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The Real Reason Nintendo's Wii U Never Got Dual Gamepad Support

Nintendo's failure with the Wii U boiled down to several business decisions compounding each other: confusing marketing, a dearth of third-party titles, and a failure to meaningfully distinguish the Wii U from its predecessor the Wii. The silver-lining, fortunately, arrived in the form of the Switch. Former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé aptly described the Wii U as a failure forward (via CNET) due to how it inspired the Switch, a console-handheld hybrid. But the Japanese company had not always planned for the Wii U to stay as limited in functionality as it began at launch. At one point during system development, Nintendo proved the Wii U could support a type of controller functionality the Switch has still yet to embrace.

Reggie recently spoke with MinnMax on YouTube about his book, "Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo." In the interview, he explained how at least two Gamepads–rather than one–could originally play on the same Wii U. Perhaps predictably, this never came to light due to the Wii U's underwhelming numbers.

No games, no Gamepads

"What was interesting is with the Wii U, there was a full development plan for all of the interesting interactions and capabilities the system could do," Reggie told MinnMax. "Technically, could multiple GamePads communicate with a Wii U? The answer was 'yes,' but the install base never got large enough that the type of implementation made sense."

Beyond a limited player base, Nintendo's production philosophy apparently came at odds with adding support for multiple Gamepads. The company failed to see a unique gameplay experience in the idea, so it never took off. "At least from Nintendo's perspective, there needs to be a game that drives that implementation," Reggie said (via YouTube).

Along with the Gamepad, Reggie touched on other fan-favorite topics. The former executive expressed a desire to see E3 return next year in full, in-person glory with exciting premieres and demos. He also gave his take on the lack of Netflix on Switch.

"These types of decisions aren't no brainers," Reggie explained. ​​There's a level of detail required... Either a human investment from a development standpoint or financial investment... those decisions need to be worked through." He questioned why the Switch needed Netflix support when so many devices offered it.

The Wii U's hardware played but a part in its commercial failure, despite a host of first-party standouts and hidden gems. Developers for at least some games may have considered dual-Gamepad support, but the fact Nintendo itself considered it opens up loads of possibilities for what could have been.