On Nintendo’s Wii U
Nintendo and I have had a long relationship dating back to 1986, when I got my first Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember growing up exploring the land of Hyrule in the original Zelda. I recall sharing my teenage years with Locke Cole, Terra Branford, and the Figaro brothers. A short and chubby Italian plumber showed me how to take flight and shoot for the stars as I entered adulthood. Even after I had reached adulthood, the age when video games would “no longer be of use to me”, my mom assure me, my friends and I would get together and Wii would have fun. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I say that the Wii U might actually be a failure.
The Wii U is everything the Wii should have been – an HD Wii with good graphical performance and a great library. Had the Wii U been released 5 years ago in place of the Wii, it would have been an even greater hit than the Wii was. It would have appealed to “hardcore” gamers and “casual” gamers alike. However, it is now 2012, and I can’t help but think that the Wii U won’t be able to compete.
Now, my dear reader, before you say “oh, the Wii was underpowered and it won this generation’s console war”, know that I am aware of this. The Wii’s target demographic was the nostalgic folk, parents with young kids, and the grandparents. It succeeded. It ran a great marketing campaign, and it kicked the PS3 and XBox 360 around the world twice over. However, think about what the Wii U offers.
Hardware-wise, the Wii U is slightly more powerful than the Playstation 3 and the XBox 360. Its ports of PS3 and 360 games are great. However, players who already own Sony’s and Microsoft’s systems will not run out and buy a Wii U to play Mass Effect 3, which they can get as a collector’s bundle with Mass Effect 1 and 2 on systems they already own for the same price as the Wii U counterpart.
Yes, I’m saying that the “hardcore gamer” will stick with their PS3 or 360, then switch over to whatever the next Sony and Microsoft consoles are calling themselves now, as their processing powers – and likely online experiences – will be by far more robust than what my old friend’s new console can hope to offer. Games will come out designed for the more advanced console – Mass Effect 4 for PS4, for example – and the Wii U will get, at best, a scaled-down version.
“But bro”, you’ll say, “what about the casual gamer who just wants to play with their kids and their grandparents?” In all likelihood, they already have the Wii. Rather than buying the new console, people might just be inclined to keep buying games for their old consoles. It’s not like they’ll get through them all anytime soon.
Now, I’m aware that the Wii U sold incredibly well today. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already sold out. What remains to be seen is how well the next shipments will sell, and for that – regretfully – I am not very hopeful.
Now, do note that my commentary does not revolve around the quality of the system. I just spent 8 hours in my brother’s house playing Nintendo Land for the Wii U, and I haven’t had so much fun playing a game in a long while. The console is solid, it’s opening library is good, and the games – as expected from Nintendo – are nothing but quality. What I’m concerned about is that the CIRCUMSTANCES under which the console was launched – the gaming situation, so to speak (to borrow a bit from rhetoric) – will not allow the console to prosper as much as it should.
Of course, it might be that Nintendo does a great marketing campaign and sells the Wii U as “the update to the Wii” and exploits its backwards compatibility with Wii games, or it might be that something I can’t foresee happens and the Wii U sells incredibly well. I make no claims to being a psychic, so it might be the case – and in fact, I hope that it is. I hope that I’m proven wrong, that the Wii Uis as great of a success story as the Wii was before it. I hope that in three years’ time you’ll be able to pop by this post and say “I told you it was gonna be the greatest”. I really hope Nintendo succeeds, because I love that company and its games. However, if the Wii U fails… well… I hope that Nintendo comes out better from it than my other old friend, Sega, did when it didn’t do too well.