Why can't the GamePad just be a controller
We already knew that Crystal Dynamics had some issues with bringing the latest Tomb Raider reboot over to the Wii U, but they recently made light of the lack of a Wii U version again, amidst a petition created by gamers unhappy with the move.
To put the rumors to rest, Crystal Dynamics Creative Director Noah Hughes had this to say about a potential Wii U version of the game:
The question is: do you really have to do something unique with it to consider your effort more than "half-hearted?"
Attention game designers: the Wii U is not strictly a tablet. There are buttons on the touch-pad enabled controller, because it is in fact, a controller. You don't have the same restrictions as an entirely touch-centric platform, because Nintendo gave you the option to utilize either control type, or both.
But it's not just Crystal Dynamics that seems to have this tunnel vision based design philosophy -- other developers are also at fault. Gearbox recently came out and said Borderlands 2 wouldn't be a good fit because the Wii U version wouldn't be "OMG enough." As our own Jim Sterling perfect summed up in the same article, "there's no shame in a Wii U game just being, y'know, a normal videogame."
You want to know one smaller developer that answered the call, despite these claims from the big boys? Double Fine. Despite having zero experience with Wii U development, they brought their action-platformer The Cave to the Wii U eShop, with completely minimalistic GamePad support.
Now, I would be the first person to say full support for remote play in The Cave would have made the Wii U edition the best possible version of the game. But is my illusion of grandeur better than not having the game at all because Double Fine threw their hands up and "couldn't figure it out?" Of course not.
On the flip-side, developers like Rocksteady sometimes add too many options to the GamePad's functionality simply for the sake of adding it, often to the detriment of the game. In fact, the PlayStation Vita is extremely susceptible to this design pratfall as well.
Now, I'm smart enough to know that blaming the GamePad may just be an excuse for some other cost-related reason. If developers don't want to develop for the Wii U because they think there isn't a market yet for it, just say so. If it's because historically they haven't had a great time working with Nintendo on past projects, that's a fair concern as well, and should be addressed.
But developers, please stop blaming everything on the Wii U GamePad. Not every game needs to use it in some elaborate manner that will take months of dedicated development time. If more developers keep thinking like this, we'll end up losing all multiplatform support while they figure out what they're supposed to do with it.