Goodbye to the Nintendo Controller Soup

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by: Hairball

Since the start of Nintendo's Wii era, their consoles have come with a large variety of controller options. It's a great thing they have so much variety and flexibility, but the downfall of this is confusion for consumers, and even the unfortunate part of the need to buy specific controllers for some games. There are so many controller options that it feels like an alphabet soup.

Nintendo Controller Soup
A sample of the Nintendo Controller Soup for the Wii and Wii U generations

The Wii was released in 2006, but over the course of its life it had support for all these and more:
- Wii Remotes (aka Wiimotes)
- Nunchuk add-on for Wii remote (required for games such as Super Mario Galaxy)
- Classic Controller (connects to Wii remote)
- Classic Controller Pro (same as Classic Controller but with different shoulder buttons)
- GameCube controller (the Wii was backwards compatible with the GameCube and the original Wii had built in GameCube controller ports - supported in Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl)
- Wii MotionPlus add-on (for greater precision in some games)
- Wii Remote Plus (looks the same as Wii Remote but with the MotionPlus built in)
- Wii Balance Board (for Wii Fit)

In general, most, if not all games supported the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuk as this was marketed as the standard way to play on the Wii. A remote was also needed to navigate the Wii menus - which required the pointer.

Next comes the Wii U which was released in 2012, which supports all of the above and also:
- Wii U Gamepad
- Wii U Pro Controller
- Yes, even a Nintendo 3DS (for Super Smash Bros.)

The Wii U was supposed to be marketed as a new console, an enhanced version of the Wii with a tablet. It appeared that the marketing seemed to hype up the tablet without talking about the console much and there was all sorts of confusion in the market - somehow leading people to believe it was an add-on for the Wii. How Nintendo managed to lose this message, I have no idea. It turned out to be a disaster at the end for them.

The Wii U Gamepad was essentially a standard modern controller with 2 control sicks, a control pad, 4 standard buttons and 2 sets of triggers and a touch screen built in. Even for 2012, it was kind of a bulky accessory that wasn't exactly revolutionary. Off-screen play was a nice feature though. The Wii U Pro Controller is supposedly for "hardcore" games and it has all the same controls as the Gamepad, but in a more compact form. However, I myself never got myself a Wii U Pro Controller because I already had a collection of Wii remotes and nunchuks. For the most part it was manageable, but I feel like the gaming experience would be far superior for multiplayer games if I had one, and well the Gamepad was a bit clunky. The high price point and that I already had so many controllers made it hard to justify purchasing a Wii U Pro Controller.

GameCube controllers weren't supported natively but instead required a USB adapter that was only included with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U - and they would only work in this game, it was perhaps included probably due to the heavy lobbying from the Smash community. Oh and it can even connect a 3DS wirelessly as well!

Perhaps the complexity is one reason that third parties tended to shy away from the Wii and Wii U consoles.

One of the major downfalls I found was that it is frustrating when having parties and you need to show some non-gamer friends how to use controllers. Because there are so many different types that you could potentially be using, it can be annoyance, and unintuitive. Heck, potential customers might be driven away by the complexity.

When the Nintendo Switch was announced, I have to be honest, I was kind of skeptical of the concept. However, the control schemes are greatly simplified this time around. While there are still a few options, for the most part in multiplayer games, many can be played with a single Joy-con. It's great for the social aspect in that many games are easy to pick up and play.

Switch Pro Controller and pair of Joy-cons

Of course, for an ideal setup, using two Joy-cons or a Switch Pro Controller is preferable in most cases. But the fact that the Switch comes with a pair of Joy-cons out of the box for multiplayer is a big selling point.

The old Nintendo controller soup was too confusing and complicated. Keeping consumer products simple just works, and things are sure cooking! Gamers and third-party developers are both loving it. This is one of many reasons that the Nintendo Switch has been a runaway success since it came out.


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