The Nintendo 3DS can technically be used as a secondary Wii U controller, but players would have to sacrifice their internet connection.
That's one of the reasons Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was cautious committing to integration between the new handheld and home console, when asked about the one controller per Wii U problem at a shareholders meeting.
"First, I would like to answer from the perspective of whether it is technically possible or not. I will say that it is technically possible. However, there are some limitations," he responded.
"While the Nintendo 3DS is communicating with the Wii or the Wii U, the Wii or the Wii U will not be able to access the Internet, and this technical restriction will remain unless we add some special hardware."
Iwata said he's also concerned about the message that would be sent out to Nintendo fans if 3DS/Wii U integration was perceived to be a necessity.
"If we decide that using the Nintendo 3DS as a controller for the Wii U is the most obvious choice, we will do so without hesitation but, on the other hand, if software from Nintendo for the Wii or the Wii U system could not be enjoyed without the Nintendo 3DS, some consumers might feel that Nintendo is saying that consumers must buy both systems.
"So that consumers will not think of Nintendo as a company that made the Nintendo 3DS a controller because it wanted consumers to buy both hardware systems, we will not adopt this idea unless connecting the two systems is the most natural thing to do. As for connecting multiple gaming devices, we actually did this in the Nintendo GameCube era.
Iwata harked back to previous generations where similar integration between platforms was implemented. He didn't seem confident, however, that the company would see similar uptake today:
"We connected the Nintendo GameCube and the Game Boy Advance and called it 'Connectivity.' Over a period of more than ten years, Nintendo has proposed similar entertainment features several times, and we received a certain level of response, but we feel that something like this that has a high threshold will not really spread among consumers.
"At that time, there were other problems, like a cable sold separately was necessary to do this, so we would like to think of it as a possibility now that the communication can be done wirelessly, but even if we should do this, we would like to develop this service so that we will not receive comments from consumers saying, 'Why does Nintendo force us to buy both systems?'"