Wii U: Nintendo rumored to be working on dual tablet support

Summary:Will the Wii U now support two tablets instead of just one, as stated by Nintendo at this year's E3 conference? An anonymous industry insider says Nintendo is focusing on making it happen.

Big news for Nintendo fans today, the Wii U, Nintendo's next-gen console that is expected to be released the second half of 2012, is rumored to be getting support for two tablets instead of just one, according to an anonymous source who spoke with Develop.

[Related: Nintendo Wii U image gallery ]

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To quote Develop's source:

"Nintendo now know they absolutely need to support two tablets.

"At E3 they didn’t commit to this, but they know how important it is to make it technically feasible to support two screens. Even if that affects framerate, as a developer and player, I don’t care. It needs to work. Developers will design appropriate games for this."

As you may recall, Nintendo's announcement at this year's E3 conference that the Wii U would only support one tablet was met with disapproving reactions from gamers who saw anything less than 2 tablets being supported as unacceptable. The problem isn't the console supporting the traditional controller functionality of the tablet, but rather, the information/video/audio being pushed to it from the console.

Additionally, the console's ability to support more than one tablet at a time has everything to do with the components Nintendo is using to keep the console at as low of a price point as they can. However, according to Develop's source, Nintendo is close to overcoming the problem without having to implement cost-increasing additions to the Wii U.

In addition to adding support for two tablets, Develop's source indicated two more points Nintendo is focusing on: RAM capacity and processor speed.

While it's not clear if that means Nintendo hopes to upgrade hardware prior to release or just tweak the performance of existing components, I see the latter as being the more likely of the two, since introducing new variables like more RAM or a faster processor could create problems if not thoroughly tested. And with Nintendo aiming for a final product demonstration at next year's E3 in June, that gives Nintendo ~7 months to do what they need to do and shore things up for developers and, ultimately, the production line.

[Related: Nintendo Wii U: An in-depth look at Nintendo’s powerhouse next-gen console ]

Personally, I'm excited by this news, but I don't think this will be a scenario where every single game will support two tablets. As Develop's source implied, there will likely have to be some sort of tradeoff Nintendo has to make to support two tablets if they hope to keep the Wii U at a certain price point -- the tradeoff most likely being frame rate-related.

In other words, less graphically-intensive games should support two tablets just fine, but don't expect to see the Wii U's most graphically-astounding games perform at full-resolution on two tablets at the same time. That's what I get out of this whole announcement, at least. But that's assuming one expecting to play a game on the tablet screen instead of on the TV. The tablet is much more flexible than that and can be used to add value to a game, much like a Nintendo 3DS where the top screen shows the game itself while the bottom screen can be used to show something completely different, like added input options for the gamer.

The TV would show the action of the Wii U while the tablet screen could show something completely different. Imagine two people playing Madden 2013 and each person having their own tablet to privately select their plays while all the action happens on the TV. It's scenarios like this that get me pumped up for the prospect of Nintendo getting it right with supporting two tablets.

But for now, this is all just a rumor from a reputable news source in the gaming industry (which means I'm getting my hopes up, personally), so take it for what it's worth.

What are your thoughts? Will it be a deal-breaker for you if the Wii U only ends up with support for one tablet instead of two? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

-Stephen Chapman

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Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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