Last month Nintendo released information regarding their newest regular controller, the Wii U Pro Controller. It is similar in design to their Classic and Classic Pro controllers for the original Wii. We are going to take a look at why Nintendo chose the design they have and the pitfalls they may face due to their decisions.
The new controller is designed very specifically to allow for better 3rd party support for multi-platform games. What this also explains is why the controller has a lot of similar features to currently existing controllers. The overall shape is similar in concept to the Xbox360 controller and this is no accident. Nintendo realise that the Xbox 360 has the biggest community of FPS gamers and as they are aiming for this controller to appeal to the hardcore crowd (and more specifically for better 3rd party support), of course it is going to emulate the design of the more successful console.
But it isn’t just mere copy cat tactics, it is much smarter than that, they are also preying on our familiarity for the 360 controller, they are piggy-backing the trust and the hard built brand design of the Xbox controller. Psychologically we are more likely to buy things that are familiar to us, so using a similar design is a strong marketing ploy by Nintendo. (Bornstein, R F. “Stimulus recognition and the mere exposure effect.” Journal of personality and social psychology 63.4 (1992):545.)
Now some people have criticised the controller for having small alterations to the Xbox IP, I’m not here to defend them, but the reason should be obvious; they do not want to get sued. Microsoft like all companies, has many patents related to their controllers, specifically the layout of the controller itself. So Nintendo have wisely opted to avoid a frivolous lawsuit and have gone with a slightly modified design.
Ever wonder why each company has a different version of the D-Pad or why the Xbox has such a terrible one? Because Nintendo got there first and patented the cross design. As each company followed suit trying different D-Pad designs, the best ones were obviously taken. By the time poor Microsoft entered console business they were left with a horrible swivel design that just doesn’t work. Microsoft have since improved the 360 D-Pad for their new premium line and boy would I love to get me one of them!
The new controller definitely has potential and I can’t wait to get my hands on one and see if the new positioning of the sticks will help with the Call of Duty associated thumb ache. It might be just me but my right thumb gets pretty sore after a long gaming session on the Xbox, does it happen to you as well?
There are hints from the photos that they may even be using some form of USB charging, or even traditional cable connected controllers, which for any hardcore fan would be a godsend! 11ms lag on a wireless controller spells certain doom in a first person shooter and Nintendo’s current incarnation of controllers can have up to 22ms lag.
All things considered, I have a feeling there will be lawsuits abound with this new controller. Microsoft will definitely pursue Nintendo just based on protecting its patents, even if said pursuit ends in failure. Generally being seen to protect a patent is more important than actually winning the case. Sony may sue based on the connectivity to the console or any charging capacity there-in. However I feel that the chances are, this controller will be very successful.