When Nintendo first lifted the lid on the Wii U and its unique GamePad controller, many within the industry murmured their cautious approval. It all seemed to make so much sense — Apple's iPad had already kickstarted a tablet revolution and second-screen gaming promised big things. By launching a console which came with its own tablet-like controller, Nintendo could steal a march on its rivals and embrace an entirely new way of playing games straight out of the box without having to rely on additional peripherals.
Nintendo is sitting on a system which can offer the best of both worlds for less than the price of an iPad
Fast forward to the present day, and things haven't quite worked out as Nintendo had planned. The Wii U has so far failed to capture the hearts and minds of the games-playing public which made its immediate predecessor such a phenomenal success, and many of its best games make only rudimentary use of that revolutionary controller. It hasn't just been underused as a gaming platform, though — the tablet-like promise of the GamePad has also gone largely unfulfilled, with only a handful of applications outside of gaming being made available.
It's this reluctance to push the GamePad as an alternative to traditional tablets which is both puzzling and frustrating; a recent study in the UK found that parents are more likely to purchase a tablet for their children than a traditional games console, yet Nintendo is sitting on a system which can offer the best of both worlds for less than the price of an iPad.
Of course, while it has a large touchscreen display and shares some basic similarities with a traditional tablet, we're not talking apples for apples here — no pun intended. There's no capacitive screen, which means you ideally use the bundled stylus to interact with it. It doesn't have its own internal processor, and instead relies on data being wirelessly streamed from the main Wii U console — the short range of this system sadly means you can't walk around the house as freely as you would with an iPad or Nexus 7.
The GamePad is already tantalisingly close to providing a viable alternative to a "full blown" tablet, but Nintendo needs to do more
However, take a moment to think about how people use tablets. Many don't ever leave the comfort of the couch with them, with people turning to such devices to browse the web, surf Twitter or watch YouTube videos. The GamePad already does two of those things pretty damn well, and can do the third via the web browser. Nintendo's Miiverse social network proves that Twitter and Facebook could be replicated perfectly on the GamePad as bespoke apps, and dedicated Netflix and LoveFilm apps are also available. The GamePad is already tantalisingly close to providing a viable alternative to a "full blown" tablet, but Nintendo needs to do more.
Increased effort should be made to entice more app developers to the platform. Why don't we have eBay, Gmail, Amazon, Spotify and countless other popular applications on the Wii U — Skype is maybe a long shot as it's owned by Microsoft? If you're already a tablet user, think for a moment what you use it for the most, and then think if that same activity could be replicated on the GamePad. We're willing to bet that most — if not all — probably could be, and that means that when you use your tablet in the living room, you're effectively doubling-up on functionality you could be enjoying on a piece of hardware that's always under your television and always within easy reach.
Many people use their iPads for gaming, which is an area in which the GamePad can claim true dominance. The Wii U already has titles which iPad owners can only dream of — many of which can be played entirely on the GamePad's screen — and the rapidly-expanding eShop is home to many indie hits which are also available on smartphones and tablets. While there has previously been quite a large disparity in pricing when it comes to the eShop and the iOS App Store, that gap is shrinking, and there are now plenty of "impulse purchase" downloads on Nintendo's platform. The Wii U GamePad is also the only place you can legitimately play NES, Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance titles on a tablet-style device — something that shouldn't be understated, especially when you consider how popular Sega and Square Enix's retro titles are on iOS and Android.
Nintendo should be asking parents why they're planning on spending so much cash on a tablet device when they can have a games console which comes with its own tablet controller
All of the above will of course be glaringly obvious to the vast majority of you reading this right now. If you're already a Wii U owner then you'll know that it makes a great media machine thanks to the likes of YouTube and Netflix, and is handy for browsing the web on both the GamePad and the TV itself — the ability to effortlessly cast content to a larger display being another feather in the Wii U's cap. Yet Nintendo has made little to no noise regarding this additional functionality, despite the fact that tablets are the hottest device with youngsters these days. The tablet-like properties of the GamePad should be front-and-centre when it comes to marketing the Wii U; Nintendo should be asking parents why they're planning on spending so much cash on a tablet device when they can have a games console which comes with its own tablet controller — one which is chunky and child-friendly, to boot.
Many of you may be shaking your heads and muttering about never using the GamePad as a proper tablet — and that's totally understandable. Although it performs the same basic functions, the GamePad isn't as light, responsive or "premium-feeling" as an iPad. Apple's products are sold as much on their desirability and status as they are on their actual prime function, and for that reason alone there will be millions of people out there who will totally reject the idea of logging onto Facebook on anything but an expensive Apple fondleslab fashioned from tempered glass and brushed metal. However, that's not the market Nintendo should try to hit — aim the GamePad at those aforementioned parents who are mulling over which tablet to purchase for their offspring, and the sales will surely follow.
This isn't the golden bullet that will turn the Wii U into an overnight success, of course, but it could help maintain the positive momentum generated by the recent success of Mario Kart 8. It seems a tragic shame that Nintendo isn't exploiting the tablet-like talents of the GamePad, because its feels to us like an open goal; a route into millions of homes worldwide which wouldn't take much effort to promote. The tech is there and it is proven to work --- Nintendo just needs to get more third-party apps on board and make sure that when parents enter the electronics store to pick up that shiny new tablet for their beloved kiddies, their attention is drawn not to the iPad or Galaxy Tab, but to the games console with the familiar name which not only offers some of the best gaming experiences money can buy, but will also keep the young ones quiet when the telly is in use.
Do you think Nintendo should push the GamePad as a tablet alternative? (339 votes)
- Yes, promoting the GamePad as a tablet adds value to the console and will attract new buyers48%
- No, it should focus on what it does best and not water down the gaming message of the Wii U38%
- I'm not sure either way14%
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