The Wii has been wildly successful, selling almost 100 million of them worldwide, three times more than the Nintendo 64. Why was the Wii so successful? Well I don’t want to go into too much detail about this as I want to focus on the Wii U, but I think there are three main reasons the Wii was successful. It was (and still is) affordable and relatively cheap compared to the Xbox and PS3, it targeted the family and anybody could play it, and it introduced a new kind of technology into mainstream gaming.
The Wii U does not appear to have any of that, or at least has a mediocre version of what made the Wii successful. We don’t know the price of the Wii U yet, but a lot of the numbers thrown around have been above $300, which is pretty expensive. The Wii U is trying to branch out from targeting the family. It’s throwing around the idea of targeting the “hardcore” gamers, which may turn off some other people and take the focus away from casual gaming.
I suppose we could say that the Wii U is introducing a new kind of technology to gaming and a new way to play, but the GamePad seems more like a novelty to me than anything. Two Gamepads can be hooked up to a Wii U at a time and that itself is kind of limiting, not to mention the cost of having 2 of those GamePads is quite high. The idea of having another screen to look at seems kind of neat at first, but once you think about how you might play, what’s the point?
I mean if you were to be playing a game on the Wii U and you had the choice to look at your large television screen and the small screen of the GamePad, which would you choose? If there is some kind of mechanic in a game that uses the screen differently than just the same image of the screen, there will be some difficulty in trying to pay attention to both the GamePad screen and the television. Most people will just elect to use the Wii U Pro Controller (basically the Xbox 360 controller) or the Wii controller and Nunchuk.
Once you take away the GamePad, the Wii U will be played like any other system. Then the GamePad becomes a novelty. The Wii itself has almost become a novelty now, reserved to be played with some friends for family with a few exceptions of some singleplayer stuff like playing some Super Smash Bros Brawl online or Skyward Sword.
So when you see the Wii U in this light, there does not seem like much innovation in that sense, seeing as many people may be playing the Wii U like any other console. Why does that matter? Well, the Wii U is making the new GamePad the centerpiece of their console and their main feature. So, if that does not always play a major factor in how gameplay works, then what’s the point? Just like how, now, a lot of criticism for the Wii is the lack of games that require any kind of movement control at all.
Just like the Wii, the Wii U will likely feel like it is behind a generation, or some kind of mid-generation. The graphics and hardware of the Wii were at a much lower level than the Xbox 360 or PS3, but the Wii had the motion control technology to ride them through that, so it did very well because of that.
The Wii U does not have that going for it, there is no majorly new idea that will carry it through the generation like the Wii. The Wii U is releasing itself too early, and only with the technology and hardware that is equal to, or just a little bit better than, the current generation of consoles. The Wii U is making itself into some kind of mid-generation console.
Does anybody remember the Sega Dreamcast? The Dreamcast was not a bad system at all and was much better than the current generation of things like the Playstation 1 and the Nintendo 64, but the Dreamcast was early to the party for the generation that included the Playstation 2 and Xbox. Compared to those two systems, the Dreamcast was alright, but why would you as a gamer limit yourself to the Dreamcast when those kinds of consoles were just around the corner? The Dreamcast was only around for a little over a year before the PS2 came out.
The Wii U is stuck in the same problem. While some people may think that the Wii U is getting the jump on the next generation, I would disagree. They are only creating a system that is equal to what we have already. There is little innovation on their current system, just hardware upgrades, and we all know there are new consoles on the way in the near future. The new Xbox and PlayStation will be able to have a much higher graphic fidelity in comparison to the Wii U, the hardware will just be much, much better.
Just like the Dreamcast, why have something a little better than what I have now when I could have something that is much better in the near future for likely a similar price?
One final thing that I would like to talk about is the launch games for the Wii U. There is a very noticeable lack of unique launch titles for the Wii U. At E3 a lot of the games announced for it have already been around for awhile like Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City. Yes, the Wii U will have some games like a new Zelda game sometime and the new Mario Bros game, but that is expected, no new ground covered there.
Also, you may say that the Wii U will have new titles coming out like Assassin’s Creed III and Darksiders II, but we, as gamers, can just as easily get those on our established and known Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
The Wii U only has a few games that people will be looking forward to when it launches: Pikmin 3, ZombiU, and a few other games, like the Mario game, that are expected. That’s it. There is nothing coming out that we cannot already get and play in pretty much the same way.
I didn’t write this in the hopes that the Wii U fails, far from it. I want it to do very well because I think the inclusion of the GamePad was somewhat interesting, but will likely fall flat as developers will not take the money to invest time into developing games for the novelty on the Wii U. I think there are some cool things that could be done with the GamePad, and I hope some developers take the risk of developing those ideas.
It feels like Nintendo is trying to catch up, rather than look ahead. When the new generation starts, the Wii U will already be behind, so Nintendo will have to try and catch up again.