Exclusively single-player games should be fine, yet if we consider what constitutes most of the so-called 'hardcore' third-party titles Nintendo are courting with the Wii U, a significant majority of them support multiplayer gaming in some capacity. It seems unlikely that a developer would handicap a player for selecting an alternate control scheme, so the advantages of using the tablet will most likely be limited to things like streamlining the HUD, or moving visual options onto the touch screen (detective mode in Arkham City or the motion sensor in Aliens: Colonial Marines, for example). These functions would normally take up space on the television; they aren't drastic innovations that cannot be replicated using other control methods. In other words, I would expect the tablet controller to tidy up the way we play games, rather than revolutionize it.
I would even go so far as to venture that the Wii Remote or Classic Controller may end up being the primary control method for many Wii U players. That's not to talk down on the tablet, which -- although I'm not at E3 and therefore haven't so much as touched it -- looks to be a fascinating piece of kit. In particular, I like that it will allow for an extra player to the standard four in multiplayer matches, and there's certainly nothing wrong with having a tidier interface. But for all its 'Swiss Army knife' applications, I suspect that if most games do end up having to adapt their control schemes to multiple input methods, many gamers will default to a more traditional controller and predominantly use the tablet for its wireless screen-streaming capabilities.
Personally, I consider this a good thing. While watching the conference, my first thought was that the Wii U probably wasn't going to be a console for me. I've more or less been an exclusive Nintendo gamer all my life, unless you count dalliances with PC, a Sega Saturn and friend's PS1. But I couldn't imagine losing the Wii remote's pointer, which, for me, has been the most significant advancement in game control since the analog stick. I like motion control, but it wouldn't have been a deal-breaker had the Wii U lacked it. With the PlayStation Move bringing those advantages to a core gaming audience, it seemed like Nintendo was backtracking just when they could be about to reap the dividends of that innovation.
But perhaps that judgment was too hasty. The more I think about what the tablet can do, the more it strikes me as a more natural secondary control method, for when the TV is occupied or you have one friend too many for your split-screen Mario Kart game. The fact that the console only hosts one tablet means Wii owners won't have to shell out for a whole new set of controllers -- a big plus for a new machine. For those who continue to find the Wii Remote uncomfortable, the Wii U is compatible with the Classic Controller, but sadly not the GameCube pad.
With the excitement of the conference abating and a semblance of rational thought returning, it seems to me that Nintendo's cleverest trick with the tablet might be in giving gamers what they always asked for from the Wii: a choice.
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