Will Nintendo Lose More Than A Screen?

As part of its master plan to run as far away from the Wii U as possible, Nintendo announced that the Switch will have a single screen for gaming, bringing an end to its dual-screen era. For the most part, this is not really a big deal, as no other companies were doing anything in this space, and a lot of games didn’t make great use of the second screen anyway. However, there are a few Wii U games that may put Nintendo in an awkward position:

  • The games were very successful on the Wii U, and Nintendo would like to capitalize on their success by bringing them to the Switch.
  • However, these games made extensive use of the Wii U Gamepad, and thus will a) require a bit of re-engineering to work without it, and b) risk raising the ire of fans who had gotten quite used to using it.

There are two games in particular that I’m thinking of, and while I can see a way forward for both of them, one game’s path is a lot simpler and easier than the other. Let’s start with the easy case:

  • Splatoon. Nintendo’s quirky-fun shooter differs from most other games in the genre in a lot of ways, but one major difference was how Nintendo incorporated its second screen into matches: Not only could you see what territory had been painted what color (an important thing to know, since every inch of the map matters), but you could also instantly jump to a teammate or beacon anywhere on the map with a simple tap of the screen. Removing the second screen, therefore, means re-implementing the super-jump feature and finding a way to make the map available and easily-accessible on the main screen without it getting in the player’s way.Can It Be Fixed? Yes, but not without pain. For example, the map could be overlaid on screen with the press of a button, but would that distract players from inking turf? (Honestly, I can’t imagine that it’s more distracting than looking away from the TV to check the Gamepad.) Similarly, buttons could be assigned as ‘insta-jump’ controls, but you’ll need to figure out how to show the player which button corresponds to which teammate (something like the C-button display in Zelda: Ocarina of Time comes to mind). Beacons will be the biggest problem, since there could be up to 12 available for jumping, and are not tied to any specific area on the map. Good luck with that one, Nintendo
  • Mario Maker. This game could be a huge headache for Nintendo, as the entire GUI for building a level is based on the Gamepad. Getting the same functionality out of a standard controller is just not happening.Can It Be Fixed? The only viable strategy I see here is releasing a touchpad accessory exclusively for the Switch version of the game. (Nintendo did the same thing with the mouse it packaged with Mario Paint way back when, so the idea makes sense given the heavy influence that game had on Mario Maker‘s design.) Of course, such a move would kinda-sorta defeat the purpose of the Switch, given that hauling around an extra touchpad would make the system much less portable. My fear is that Nintendo’s recent 3DS release of Mario Maker is a sign that they do not see any viability in bringing it to the Switch, and thus are preparing to move on without it.

While I’m still definitely excited for the Switch, I’m a little nervous about how Nintendo might decide to port (or give up on) Gamepad-heavy games to its single-screen console. In the absence of any information until 2017, though, all we can do is wait and see what happens.

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