fond of the — excellent — pad. It's these players that can be targeted with GameCube support in future games, which in most cases shouldn't be too onerous a development task.
It's clear that Nintendo is running two very separate strategies for Wii U at present — one is targeting families and what we'll reluctantly call the 'casual' demographic, and then there's a smaller effort to continue to woo established Nintendo supporters. An accessory like this arguably won't sell many systems at all in its own right, but is targeted at those that are likely to spend the most money on enjoying their Wii U. If the Wii's problem — perhaps — was monetising the hardware once out of the door, due to so many consumers being happy with a very small number of games, this sort of move is targeted almost exclusive at the new system's core audience. The adapter, potential future support and even GameCube games on the eShop are all products for the already-converted, but could succeed in relieving us all of a lot more cash.
That's the business side, but ultimately we feel this reveal also shows that Nintendo does indeed listen to its most loyal fans. It won't always deliver what's demanded, that much is very obvious, but when the numbers add up fan desire can be satisfied — this is a move for the hardcore Nintendo gamer, without a doubt. In terms of fostering goodwill at a relatively low cost, this is among Nintendo's smartest moves in recent times.
Are you excited about this GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii U, and do you agree with any of our suggested uses for it? Let us know with a comment.