Nintendo took its time with the launch of the 3DS, and the same may be happening now with the Wii U. Is the console doomed to follow the same path as its predecessor, the Wii? And was Nintendo's race to beat Sony and Microsoft to launch a smart or poor move? Jesse takes a look at the Wii U's present and future.
When the Wii U was officially announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2011, Nintendo shared its hopes of winning back the hardcore gaming community by taking its up-and-coming console back to basics, compensating for the alienation caused by the Wii’s motion controls. While the Wii holds the record for the most sales of seventh-generation consoles as of Q1 2012, there was still a large number of gamers who had lost almost all interest in the console. It was painful for many longtime video game enthusiasts to witness the once dominant Nintendo promptly dethroned.
Eventually, details about Nintendo’s successor to the Wii began to surface. The Wii U would come equipped with a new and revolutionary “GamePad” in place of a traditional controller. It would use an additional touch screen similar to the Nintendo’s DS handhelds and could be put to use in ways that would allow the player to feel more immersed within the game. This seemed to be the main marketing point for the console as Nintendo showcased its ability to innovate and bring more interaction to games. The GamePad generated quite a bit of excitement among the gaming media and community, who were looking forward to experiencing what the Wii U and its new tablet-like controller had to offer.
There was, of course, a rather tight niche of critics and gamers who looked to the GamePad with a sense of anxiety rather than optimism. From this point of view, it seemed as though the expectation was for the controller to unintentionally facilitate the Wii U’s downfall. If gamers felt alienated by the Wii’s motion controls, which prompted Nintendo to revert back to a more traditional setup, would the GamePad really do the job? Or would it have been more beneficial to trust in the tried and true style of controllers similar to those used by Nintendo’s competitors? It was difficult to predict at the time, and the majority of spectators sat in waiting.
The Wii U finally released in November of last year, kicking off to an immediate success in sales. The new console also went over well with critics, who praised its audio and visual specs as well as its GamePad, debunking any doubt in the controller’s potential.
So where is the Wii U now? For the first month or so after the console’s release, it thrived on success and positive publicity. Now, early into 2013, the buzz of launch has worn off for most, and it appears as though the console has almost gone dormant at such an early stage in its life span. Why is this?
First of all, aside from the handful of successful launch titles — including New Super Mario Bros. U and Scribblenauts Unlimited — the console’s catalog has largely fallen flat. Since the initial release wave, various other titles have come out for the Wii U, but most of them are already available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (Darksiders II, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and a handful of others). Apart from these few, there seems to be almost no sign of any major releases in the near future, much to the dismay of those who spent their hard-earned cash on the console. This is similar to what happened with the Wii.
A display of the optimism targeted toward the Wii U upon release.
That brings us to the upcoming Bayonetta 2. The highly anticipated title has been announced as a Wii U exclusive, sparking outrage among gamers: those who are without a Wii U will be unable to play the game on their PlayStation 3s and Xbox 360s, like they did the original.
This may point to the number of gamers who passed on the Wii U and are still without ownership of one. Even with all of the publicity and praise, it’s possible that many people felt little need to spend their money on a new system when their existing ones were viable for another year or so until the next round of console launches. The fact that the Wii U’s release was early in comparison to what Microsoft and Sony may have planned also works against the Wii U to a certain extent. To some, a year may not seem like a long enough time to be salvaging every last bit of life out of seventh-generation consoles, but in this day and age, a single year of saving money makes all the difference.
I’d like to point out that I personally have no hatred toward the Wii U and was in fact anxious to see what became of it upon release. Unfortunately, since then, the gaming community hasn’t heard much of anything from Nintendo’s new console. It’s almost as though it has fallen off the face of the Earth.
Many may be disappointed by the lack of attention shown to the Wii U, and it really seems as though many developers are unwilling to take their chances and release games for it. Others may have already seen this coming. For one reason or another, the Wii U might have failed to capture our attention beyond its first few steps out the door, much like with the Wii.
For those who were uninterested to begin with, this situation may likely fly past their radars undetected. But for those who feel let down, we can only hope that the Wii U will make its deserved comeback in the near future. After all, it’s still early, and it’s never too late.