Why the Wii U is not finished

It’s not all doom and gloom for Nintendo – the Wii U isn’t on life support (yet)

Photo credit: HollyGreenGames

Photo credit: HollyGreenGames

Nintendo is a name so widespread that almost everyone has had a memorable experience from one of their illustrious first-party franchises. Currently struggling financially, some are willing to write-off one of the most established names in the industry.

I have written enough articles in the past venting my frustration and criticism towards them, but it is wrong to believe they are completely finished. There is certainly potential for the company to bounce back from their current situation and build on their more notable success from recent years.

Nintendo launched its ambitious 3DS handheld system back in 2011, receiving a mixed reception. I was extremely excited by its prospects and bought it on release. However, the excitement quickly turned to frustration over the lack of content available during the first year. I was livid when Nintendo announced that they were dropping the price of the 3DS due to poor sales. Granted there were some incentives for people who owned the console before the price drop: a collection of free retro titles, but my patience had hit its limits. Nintendo proved me wrong to react in the way that I did, and now the 3DS has sold more than thirty-five million units, with it bolstering a tremendous catalogue of titles which includes Pokémon X & Y, Kid Icarus: Uprising and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between the Worlds.

Nintendo demonstrated that it was more than capable of saving the handheld system from failure. The company needs to replicate the success of the 3DS for the Wii U, which has certainly struggled in its first year. But Nintendo cannot afford to scrap the current system without severely tarnishing their name and brand, even if they have the financial capital to let the console fail.

There is no reason to let this next-generation console collapse, especially when its best content hasn’t even been released yet. When the Wii U was marketed, the console didn’t have the most imaginative name, specifically when the ‘U’ had so many different meanings: upgrade, referring to the gamer, and the entire family as a whole. Regardless, the Wii U has the potential to flourish in 2014, similar to the 3DS.

Photo credit: Lars_W

Photo credit: Lars_W

The so-called ‘console wars’ is currently a two-horse race between Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo controls a significant portion of the consumer market (the family), yet is still capable of competing with its rivals. Solving the issue of the Wii U is simple: bolster the current catalogue of titles available. The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One have been released for a few months and they have already shipped millions of units, which is exceptional considering the current collection of titles available. This success will double when the triple AAA titles such as inFamous: Second Son, Quantum Break and Titanfall are released. Nintendo failed in replicating this kind of success with the Wii U in 2013, which has certainly left them on the back foot in 2014. However, they will be able to recover if they utilise the full strength of their first-party titles.

Nintendo does not have the tremendous support of third-party publishers like Sony and Microsoft do, meaning that Nintendo’s home-grown franchises are more vital. There are enough Nintendo characters who could easily lead their own Wii U title: Kirby, Captain Falcon and of course, Samus Aran. The latter would easily offer the Wii U a unique title from the Metroid series, with previous instalments demonstrating how enjoyable the franchise is. The upcoming Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 titles will most certainly strengthen the sales for the Wii U.

The ‘U’ had so many different meanings: upgrade, referring to the gamer, and the entire family as a whole

However, I would like to see them add more creative content to the Wii U. Nintendo would benefit by taking a learning curve like Sony did: create some truly unique intellectual property (IP) that will bring people to their console. Sony has continued to support and create some phenomenal IPs – Uncharted, The Last of Us and inFamous – and yes, some of them revived the fortunes of the PlayStation 3 when it was struggling to compete with the Xbox 360 early in its console cycle. With minds like Shigeru Miyamoto at Nintendo, there is no doubting that the potential of new Nintendo IPs would capture the mood of so many people, certainly putting the Wii U back on a platform to compete with its two competitors.

Nintendo won’t let its image be tarnished by the Wii U, and the console can still succeed. Bringing some new ideas to the current titles would help support the Wii U, particularly if the content begins to rival what Sony and Microsoft are producing. Everyone loves The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but from a retrospective view, the amount of space in that title which was not used makes me think that an open world Zelda title that completely utilises it would be phenomenal. It would push the Wii U’s hardware to the limits. Director Hideo Kojima’s ambition of taking the Metal Gear Solid franchise into an open world setting will be fulfilled with the release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Furthermore, with the amount of space in that title, I expect it to be filled with missions and contracts to keep the player continuously engaged throughout the main campaign. With a Zelda title I would love for it to really build on its open world setting and have it completely filled with content.

Photo credit: Official GDC

Photo credit: Official GDC

Finger-pointing the blame for Nintendo’s current situation is a theme which many are looking for: President Satoru Iwata is one, while the other is a more bizarre choice of Shigeru Miyamoto. The latter is certainly not in the blame and I don’t consider Iwata to be either. Iwata needs to reposition his authority in the company and certainly examine why the current system is lacking content which it needs. He has even halved his own pay, which is admirable for him to do. No more “Year of Luigi” bosh coming from Nintendo, but rather seeing them have a “Year of Success”.

The Wii wasn’t the best ever console, but Nintendo certainly did a number on it and sold millions of units. It also had an interesting selection of titles, keeping the content rich in most cases. So why can’t Nintendo do this for the Wii U? May 2004, a figure emerged at Nintendo’s E3 conference and made this statement of intent: “My name is Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re about makin’ games.” That was Reggie Fils-Aime who made Nintendo sound like the company it should truly be and we seriously need to see that again. Reggie cannot make the same statement when the Wii U is in the current position that it is in.

With so many problems occurring throughout 2013, Nintendo needs to return back to basics and implement the ideas which made their previous consoles so successful. Growing up with titles that the company created, it makes me sad seeing them fall into the current situation that they are in. What can we say; new year, new chance?

8 comments

  1. Title does not reflect the content of the text. Even the subtitle contradicts the bold message of the title.

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    • N… no… no… The title acknowledges that most people consider the console dead, but alludes to an explanation as to how it might avoid that fate. The article goes on to offer that explanation. It’s fine.

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  2. 1 Feb ’14 at 9:03 pm

    Daniel Cooper

    Open-world Zelda?? Everyone loves the Zelda games because they are unique and different. Changing Zelda into some sort of Elder Scrolls-clone would be a disaster for the franchise.

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  3. Ah, the Wii U.

    The Virtual Boy, but less exciting.
    The Dreamcast, but less popular.
    The Wii, yet somehow even more behind the times.

    I don’t know how Nintendo do it.

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  4. “Nintendo is a name so widespread that almost everyone has had a memorable experience from one of their illustrious first-party franchises.” You have a point on that – ALMOST EVERYONE. Gues who are those not included? The new generation of kids. And that is a HUGE problem for Nintendo. They need to do a lot more advertising, they need little kids to know about Mario and company. These kids are not asking their parents to buy them a Wii U, simply because they don’t know about it. I see this happening with little kids, they all play games, yes they do, but not on a Nintendo console. They play on their parents smartphones and tablets, and I’m not saying that those are better for gaming, because they’re not, but Nintendo is not advertising to kids and parents don’t feel the need to invest in a Nintendo console when their kids are fine and happy with mobile games. So my point is that even when the Nintendo name may be one of the most recognized, if they stop advertising their brands people will eventually forget about them, and it can take as little as one generations time to completely erase a huge company from the map.

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    • That’s exactly what their biggest problem is, advertising the Wii U. It’s been out longer than the XBox One and PS4, yet I still know of many people who didn’t even know about the Wii U until I got one this past Christmas.

      Also your point about how kids aren’t being targeted by Nintendo with advertising is spot on as well. Even though the one Wii U commercial I did see obviously catered to children, it only spotlighted one game (Super Mario 3D World). While that may be the Wii U’s best game, why wasn’t Sonic Lost World, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, Game & Wario, Pikmin 3, and the Legend on Zelda: The Windwaker HD getting any of the spotlight? It’s like their communicating a message to kids that says get this expensive console to only buy one game for it. Then Nintendo assumes they’ll buy more games after that.

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  5. 3 Feb ’14 at 2:01 pm

    Milt R. Smith

    “The company needs to replicate the success of the 3DS for the Wii U”.

    Well, no, the company needs to replicate the success of the GBA, DS or Wii for… well…. anything! The 3DS is NOT a success in Nintendo terms, they’ve admitted its sales have been disappointing to press. Their figures show it had its highest sales in 2012 (at less than half those of the GBA’s peak, and a quarter of the DS) and they declined last year, the inference being that it has peaked and will therefore only fall further.

    Milt R. Smith

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  6. Just make that damn next gen pokemon game already.

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