Wii U Controller Design Changed. Or Has It?

Wii U Design Changes Revealed and Someone at Traveler’s Tails is Getting Flogged Tonight

Comment forums across the internet have spent much of the past year griping about Nintendo’s new Wii U controller. Of course, most of those folks have never laid eyes, much less hands, upon the controller in person. But rest assured, that hasn’t stopped them. One of the more common complaints was that the controller unveiled at E3 2011 had analog circle pads like those found on Nintendo’s 3DS system rather than more traditional analog sticks.

If the bulk of gaming blogs and sites are correct in the rabbit hole they’re going down now, Nintendo may have changed their minds. On the other hand, maybe we’re all being a little too hasty. Read on after the break for the straight skinny.

Did Nintendo redesign the Wii U controller?A QA tester at Traveler’s Tales–developer of the Lego games–tweeted the above image last night. The first and most obvious change is that the circle pads are now analog sticks. The fine folks at Games Radar think this change “will make a big difference in the long-term,” though I’m honestly hard pressed to tell you how. As a 3DS owner, I have nothing but praise for the analog circle pad. Indeed, my feeling is that it’s easier to apply precise control with the CP, but perhaps Nintendo’s usability tests for the Wii U have shown something otherwise. Tough to say.

Beyond that obvious change, the + and – buttons (AKA Start and Select) have trekked around the corner to sidle up near the ABXY cluster. This change makes a lot more sense, as these buttons will now be well within reach of gamers with stubby little thumb nubs. Additionally, two new little…thingies have appeared: a small square beneath the left analog stick, and a squarish button near the power button on the lower right side of the controller. Neither button has a label, so it’s anyone’s guess what these are for.

But the hole goes a little deeper, and what we see in this “new” Wii U image may in fact be an older design. Back in February of this year, fan site Nintendo Life reported–and posted an image of–an “earlier” version of the Wii U controller, apparently from before E3 2011. The earliest reference to that image I could find was from a forum post on NeoGAF, just to give credit where it’s due. The interesting thing about this allegedly earlier Wii U controller design is that it looks exactly like the “new” controller revision shown in yesterday’s tweet. That basically calls the whole issue into question. What did we see?

Allegedly, this was from BEFORE E3 2011

So, basically, we’re in a familiar place for Wii U followers: confusion.  Is yesterday’s image of a new revision or an older revision? Was the leaked schematic view really from pre-E3 2011? Or could it possibly be the case that Nintendo had at least these two distinct versions “in the wild” with developers, asking for feedback on each design? Whatever the case, one thing seems clear: we’re in for at least a few surprises when Nintendo unveils the final Wii U design at E3 2012.