Welcome to the future of gaming! A future where updates can make controls and concepts of a system useless if need be.
Earlier this year Microsoft did what everyone had been begging them to do for months and released a Kinect-less Xbox One bundle for $400. Initially Xbox had claimed that the Kinect needed to be plugged in and turned on for the Xbox One to function. Then it just had to plugged in. Then it was, "Oh fine, it doesn't have to be plugged in. Just buy the darn thing, would you?" The Kinect 2.0 hasn't had a stellar showing with any stand out games or features that are truly revolutionary (at least not that I've heard or seen). Chances are the Kinect will dwindle in popularity as the eighth generation of gaming goes on. The original Kinect's popularity was driven by the motion control craze and that seems to be tapering off as well.
Speaking of the motion control craze... remember the Wii? Decent console with some fantastic games that sold way more than predicted? Nintendo started the goofy motion gaming madness that swept the nation when they hit the big time with the Wii, a system that has certainly fallen out of style. Every used game store is full of them. Every other Craigslist video game post features a Wii with some casual titles and a horrible wiimote sports dongle.
Nintendo lucked out with the Wii and they lucked out again with the 3DS, another system that sold on a gimmick not yet fully implemented in the world of gaming. The first year was rough, but once Nintendo stopped focusing on the 3D aspect and started making stellar titles the 3DS became the system to have, handheld or otherwise. Then came the Wii U. A console with with a confusing name and another tacked on feature. This time the well recieved touch controls from the best selling DS were being implemented in a console in the form of a tablet controller. Why not? Touch games were/are all the rage, so making a touch game compatible device makes sense, no?
Needless to say the GamePad didn't quite catch on like the Wii did. It was touted as an unneeded accessory and many felt it was forcing developers bail from Nintendo related projects. Though the GamePad certainly isn't a complete failure. It's comfortable to hold and it can certainly come in handy if your wife really wants to watch something on your gaming TV. The problem is there aren't many games that require it. Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze? Nope. Mario Kart 8? Nada. Super Mario 3D World? Sorta, on those one touch levels.
The point is that most Wii U titles don't require the GamePad, and those who do (with the exception of a few titles like Nintendo Land) could be updated to accommodate a new set up. With yesterdays system update it became even more useless, as one can now browse the eShop without the GamePad, a feature the system reminded you of on every visit. Could we see a cheaper Wii U bundle that simply comes with a Pro Controller and the system? I don't think it's too far of a stretch. The GamePad is an expensive piece of technology and a bundle without it could go for as low as $200 to $250. The biggest "Yeah, but..." in my mind is Nintendo's newly announced interactive action figures the Amiibos, who are used by the GamePad to transfer information. Surely they wouldn't cut it out of the picture with those on the horizon. Not that they couldn't sell a base like Skylanders and Disney Infinity. In fact they already have one in the works for the 3DS...
Let me just say that I really love the GamePad. It's not the best idea Nintendo has ever had, but I use it often and it has certainly shown it's worth to me as a gamer and Nintendo enthusiast. That being said I wouldn't be opposed to a new cheaper bundle to get more folks involved with the Wii U. It's a great system that still needs a little more help getting off store shelves. Your move Nintendo.
Keep in mind: This is simply a hypothetical musing. If Nintendo did make the GamePad optional I still firmly believe t would be offered. As I said above, I'm a big fan of the GamePad.