Wii U: how to blow a market lead

At this year’s E3 Nintendo revealed the successor to the Wii, but with high expectations following the success of their current console, is desperation to continue leading the trend working against the gaming giant?

At this year’s E3 press briefing, Nintendo revealed their widely rumoured successor to the Wii. With such overwhelming success for the company in the current generation of consoles, and an eagerness to recapture some of their lost hardcore fans, the gaming giant needed to come up with something special to cater for their wide target market, but failed to do so in their desperation to continue leading the trend.

The briefing focussed heavily on their new console’s controller, the unholy love-child of everyone’s tablet PC obsession and a trusty old game pad, initially creating confusion as to whether the company was releasing a new peripheral or full console. Designed to offer “a new window into the game world,” the controller’s touch screen provided a different view in the games Nintendo demoed on the day, but none in a particularly innovative or captivating way.

The console is also limited to one Wii U controller per system, leaving remaining players still aimlessly waggling their Wiimotes, a motion the market is undoubtedly growing tired of. This hinders new gameplay for the majority of players, and leaves the Wii U clinging too tightly to its predecessor to really leave space for any radical changes in game development.

Furthermore, we have to ask whether Nintendo have really done enough to make their current console obsolete. The press bore witness to plenty of all-age frivolity that we’ve come to expect from Nintendo, but nothing so decisively different to make owners of a Wii console sell up cheap and invest in a Wii U for more of the same at a higher price for HD graphics and one new controller. The company’s focus on the controller and lack of detail about technical specification also affirms their continued devotion to gameplay over graphical capability, but with essentially more of the same on show, I see no real reason to upgrade in two year’s time.

While the Wii was embraced by “non-gamers” due to its simplicity, Nintendo has also strayed from its winning formula by introducing a complex controller. Dual analogue sticks is a reassuring addition for the Ninty gamer of old, but for the current Wii audience, where the majority of Nintendo’s income now lies, it’s just a confusing addition to what was previously a simple idea. Nintendo have tried desperately to maintain their hardcore audience while also hooking in a new players of all ages, but simply cannot succeed at both. It’s time they embraced one or the other fully, instead of half-arsing around in the middle and satisfying neither.

If Nintendo wanted to introduce this second “window” in a controller, they should have done it two years ago while they were still ahead of the curve, and they should have done it more simplistically, targeting the wider non-core audience. In an effort to lure their core gamers back, please everyone and remain innovative, they’ve gotten lost. Their market advantage has further been jeopardised by revealing their hand too soon. By unveiling their new console two years ahead of release, their competitors will have adequate time to prepare and surpass Nintendo’s offering by responding to consumer reaction.

3 comments

  1. Markets will always be nervous when you get a new tech launch and Nintendo’s habit of keeping back specs and other “secrets” exacerbates that. As third party development support grows so will the confidence of the markets. This dip is hardly any reason to panic.

    As for your daft comments about “aimlessly waggling wiimotes”, clearly you have no real idea what you are talking about, or just don’t care enough to find out.

    The Wii U actually supports more control options than any other console, the Wiimote for “waggling” social/party games, Wiimote and nunchuck, the ideal control scheme for some excellent FPS games (metroid prime 3, Goldeneye and Red steel 2, off the top of my head), the classic controller and the classic controller pro -practically an Xbox controller clone, plus the balance board (?) and finally all the control options of the new controller; touch-screen, gyros, a complete button-set, mic, and camera.

    Then again it sounds so much cooler to dismiss all this with glib comments about “waggling aimlessly”.

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  2. The Wii U looks awesome and I think Nintendo will be the gaming console king again when it comes out.

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  3. @SteveDOF, Okay, so it is more than just aimless waggling, and I think 1:1 tracking with motion plus was a great move. Maybe it’s just my underlying scepticism about motion gaming in general coming through.

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