It’s been more than a year now since Nintendo released the first eighth generation console, the Wii U. The console had a lukewarm reception at best. Most people were surprised it was about 50% better than the 6-year-old Xbox 360 and PS3, and it didn’t offer as much storage space, although Nintendo had proven that raw power meant nothing with its revolutionary Wii, who outsold its competition even though it’s hardware was inferior to the other consoles, the Wii’s motion controls attracted more than just gamers. It became entertainment for the whole family, and it also didn’t hurt that every Wii came bundled with a copy of Wii sports. The Wii sold great, but in doing so it alienated a large group of people – hardcore gamers who grew up with the SNES, the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube, all very powerful consoles on their time.
With the release of the Wii U Nintendo tried to claim back what had been lost, but in trying to find balance between a hardcore gamer machine and the success of the Wii, we ended up with what seemed a console that did neither. It is the only eighth gen console backwards compatible sure, but right now that isn’t enough. The main attraction of the Wii U is its new tablet-controller hybrid, the Wii U gamepad. It offers a true second-screen experience plus the ability to shut down your tv completely and just play on your controller at the cost of a three hour-long battery. This means you have to charge your controller after every single gaming session, which is just terrible. Add a very weak launch lineup and we have a recipe for disaster, so as expected Wii U sales did terrible, with some studios stating that they had no plans to develop for the console and some people even suggesting Nintendo should stop supporting the console and just focus on software.
So why, a year later, have Wii U sales started to rise? Don’t get me wrong: I know the PS4 has sold as many units in a little more than two months, but there is no denying the Wii U is selling better. The answer is simple – it all comes down to the games a console offers, and up until the release of Mario 3D World no other game showed us the experience Nintendo’s console can offer. No doubt with a lot of pressure on their backs they managed to release what could possibly be one of the best Mario game yet, maybe just a little bit lower than Mario Galaxy 2, and that is saying a lot.
So is the Wii U doomed? Not at all, even if most games get released on the other systems. Nintendo exclusives are reason enough to own the console, and with games like Donkey Kong Country, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Brothers already announced the console has a bright future ahead.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!