I have to admit that I don’t use smartphones and tablets for gaming. I’ve been a gamer all my life which means I’m more than willing to set aside some time to play on the PC or on a console. Perhaps if one day there’s a game I really want to play on one of these touchscreen devices I’ll buckle down and play, but unless I want to play Angry Birds I’ll stick with what I like. Part of the reason for this is that it feels like most games on these devices are watered down versions of better games on other platforms. The controls are usually awkward and games that are designed with the PC and consoles in mind don’t always translate well to touch screen devices. Nintendo, however, is on to something with their ZombiU multiplayer tablet functionality. Instead of watering down the game to fit on a tablet, they use it as an add-on to the existing game, opening up unique gameplay features for those who still want to play with their friends.
Traditionally sitting down to play with friends meant agreeing to a game that neither player could cheat in. Since screen-peeking was always an issue, fighting games and sports games were often good choices for players who wanted to keep the competition even. But the Wii-U’s tablet encourages screen-peeking, for one player at least, changing the formula to allow for new gameplay options.
One player controls the action normally; sitting in front of the TV with a controller. The second player, however, uses the gamepad to spawn enemy zombies on the map in an attempt to kill the other player. Instead of some boring co-op experience, Ubisoft has capitalized on the idea that both players don’t need to play the same game in the same way.
The unique two-games-in-one method may be able to offer more sophisticated types of gameplay choices for other developers who learn to utilize it. While older games play out more like Hungry, Hungry, Hungry Hippos with each playing experiencing the same game in the same way, newer games using Nintendo’s gamepad may be more like Dungeons and Dragons, with one player taking on a lead role.
We’ve seen other developers use the gamepad in more sophisticated ways as well. Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition uses the gamepad as pseudo utility belt for players, a real life accessory that mirrors an in-game one. Madden NFL 13 uses the gamepad as a slick touch screen playbook which replaces the old scroll and select system. These are just the release titles too; as more and more developers experiment with the technology they will no doubt find more ways in which to use the gamepad in interesting ways.
While the gamepad makes single player options look great, it’s the multiplayer ones, like ZombiU, that I’m looking forward to seeing. There is a market for we’re-in-the-same-room multiplayer titles, especially if developers are going to go out of their way to make the gamepad interactions fun. While there will always been room for traditional screen-peeking titles, I hope that Nintendo’s and it’s gamepad can raise the bar from what players expect from at-home multiplayer titles.