Wii U could have been a standalone handheld

Nintendo discussed the idea of what will be the Wii U controller as its own self-contained gaming system.

The next iteration of the company’s home console line gained the most attention of this month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), and unlike any other video game hardware unveiling, it was the controller that was the focus.

With a touch-screen display, two analog sticks, and standard controller buttons, it is essentially its own interactive system, but it only works when connected to the Wii U, and its primarily purpose is to act as a supplement to Wii U games.

But gamers will in fact be able to play full games on the controller, as long as they’re wirelessly connected to the Wii U. So it begs the question as to why it can’t just be its own fully functioning system.

“We would not have been able to come up with a reasonable price point [if it was a handheld system],” said company president Satoru Iwata in a Gamasutra interview. “We had not decided when we were going to launch the new console … but we knew we needed to be flexible.”

Certainly, though, “There were such arguments about should we make it capable of being a standalone system,” he said.

The idea that the Wii U controller was at one point looked at as its own system helps explain why Nintendo did not say a single word about the console – the actual Wii U box – at E3 earlier this month.

In earlier comments, Iwata admitted that was a mistake, after Nintendo’s stock price unexpectedly fell following the Wii U unveiling. Iwata said he could understand why onlookers were confused by the fact that he didn’t clarify that Wii U was in fact a brand new system that consumers will have to buy and hook up to their TV.

Nintendo hasn’t announced Wii U pricing details, but earlier speculation has suggested it might be as much as $400.