The industry has commonly referred to Nintendo's upcoming Wii U as the first of the next-generation consoles; however, this moniker is up for much speculation in light of the current console market.
Up until this point, the market has been able to accommodate three home consoles. Much like the previous generation's PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox, assuming that this trend will continue in light of Sony's, Nintendo's, and Microsoft's respective past success is not a stretch.
With Microsoft releasing Xbox 360 first among current-generation consoles in 2005, it definitely met the criteria of a long-awaited media hub that the company promised to consumers; however, the 360, and the subsequent release of Sony's PlayStation 3, proved to be nothing compared to the incredible success of the Nintendo Wii.
The Wii's journey, though, offers insight into how the Wii U might perform. And it's not quite what you think.
Nintendo's Wii made me loathe the prospect of waving my hands around in an effort to have fun in what seemed to be the lowest form of interactivity. I mean, we have all played Duck Hunt, right? That game encompassed all my fears for the future of gaming in its extremely juvenile, almost mundane form of interactivity. That's right — I thought every game on the Wii would be comparable to Duck Hunt.
Fortunately, my inner lamentations were put to rest upon the Wii's release and my first opportunity to play with the device. Wii Sports, to my surprise, was actually enjoyable! But that's not the whole story. Was I entertained? Yes. Was the game fun? Yes. Was I impressed with the Wii? No! And a resounding no at that!
Wii Sports looked to be nothing more than a polished GameCube title in all its artistic simplicity and lack of innovation. The only redeeming factor about the game was simply the novelty of waving your hand around while throwing a punch rather than mashing on an oversized A button.
In addition, I found that the only physical exertion I experienced was with my one arm and legs that I subjected to my insistence to follow the "Wii experience" portrayed in ads (seen in the video below) encouraging players to stand while acting like a complete fool. So, in a sense, new feelings of disappointment replaced all my fears.
Despite how I felt about the white box, Nintendo still managed to sell an astounding 4 million units before the clock struck twelve and we entered the year 2007! Wii-syndrome, as I have come to call it, ran rampant. With everybody and their grandmothers going out of their way to purchase, play, and talk about playing the white box, which in astounding contrast to its competitors, didn't even have CD/DVD support!
But how does all of this pertain to the Wii U not really being a next-gen system?
To be frank, Nintendo has taken a drastically different approach to the console market ever since the release of the GameCube, another box that while not as powerful as its competitors, was at least on a drastically closer level of competition than its 2006 successor (come to think of it, the Nintendo 64 was the company's last attempt to outdo its competitors in terms of raw computational power).
With the Wii, Nintendo clung to this new philosophy like a flesh-eating fungus on an increasingly derelict corpse, and as a result, the system was an astounding commercial success, managing to outsell its competitors greatly. An impressive feat on Nintendo's part.
With the upcoming release of the Wii U, though, can Nintendo encourage everybody and their grandmothers to purchase another white box to add to their ever-increasing collection of Nintendo relics, including Classic Controllers and Wii-Fit Balance Boards? I think not.
With the Wii U having comparable graphical capabilities with those of the current-gen Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, do Microsoft and Sony really have to respond with even more powerful consoles? Assuming that they will is a safe bet; however, doing so would only be a response to Nintendo's Wii U then being in direct competition with their market.
If we assume that Nintendo's Wii U does warrant a response, then much like the Wii, the Wii U will be severely underpowered in the next generation of consoles. In terms of being a "next"-gen console, the Wii U only qualifies because it's technically the successor to the Wii. For when Microsoft and Sony decide to announce their follow ups to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo's Wii U will bite the dust.