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pedrovay2003 avatar 1:08 PM on 06.01.2012
The importance of controller backwards compatibility



When it comes to hardware, it's not exactly a secret that consoles get the short end of the stick compared to PCs. Whenever new hardware is necessary, consumers have to buy a completely new package, while PC gamers merely need to upgrade a few internal components. The most noticeable thing about this transition from console generation to generation -- and, potentially, the most expensive aspect -- is the new controller.

Every console in gaming history has come with a controller that was different from its predecessors. Sure, there were a couple weird accidents, like the ability to use some Atari controllers with the SEGA Genesis and vice-versa. But overall, if you buy a new console, you're going to have to restock on controllers. The PC never has this problem, since a keyboard and mouse are standard, and a USB controller can always be made to work with every PC game that ever gets released, no matter how old or new the controller may be.

With E3 just around the corner, and information about Nintendo's Wii U about to come blasting into our eye holes, I thought it'd be a good idea to take a look at what the Wii U offers in terms of its controller options, the tablet being the subject of many debates lately. While most people are okay with the idea of the tablet controller, a lot of people are understandably skeptical about how well it will be able to handle traditional games. However, this is where Nintendo's genius comes into play, like a gentle, unseen gust of wind, unnoticed by many: The Wii U's primary controller could very well be the regular Wii Remote, NOT the tablet. In this sense, every Wii owner already has Wii U controllers.

This is exactly the way EVERY new generation of consoles should be.

As far as I recall, the only console that let you fully utilize the same company's previous controller was/is the original Wii. (I know you could plug PS1 controllers into the PS2, but I never got the system to let me actually play PS2 games with PS1 controllers.) It had GameCube controller ports built right into the top of the system, allowing you to play not only all your old GameCube games, but a lot of Wii games as well, not to mention EVERY Virtual Console game. In all honesty, I can't even begin to imagine playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl with anything OTHER THAN a GameCube controller. For a lot of games that made good use of a traditional control style, already having the GameCube controllers I bought years ago was an amazing thing. I had always been so used to going out and stocking up on controllers for my friends and me to use that it was really great to not have to spend more money than I needed to, especially when controller prices are around $50 across the board this generation.



I want to go on the record here and say that if a game utilizes it the right way, I truly think the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo is the best control scheme we've ever had on ANY platform. It feels awesome to have your hands untethered from one another, it's ambidextrous, and aiming the Wii Remote's IR sensor is, in every experience I've had, more accurate than a computer mouse (something I've been meaning to make a completely separate blog about, but I digress). With the Wii U, Nintendo has already shown the public that there's no way the Wii Remote will be abandoned. Look at Battle Mii demo Nintendo showed last year -- one tablet controller and FOUR Wii combo controllers. Not only that, but the Wii Remotes that were being utilized were exclusively used for aiming, while the Nunchuks were used for movement, a la the Metroid Prime series. The IR sensor is the controller's main strength, whereas, ironically, the motion controls were always what everyone complained about. It seems that while Nintendo is definitely aiming (heh) to stick with motion, it's being toned down. The tablet is basically a Classic Controller Pro with a giant screen in the middle, and the Wii Remote was used for aiming in nearly every demo when one was connected to the Wii U.

Speaking of the Classic Controller, it's also been confirmed that the Wii U will be compatible not only with the regular Wii Remote, but with EVERYTHING that can be plugged into it. This means the Nunchuk, Classic Controller/Pro and everything else made for the Wii Remote is already set to go when connected to Nintendo's newest creation, meaning multiplatform games should have enough controller configurations to please everyone.

But why does all this matter? Why does it make any difference that the Wii Remote is compatible with the Wii U? It's simple, really: Nintendo marketed the Wii as a family/party console, even if they claim it was never intended to be solely that. What do people do when they play games locally with other people so often? They buy lots of controllers for everyone. What did most Wii owners do? They bought lots of controllers to go with their new party systems. That means that if you have a Wii, chances are that you may NEVER actually have to buy a single controller for the Wii U. One tablet will come with the console, and I believe it's been said that only two can be connected simultaneously. Everyone already has everything they're going to need.



Now, of course, not everyone who's interested in the Wii U bought and original Wii, but that doesn't mean tons of money will need to be spent. Since the Wii has been around for as long as it has been already, Wii Remotes are extremely easy to come by, either discounted or used, making controller catch-up something that won't break the bank for anyone. Again, I'd be willing to bet money that no one will ever have to worry about buying more than the one tablet that will undoubtedly come with the Wii U.

I don't know if all this was something Nintendo had planned from the start, but you can't deny that everything definitely fell into place in favor of the consumer. Nintendo has always been known for cheaper prices than the competition whenever they come out with a new platform, and because of the complete compatibility with the original Wii's controllers, this may end up being the cheapest platform for a lot of gamers. Controllers usually function so similarly between generations that it's ridiculous for companies to keep forcing us to buy controllers for new consoles when we could just as easily control all the new games with the previous controllers' offerings. I look forward to seeing what the Wii U brings to the table next week, and I'm personally ecstatic that I won't be spending anything on controllers to play with all my friends when the system arrives in the hands of the public.

 
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