This controller has now been proven fake. You can hence disregard most of the following article because it’s irrelevant.
As of a day ago, rumours have started spreading around online about the controller design for the new Nintendo NX. Apparently, this new controller is basically a giant touch screen with some extra analogue sticks and stuff put on top. Can’t picture it in your head? Well, here’s the image that’s going around, showing the ‘leaked’ controller design in action:
But is it actually real?
Well, that’s a tricky thing to answer. Reliable sources (aka people with ‘inside information’) say no, but then again, details in the images point it to an office for a video game development studio called Massive Entertainment. As seen here:
Above: Finding an image’s location because of a certain tree in the background? That’s impressive.
So it’s a hard one. Do you trust people like Liam Robertson and their sources in Nintendo of Europe, or the image sleuths who seemingly traced this image back to a game development studio in Sweden?
But regardless of its authenticity (or lack of it), the core concept is just terrible. Why? Because touch screens are not good input devices for a lot of video games.
Do they have some uses? Sure, I guess. Super Mario Maker’s level editing works well with one. WarioWare games work well with touch screen controls. The odd Mario & Luigi giant battle works well enough with touch screen controls…
Problem is, a lot of popular game genres don’t. And that’s because a touch screen is never going to be as accurate as a physical button. It can be fairly close, but a button really only has two states; pressed or not pressed. So if someone plays say, Super Mario 3D Galaxy and then hits the A button, there’s no question that Mario will jump immediately. That’s how a well coded game works.
A touch screen doesn’t really offer that level of confidence. You might press on a virtual button, but there’s no guarantee the system will pick up the input. Maybe your finger didn’t quite push hard enough at the right spot, or the inprecise boundaries of the button and the odd size of your hand meant you missed it by about a pixel or two. Or heck, the controller is simply getting low on battery and the touch screen isn’t as responsive as it’d normally be. In that case, you can press a button and have the character not do what you actually wanted. The interface is simply less precise than a physical button based one.
And while that’s okay for a few games (like RPGs, turn based strategy titles, visual novels) that don’t involve much in the way of reflexes, it’s terrible for a game where you reflexes have to be spot on down to the split second. Can you imagine trying to beat this if you only had virtual buttons on a touch screen?
In that stage, you die in (at most) two hits. If your touch screen doesn’t work properly and register your input… well, poor old Donkey Kong and co are going to get (literally) torn to shreds. Same goes with a lot of other platformers and action games. Rayman (especially Origins and Legends), Yoshi’s Island secret levels, the endgame in most Mario platformers… they would be utterly infuriating with a control scheme this inprecise.
Heck, we don’t even have to look very far for complaints about touch controls not working well in complex games. The reviews for the likes of Mega Man X on iOS devices are… not exactly the best. Nor are those for the Mega Man 1-3 ports, like this one of the second game:
And even on Nintendo systems, examples abound. Remember the Mario & Luigi giant boss battles I mentioned? Well, the fiddly, unprecise touch screen controls are why the fights against both Mount Pajamaja and Earthwake in Dream Team are so damn obnoxious. You get this precise action needed to block the boss’ attack with good timing, then get your head smashed in because it decides it’s not going to register all too well or its tricky to pull off the right counter with touch controls.
Above: The hammer is a killer, if you’re not that guy. Some people actually gave up and sold the game at this point because of the boss here…
Either way, the point is clear; touch controls do not work as well as traditional ones, and they will be virtually unuable for more action based games like platformers, fighting games and any type of shooter. Which given the types of games found on Nintendo’s competitors, would not bode well for third party support on the system. Can Nintendo really afford that after two generations of no support?
So the point is clear; the Nintendo NX likely won’t be using this sort of controller, and even if it did, said controller would be a horrible choice for the system. Let’s hope the picture is revealed to be a fake before the console is announced…