The launch of Nintendo’s latest home console in the market is but here. With approximately 500,000 console units pre-ordered in the U.S. nation-wide and 1.2 million pre-orders in software (that’s 2.4 games per console), the Wii U’s launch was clearly a market success story.
However the test is not over, and Nintendo is certainly far from warranting success at the finish line (or even midway, as of yet) – it is, in fact, only beginning.
I am very enthusiastic for the Wii U and I anticipate giving the console a go for myself (well, as soon as my poor wallet can endure such exploitation). Nevertheless, many factors come into play if we are to evaluate this console as a long-term success, and those mainly depend on how we see it fare a year from now – or looking even further on, three years from now. We saw the Wii fail dismally in backing up its initial promise, despite it being an interesting prospect for the market, and a repeat of this is what we must avoid with the Wii U, regardless of how optimistic a start it has exhibited.
First and foremost, we have a prominent obstacle for games consoles – audience. If there’s anything I have seen cause more of a mindless tumult than people debating whether bacon is best done crispy or chewy (what? There’s no argument here – the answer is “chewy” – ed), it’s the argument of what market a certain console adequately caters for in its majority. The blunt reality is that gaming is no longer the easy niche market it used to be ten years ago – there is no such thing as the “hardcore” audience existing in its lonesome any longer in this industry.
Pleasantly, this is something Nintendo acknowledged with the Wii by appealing to the new-coming “casual” gamer-types; unpleasantly, Nintendo also visibly lost sight of its original audience as a result of this, and ended up isolating its core market in the transition – a particularly costly move in terms of reputation, if not the balance sheet.
In the realm of gaming, a truly successful console is one that caters adequately to both ends of the gaming spectrum – that means consistently paying attention to the requirements of both core gamers and casuals. With the Wii U the main priority of Nintendo should be to focus on re-gaining the appeal of that core market, while not repeating the Wii’s mistake of abandoning the other side. With titles such as Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, New Super Mario Bros. U, Zombi U and Scribblenauts Unlimited launching with the console, it seems as though Nintendo has realised this as an urgency for its success.
However, the question is, will Nintendo keep this up?
Another significant hurdle for the Wii U’s impending acclaim lies in the hands of prospective developers on the console; that of exploitation. As is a familiar truism in the industry, a console is only as good as its games. The Wii U sports some stimulating hardware with its GamePad, and the opportunity is there for the console to fundamentally change how we play games.
The GamePad doesn’t present a concept as revolutionary or rebellious as the Wii did with its control methods, but that’s one thing that’s so congenial about it; it doesn’t deviate so much from the standard that it will be considered ‘difficult,’ by potential developers, as the Wiimote-Nunchuck combo was initially dismissed as. Furthermore, a lot of the GamePad’s ingenuity isn’t exposed in plain sight, and that is the playful challenge the Wii U presents to the minds of developers. The bare constraint for the controller is nothing more than imagination – and when that illusion of difficulty is overcome, it re-defines magic and dreams better than the musings of Walt Disney.
The problem the Wii U faces now is that nothing exceptionally ground breaking or imposing has been achieved with the GamePad yet. One could even go to the extent of saying that it’s near proposing itself as yet another intrusive gimmick. Of course, it is only early days – make that very early days – but the crucial time for which the Wii U will need to prove itself in another stance is already nearing.
The Wii U has seen itself acclaimed among developers as a more modern, budget-friendly and straightforward platform to develop for, which is something many developers do yearn for more of. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, only time can tell whether or not we see the console and its capacities effectively showcased in its affability towards developers.
Sadly the console does not double-up as a coffee brewer (actually, that would be a killer app right there), so the variety of the games line-up on the Wii U will determine who buys it and why. The Wii U is seeing itself a considerably diverse line-up so far with the randomly combined likes of Nintendo Land, Zombi U, Chasing Aurora, Spin The Bottle and The Wonderful 101 – if you look at these games closely, you’ll all see that they do something fundamentally different, and offer a more unique or out-of-the-norm experience in some respects.
In short, we’re seeing some notable experimenting and new concepts on the Wii U in ordinance with the possibilities the system brings to the table; this is something very constructive for the console, as well as the industry. No doubt we will be seeing some newfangled ideas find a successful home on the Wii U – and among all, nothing best defines a new generation more than fresh experiences and unseen novelties made possible in gaming.
– Farida Y
I think you mean, "what Wii want to see next".
Other than that, great article! 😀
I am positive Nintendo kept the "Wii" name purely because it makes for so many great puns.
FIRST OFF, I think this IGN member's thought of the Wii U was excellent in taking into account many contexts such as non-tech savvy consumers: http://www.ign.com/boards/threads/wii-u-system-review-hits-misses-of-nintendo%E2%80%99s-next-gen-titan.452761459/
SECONDLY, I have two suggestions I can think of at the moment.
I like how MiiVerse is shaping up from what I hear, like the friendly community setting. I really hope Nintendo has a clear direction with this service, and that they build upon it. It sounds like it can complement games of various types, such as coloring/illustration programs, hard games like Zombie U and Dark Souls, fitness games, and many more. If it turns out as a big success, then their experiences with the developments of Swapnote, Flipnote Studio, Streetpass, and Wii's Mii Channel will have greatly paid off.
I hope the company is dead serious on providing a smooth experience for game studios, such as providing a polished, tested development environment and being extremely flexible with options of monetization. There's apparently an ongoing argument that the Wii U's CPU may actually be a little less powerful than the PS360. That may be worrying and limiting if it is true, but in this day and age with many economic issues going on, developer productivity is just as important in my opinion.
LASTLY, I have some fear that the Wii U, which I think has a huge amount of potential in evolving video games, will have moderate success at best in bringing something new to video games. Developing video games that fully embrace what the Wii U is capable of sounds like a big proposition to the extent of being risky. Seriously, topics concerning the adaptation of game design and development to new places should be brought up in video game studies more often.
I got a suggestion of my own:
Lets a get a crazy-awesome NEW DARK SOULS for the Wii U!
More seriously (though NEW DARK SOULS would be seriously awesome), to your final point, I am 96% sure products such as what you describe are exactly what Nintendo is brewing back home in Kyoto (and Tokyo and probably Texas). For their whole modern consumer product history, it has fallen on them to provide the genre-defining "This Is How You Do It" beacon software that guides the subsequent industry efforts on their platforms. I think they will continue with this model, until the day comes when that model is broken.
Somewhat unrelated, but I have been amused at the coverage on certain other websites that have complained about the lack of news on a "true Mario/Zelda/Metroid successor". In some cases, such articles have gone on to deduct "points" from their Wii U "grade" (how you judge a platform before it has run its course, I do not know). Isn't it obvious? OF COURSE Nintendo is working on a new Mario/Zelda/Metroid game. They perpetually are. It is not even a point of contention…in fact, not so long ago a popular complaint was indeed "here comes Mario/Zelda/Metroid again!" Baffled.
A disappointing lack of "U/You" puns in the launch lineup tho :
I liked ZombiU tho until I was told that, no, you are not supposed to pronounce the title with a terrible fake French accent.
Oh yes, that amuses me greatly too – it's like people are actually assuming that just because Nintendo hasn't announced something now, that it will not develop a game in its most important franchises for the Wii U.
It's an incredibly strange assumption to make.