The Wii U GamePad had some nice ideas, but most games didn't bother using half of what it offered, and instead just used it for Off TV play, or in the case of shooters and action games, a map. I think the main problem with the gamepad, is that the concept of dual screen gaming in a living room console setting really doesn't work. With a DS, you have both screens in your field of view, but you can only focus on one screen at a time with the Wii U, so that made games like Star Fox Zero an absolute nightmare to play, because now you have to juggle your focus between two de-synced displays in a fast-paced setting. On top of that, you can only use one gamepad at a time, and you couldn't even buy one in stores. I will give the gamepad this though, asymmetrical multiplayer is one of the better uses of it's potential, and is a concept that deserves to be explored more. The ability to play games off TV is also nice, though the range is rather limited.
And all these issues were apparent from Day 1. I always failed to see value vs alternative approaches to same problems, such as "auxiliary info display". How does 2nd screen (requiring shifting visual focus) solve that any better than having modal window/view on main screen triggered by button or gyro tilt? The only potential value is in shared-screen local multiplayer re: "hidden info" but multiple WiiU 2nd displays were not well supported, making it moot. All this is at cost of hardware budget & draining system performance to drive 2nd screen. For... being able to play tethered to WiFI while you sit on toilet? OK.
The Joy-Con meanwhile is a far more appealing controller. If you're familiar with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, you'll feel at home with the Joy-Con. Ignoring all it's tricks, it's as conventional of a controller as you want it to be. And their detachable nature allows for a lot of flexibility and comfort in gameplay, and since many Switch games allow for at least gyro controls, they actually feel useful in most games. The main thing I like about the Joy-Con though is that although it has a lot of tech, all of it feels useful. The Gamepad had so much useless garbage stuffed into it from a camera, to a sensor bar for the Wiimote, a TV button, an unused expansion port and a Mic. Almost none of it was necessary. With the Joy-Con, everything feels like it has a reason for being there. From passing a Joy-Con to a friend for Mario Kart in Tabletop mode, to feeling the texture of the different actions with HD Rumble, and even the IR camera has its purpose with Nintendo Labo. It's also a much more intuitive and less intimidating controller than the GamePad. A single Joy-Con is very easy for even people who don't play console games to grasp, while the Gamepad was a daunting and confusing nightmare for some.
Basically it is about 3 in 1. Normal modern controller. Twin Remote/Nunchuk. Instant extra controller for local multiplayer (simple NES-style + gyro). EDIT: The last really probably makes it more like 2.5 in 1. None of those is especially noteworthy on it's own (gyro is hardly unique), but they all fulfill specific niche/mode, and are all portable, which is point of system. (if you never use it's portable functionality, all those could probably be equally/better fulfilled by discrete controls at same price point minus battery/screen/etc) So ultimately it's about a very space efficient "packing" of 3 distinct control modes into portable/handheld compatible package. That's it.
I don't think that's really conceptually amazing, it just accomplishes it's very humble goals well. In all honesty, not all that many people probably place high value on ALL of it's design goals, which is why similar implementations on smartphone gaming have not been especially popular on their own without Nintendo brand marketing. But as platform that can 'demand' attention, it appeals to broader audience. It's pretty easy to fundamentally question WiiU's value re: apparent goals. It's pretty hard to imagine alternate scheme that accomplishes what Switch does out of box re: it's 2.5 in 1 approach, in context of dual handheld portability and home console application.
Last edited by mutantsushi - on 03 December 2018