Nintendo engineers are working hard to upgrade Wii U so that it can simultaneously support two tablet controllers, Develop understands.
A trusted game development executive has said there are numerous indications within the Wii U codebase that the console is, at the very least, being prepared to operate with two touch-screen pads.
Nintendo and development partners had previously indicated that only one tablet controller could work with the system, due to technical limitations.
But Develop’s source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained that multi-tablet support is one of three remaining variables for the next-gen console. The other two are RAM capacity and processor speed.
The person said Nintendo appears to be on the cusp of solving the technical conundrum of a single Wii U device supporting two tablet controllers. The source added that there was no indication, and very little chance, that four tablet controllers would ever be supported.
The Wii U, which was demonstrated for the first time this year at E3, features a tablet device at the centre of the experience. The iPad-like controller boasts a 6.2-inch single-touch screen, a camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, a motion control sensor strip, stereo speakers, stylus, microphone and a classic dual-analogue button layout.
The console will stream a game’s video and audio onto the pad itself and, in theory, allow people to play without the need for a TV. The pad’s screen and TV can also work in conjunction to deliver unique dual-screen experiences.
Yet the sophistication of the Wii U tablet has led to technical hurdles in supporting more than one on each console. The platform allows for up to four classic Wii controllers to be used alongside a tablet controller.
Earlier in the year, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata suggested that two tablets playing on each system would also introduce cost barriers to the casual audience.
Develop’s source, however, believes that feedback from E3 has been welcomed by the company.
“Nintendo now know they absolutely need to support two tablets,” the source said.
“At E3 they didn’t commit to this, but they know how important it is to make it technically feasible to support two screens. Even if that affects framerate, as a developer and player, I don’t care. It needs to work. Developers will design appropriate games for this. If you’re building a quiz game you’re not going to give a shit about the framerate.”
Nintendo has told investors that the final edition of the Wii U will be demonstrated in June 2012 at E3. Launch is expected several months later. The company is expecting to post its first loss in 30 years.
It is customary for new console hardware to undergo several revisions before final release; something which has made it challenging to determine final specifications for the device.