Wii U at E3: An Asymmetric Identity

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

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For those who do not yet understand the concept of asymmetric gameplay, it is essentially when 2 or more people play a game in very different ways.  A good example of this on the Wii would be the “girlfriend modes” in games like Super Mario Galaxy in which a less active player can move a cursor on the screen, helping out, as another player controls Mario.  At E3 2011 Nintendo debuted the Wii U console with its tablet-esque controller, and a lot of questions about multiplayer soon followed.  How do you play a multiplayer game when only 1 (now 2) of the players has the touch screen the developers are working with?  The answer, it seems, was asymmetrical gameplay.  If player 1 is using a wii remote to aim in a first person shooter, why not let player 2 use the tablet game pad as if they were playing an RTS.  At this year’s E3, asymmetric gameplay has become a sort of tagline for the Wii U’s very identity.

Asymmetric gameplay has actually been around for a long time.  Smaller instances include Final Fantasy VI, in which every character has a unique ability that functions very differently, or Street Fighter in which each character can be played in very different ways.  A major asymmetrical game, which most of you have probably played at some point, would by Rock Band, or the later entries in the Guitar Hero series, where in, each player uses a different instrument while playing together as a band.  Nintendo, of course, made their intentions towards asymmetrical gameplay clear at their notorious E3 2003 conference when they revealed the incredibly impractical PacMan Versus.  While PacMan Versus became a sort of avatar for Nintendo’s failure at that conference, the game itself was actually received with positive impressions, but in the end it asked far too much for such a gimmicky experience.  Nintendo, never one to let a strong concepts die out, put it in their pocket and waited.  At E3 2011, Nintendo showcased the unique gameplay options of the Wii U by means of several playable tech demos, many of which called back to what they had done with PacMan Versus in the past.

While the Wii U console encourages asymmetric gameplay by its very nature, asymmetric gameplay is in no way limited to asymmetric controller options.  For instance, though also in development for the Wii U, Aliens: Colonial Marines features asymmetric gameplay across all platforms.  Personally I hope that the Wii U encourages a sort of asymmetrical revolution, similar to the co-op boom from earlier in this generation that we are still enjoying as gamers today.  So then, could asymmetric gameplay be the next co-op?  With Nintendo’s Wii U,  Microsoft’s Smart Glass, and Sony encouraging PS3/Vita interaction, I feel as if it is only a matter of time.

  • Ninty

    I’m pretty suspicious about Microsoft and Sony presenting that level of asymmetry. Yeah, the Vita was developed for some time, but with things like the Smart Glass and Sony making a similar move with their brands of phones this E3, I can’t help but feel they totally are trying to snuff the Wii U/get ahead of Nintendo’s direction. It makes sense though since they are competitors, and they did have a year to understand where Nintendo was going with this tablet controller and thus follow suit.

    • Funny thing is Nintendo doesn’t consider them competition at all

    • Ben Brown

       While it may be true that they are both somewhat inspired by the WiiU, their different means of achieving a second screen lead to large problems that the Nintendo doesn’t face, and I think even they know that their methods can never be integral to any game, and will never be more than gimmick features. Microsoft has a rather large install base by allowing everyone to use whatever smartphone or tablet they have, but the differences in screen sizes, capabilities, and input options on each device make there tech best suited for non gaming related task. The vita is much closer to the WiiU second screen, but poor sales mean that the feature will likely never take off in the PS3’s remaining life, and even if they dramatically pick up, short of bundling it’s not likely to ever achieve saturation on the PS4.

  • Kai

    I’ve always enjoyed playing video games in the same room as my friends, rather than over the internet, so I’m really looking forward to this. I guess the extra screen on the GamePad will also mean that people with smaller TVs (like myself) can still enjoy local multiplayer.