The development name for Nintendo's Wii — the 'Revolution' — was arguably the most apt codename for any console ever. Nintendo turned the traditional spec-chasing console model on its head with its accessible little system, and a huge part of its success came from its unconventional controller design with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. As with the console itself, the tech behind those controllers was relatively modest, but it was Nintendo's innovative combination of components and how they worked with the software that made that split-pad design work so well.
However, a prototype controller for Sega Genesis / Mega Drive has cropped up on Twitter and is another reminder that splitting pad functions wasn't a new idea. Retro gaming preservationist Shane Battye recently posted some photos of said controller (or should that be controllers) on Twitter:
As you can see, the D-pad and face buttons on this prototype pad are split across two nunchuk-style handles connected by a cable. As Battye points out, it's not unlike a Virtual Boy controller that's been broken in half. Left-handed players would have the option to have the D-pad in their right hand should they choose, and you would have been able to lounge about playing Sonic or Streets of Rage with your hands either side of your lap years before Wii came out.
The 'prong' with the face buttons also features a trigger button on the back several years before the 'Z' button would appear on Nintendo 64:
Given the added complexity of this design, and the fact that separating the buttons across two housings would have served no gameplay purpose (unless there's some unseen super advanced '90s tech hidden within), it's unsurprising Sega stuck with the more traditional 'kidney' design of the chunky Genesis pad.
Still, this is a very cool peek into Sega's history and a neat stepping stone between the standard pad design we know and love and the Wii's off-the-wall approach, which began life as a prototype controller for GameCube.