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Wii U or Why U? – Nintendo’s Next-Gen Quandary

Hello there, readers, I’m Ben. I’ve been given the opportunity to have a regular feature here on NGB, so I’m aiming to get a weekly segment up with my take on a few things game-related. This could be anything from news, to things that have been getting me worked up, all the way through to what’s been hyping me up beyond belief. This week’s piece is all about Nintendo’s “next-gen” console.

Last weekend, I walked into troubled retailer HMV, and saw the equally-troubled Wii U’s Premium bundle on sale for £199. I very nearly bit the bullet and purchased one, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t find a reason to, in spite of the attractive price for a shiny new piece of tech, and it got me thinking. What does the Wii U need to do in order to pull in the likes of me and other gamers that are feeling somewhat reluctant?

The Wii U had a rocky start. Nintendo announced their new console to a gaming audience clamouring for new hardware in 2011, with a “full” unveil in 2012, and a somewhat troubled launch. With many commenting on the lack of power in the console, the questions were being asked of Nintendo, and whether they would be able to compete with Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen plans.

In the last week, MCV (the industry trade magazine) published a small article on the Wii U’s “Sales rebound”, claiming the console’s sales “rose by almost 125% last week”. Whilst on first glance this looks like great news for Nintendo, the lack of numbers is somewhat concerning. Yes, it’s great that they sold double the number of consoles as the previous week, but if they’re only shifting a couple of thousand units the week before, the numbers this week aren’t even going to be competing with the likes of the Playstation Vita, and that’s saying something. After all, “12% of nothing is still nothing”. The main reason for this sales “spike” was HMV’s aforementioned deep discount. There was also a boost to the system’s “AAA” library with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate going on sale, but even that couldn’t muster enough to outsell the 3DS version.

So where do Nintendo go from here?

Put simply, Wii U needs games. A console is only as good as the games it has on the shelf alongside it, and Nintendo are going after the people who already own a PS3 or an Xbox 360. Nintendo have always struggled with third party support (aside from the sheer amount of shovelware on the Wii), but their in-house teams always seem to deliver quality products. There will always be a new Zelda round the corner, or a new Mario. I was one of the few who felt that Nintendo “won” E3 2010 with their rebooting of classic franchises such as Donkey Kong Country, Kid Icarus and Kirby, but I don’t think they can duplicate that kind of impressive lineup again.

The sticking point is with the third parties. Who can forget Reggie Fils-Aime coming out and saying that “Call of Duty looks the best on Wii U”, despite every analysis proving the contrary? Or that “Arkham City: Armoured Edition is not the same content”? There’s been the big deal with Rayman Legends being delayed until September so that Ubisoft could release it on multiple platforms, but things have become a bit worse over the past week. During the deluge of information coming out of GDC, it’s been confirmed that neither the Frostbite 3 engine, nor Unreal Engine 4 will be coming to the platform (With Epic’s Mark Rein reported to have literally laughed off the suggestion at GDC this week). Konami’s trailers for Metal Gear Solid V were missing the Wii U/Nintendo logos, fuelling speculation that the FOX Engine will be in the same camp. If this turns out to be the case, then Nintendo will be in very, very dire straits. Not many developers are going to be investing huge amounts of time and effort into developing two separate versions of their games running on two separate engines, as they simply won’t make the money back. It might be ok for the near future, but a couple of years down the line, nobody is going to be making games on Unreal Engine 3.

It’s not all bad, however. Fans of Platinum Games were beside themselves (some with joy, some with outright rage) when it was announced that Bayonetta 2 was exclusively coming to the Wii U, as well as a new IP, The Wonderful 101. Neither of these have a release date confirmed though, and without titles from Nintendo themselves, the question remains as to where the games are going to come from.

I think it’s safe to say that the Wii U has not been the success that they had anticipated. Launching without a “proper” Mario game (No, New Super Mario Bros U doesn’t count), and with no official announcement of the “big gun” franchises besides teases has proven to be catastrophic for the launch of the platform. Nintendo were naïve to think that they could capture the lightning in a bottle that the Wii was. There was no way they were ever going to capture a market the size that they did before. I know of households that have two Wii’s sat under TVs that got used three or four times then left to gather dust. Those same people simply aren’t going to spend upwards of £250 on a new console, especially one that doesn’t have the intuitive “pick up and waggle” controls of its predecessor.

Ultimately, I think the Wii U falls into the same category the Wii did in the eyes of the ‘hardcore’ gamer. “It’s the platform to play Mario and Zelda on” first and foremost, with a few smaller titles that it’d be worth picking up. But with one of the big console exclusives in Rayman Legends going multiplatform and suffering a huge delay, it can’t even claim to be that console right now. When a price cut to the same level as the six-year-old PS3 can’t convince gamers to pick up the Wii U en masse, you know you’ve got a problem. I think Nintendo need to re-market the console so that the message is clear. They need to show off the next Zelda and Mario games very soon (before E3) so that people know what to expect, and they need to make HMV’s price cut official, and advertise the hell out of it. People have, and will, always buy consoles on the promise of new games, so cover the gaming press in first-party titles that get people talking, and couple that with a price drop. Putting the two together might sway people into picking up a Wii U, but it’ll still remain a niche platform. Whether it’s a niche that enough gamers will fill, we’ll have to see.

Or, you know, they could go third party…

Join the discussion
  • http://twitter.com/jdwilsh jdwilsh

    Good job Ben :) I totally agree with you. The Wii back in the day was a good console for family playing, party games etc. The Wii U is just a bit crap, it cant be aimed at families since you only get 1 controller in the box yet there are no hardcore games on the Wii U to attract the xbox/PS3 customers away. I think they cocked up this one.

    • truegamer

      No your crap. You know you want a wiiu why else would you be reading this.

      • http://twitter.com/jdwilsh jdwilsh

        You’re*

    • BenNGB

      Thanks Wilsh :) They’ve got a lot of work to do to get it on par with the PS3 and 360, let alone the PS4 and inevitable next Xbox!

  • http://twitter.com/elmickio Micky

    Nice read, I have a Wii U and to be honest there’s not a whole lot I can do with it as there’s no real classic Nintendo games for it! The game pad only gets 3 hours of playing and takes another 3 hours to charge. There’s no Dvd playback and the pro u controller only works with s couple of games. I will purchase MH3U eventually, but that’s just a glorified version of the Wii version.

    • truegamer

      You know you can still play on the gamepad while its charging, right. No classics, how about Ballon pop, f-zero, and punch out featuring Mr.Dream plus everything from your wii vc. Its only been on the market 5 months and has out sold the xbox 360′s first five months on the market. HA.

    • BenNGB

      Thanks Micky! It’s not that I’m saying there are issues with the system itself (I actually quite like the hardware and the ideas behind it), but it’s just not being supported as much as it could be right now, and it’s worrying

  • AsimT

    Superb article, Ben. Well balanced, raising some very valid points and concerns.

    • BenNGB

      Thanks Asim :)

  • GariNGB

    @disqus_LQoeRTuVu2:disqus We are always open to constructive criticism here and on any of the other sites but your posts within this discussion are as one sided as a fight between Mike Tyson and Mr Tumble. We understand that you love Nintendo and thats fair enough but at least have something constructive to say rather than just name calling and petty insults.

  • http://twitter.com/Stealth____ Stealth

    bad bad bad article

    • BenNGB

      Thank you for the insightful and helpful feedback as to where I apparently went wrong. :)

      • http://twitter.com/Stealth____ Stealth

        everything is wrong

        • AsimT

          Thanks for the insight!

    • GariNGB

      Blimey, you really know how to go into detail. Dont hold back will you!

  • kerriganmarois

    I know you are new here, but this article needs an editor. As a reluctant wii u customer as well, I understand your points about the tech, however I don’t care about the tech that comes with a Nintendo system. I love deciding between Sony and MS based on specs and exclusives, but I don’t need to with Nintendo. They are one of the only companies in the world that I can trust to put out a product I know will be enjoyable.

    I wish you had highlighted those points as strengths, my hope is that they come out with a 3d mario, new zelda, metroid, f-zero and yoshi’s island soon, thats what would turn me into a customer. I always own one of the higher powered consoles and a Nintendo, it’s always worth it because of the games.

    To try and be constructive about your article, when you use “quotes” to highlight words too much, it comes off as condescending and sarcastic. When you combine that with an obvious troll at the end of the article with “Or, you know, they could go third party…”, you are asking for terrible comments. When you talk about sales figures you need to be specific, you can’t just say “the numbers this week aren’t even going to be competing with the likes of the Playstation Vita”, how many did the Vita sell? I don’t know and you are basically asking me to trust you (a new writer) or leave the site to find the information.

    Also, I noticed you advertise your psn/xbox/steam stuff, do you own a Wii or Wii U? I know games journalism and opinion pieces in general are different but could you imagine someone talking about why a smartphone, laptop or car is a total pos without even having one in their possession? Those are a couple trust things with me, if someone owns a Wii U and they tell me how shite it is, I am way more likely to believe them than someone on the sideline writing condescendingly to me.

    • BenNGB

      Thanks for the feedback, it’s much appreciated! Always open to pointers as, like I say, I’m fairly new to the game!

      I didn’t mean the article to come across as condescending, I was attempting to put across the ways in which Nintendo could attempt to hook me into buying a Wii U. I said in the first paragraph that I’ve not got one yet, and there’s still a long way to go before I’m going to be tempted by one. I stand by what I said though, the console has a lot of problems and it’s not doing a great deal to entice the people they need to get into the user base.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on the “buying Nintendo platforms for their games” comment, it’s just that like I said in the article, it’s too much money for me to commit to something that’s not been announced yet. I know there *will* be a Zelda/Mario/Metroid/whatever coming, but I’ve been burned before on buying a console based on promises, and I’m really wary of doing so again in the future.

      Fair comment about the numbers, I can’t remember what they were off hand but they weren’t great. It was being outsold consistently by the Vita, and as far as I’m aware it still is. I do take issue with the comment about saying the console’s shite, because it’s not a bad machine, it’s just being very badly supported and Nintendo need to rectify this as quickly as they can.

      • kerriganmarois

        Hey internet, check out our adult discussion that includes disagreements and common ground!

        • AsimT

          Yeah, thanks for the comments and feedback. Rather than trolling, you’ve relayed your points across well. I’m sure Ben appreciates it. I know I certainly do.

          It’s an opinion piece from Ben and we’ve (mainly me) have given him the freedom to do that. Not everyone is going to agree with him, but that’s just life and the Internet! The articles he writes are not supposed to be condescending, but do have a slightly lighthearted or jovial tone at times.

          In any case, thanks for your comments and feedback.