Why a PS3 game reminded me the Wii U may just be a mega-success

13 mins read

I think it’s safe to say the Wii U’s launch in the US has been mired with controversy. From the massive day one update, to long load times, to the console’s big exclusive releases receiving mixed scores, Nintendo’s next generation of hardware has not had the happiest first 24 hours in existence.

It’s easy to get caught up in that negativity. Indeed, there seems to be a portion of the gaming community that are taking a perverse joy in the console’s failures. And, yes, there are legitimate criticisms of the console that need to be resolved before it has a hope of replicating the success of the original Wii.

There is a message that seems to be lost amongst all this criticism though, and it’s one that I feel is important to point out because it means that ultimately the Wii U has more than a fighting chance in the market – it’s likely to be a successful venture for Nintendo. That message is that this console is damned fun to play, and just as crucially it’s fun for significantly different reasons that Sony and Microsoft consoles are fun to play. Nintendo would have fallen on its sword to try and do what its rivals are doing. It hasn’t though, and the different focus of the Wii U should see it occupy a very specific, and quite lucrative, niche.

The Wii U doesn’t launch here in Australia for another ten days, but a couple of local Digitally Downloaded folks have had the opportunity to play it either at a recent gaming expo, and again at a pop-up shop “experience” that Nintendo has set up in Sydney. At the bottom of this piece you can read the impressions of Digitally Downloaded’s Sam, and they’re impressions I completely agree with.

Before we get to that though, I’m going to tell a little story that explains where I think the appeal – and ultimate success – of Nintendo’s Wii U lies. Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing a lot of Dead or Alive 5 on the PlayStation 3. After originally playing the single player game enough to run a review of it I largely left it alone. It’s a good game, but as a single player experience it is, like most fighting games, limited.

But then my wife finally got around to buying a PS3 controller of her own, and we have since sunk dozens of hours into the local multiplayer of this game. It’s simply more fun than online multiplayer. Knowing the person that you’re playing with means it’s far less likely you’re going to get offensive slurs thrown your way. Competing with someone sitting right next to you is just generally a lot more fun.

In short, Dead or Alive 5 was a spectacular reminder of just how important local multiplayer can be to the experience of a game. A game that is of middling value becomes spectacular when another person with a controller walks into the room.

Now, consider this: the Wii U is built almost entirely around the local multiplayer experience.

Yes, the ports of games like Mass Effect 3 or Assassin’s Creed 3 are not as spectacular as we might have liked. Yes, the GamePad doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience of those games, or the single-player game in general. And yes, Zombie U’s single player may well be a limited experience.

But even some reviews that slam Zombie U’s single player admit the local multiplayer is a lot of fun. The NintendoLand minigames are a riot when there is five people playing together. The New Super Mario Brothers Wii U is a very traditional Mario platformer, and that’s going to disappoint a few people. In multiplayer though? It’s a great time, and the GamePad support means that even the most inexperienced gamer can join in to this game and have a good time.

We often forget that the real strength of the Wii was that it brought families together. The likes of Just Dance, Super Smash Brothers and Wii Sports were almost universally dull games in single player, and the online options for most Wii games was really poor. Because of those two factors, the console got a reputation for being a failure amongst serious gamers. It wasn’t, because it was the best console, bar none, for local multiplayer.

Now my wife and I can play local multiplayer with the PS3, we’ve quickly come to realise how limited it is for that function. There’s the fighting games, and they’re great. There’s also a couple of Warriors games that we both like (such as Warriors Orochi 3). But there just are not that many local multiplayer games that are high-quality, and have an appeal universal enough that both my wife and I – two very different people with very different tastes in games – can sit down and enjoy together. We still play more Wii games together, in fact, because that console has a broader range of neutral, or universally appealing local multiplayer games.

So, the Wii U. Yes, it’s going to face some market challenges such as its price, and I strongly suspect that the nature of Nintendo’s architecture and design philosophy means that the console will not convert many gamers that were dissatisfied with the Wii.

But, once it hits the right price point, and once Nintendo’s marketing machine breaks into the family environment? Yes, I do think the Wii U will again bring families together for gaming sessions, and I do believe that the Wii U will be another long-term success for Nintendo.

We all just need to remind ourselves of what Nintendo does well, and stop lambasting it for failures that will ultimately not affect its sales for anyone but the N4G crowd.

Wii U Preview

As we do have to wait until November 30 for the first Digitally Downloaded staff to get their hands on the Wii U, take Sam M’s following in-depth impressions on the experience of the Wii U as our pre-review review:

Last Thursday, Matt and myself were invited to play Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii U. There was quite a lot on offer with servings of Mario and NintendoLand, but also offered a few third party titles including Darksiders 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3.

But first, the tablet itself. It does feel very light in your hands, which is surprising. The main problem I had with the controller is that it feels spread out. When holding any of the controllers used with the current systems, I can reach everything without having to move my hand. They’re accessible. Even on the 3DS, I can touch the touch screen without having to move my hands. But the Wii U, given its size, requires too much activity for my hands to be able to cover its entire real-estate.

I hate saying that I don’t like playing with the GamePad though, because ergonomics aside playing with it is so much fun. The code that we played NintendoLand on had four multiplayer games on offer; Metroid Blast, Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. I didn’t get to try out Animal Crossing, but the other three are a lot of fun.

Metroid is an absolute blast. Four players work together to attack the gunship, which is controlled by the gamepad. The controls feel like they were taken out of a Metroid game. Both Luigi’s Ghost Mansion and Mario Chase are also a blast to play. What makes all of these games so fun is how all the players work together against the gamepad player. It’s more prominent in Luigi and Mario, as there are visual and rumble cues you can use to communicate with your allies to your advantage. In Metroid Blast, the design doesn’t feel like there are many visual landmarks, so it’s normally a case of every man for themselves, scan the skies and shoot.

Mario is still Mario. New Super Mario Bros. U brings the same hectic nature that was found in the Wii game. The gamepad can be used in two ways to both assist and hinder. It would be great for young players who aren’t so experienced with the platforming aspects of Mario, and still want to be part of the adventure, but it can also be used to block jumps, sending your friends (or foes) plummeting to their deaths. Mario looks very nice in HD, and this looks to be very promising.

Assassin’s Creed 3 looks and feels very nice but the demo I played didn’t make great use of the touchpad, rather, it showed the same information available to me that was already available on the screen. Darksiders 2 uses the gamepad as an inventory management, which allows for real-time management. I was playing Darksiders 2 in standard definition, according to my booth man, and it still looked really clear and crisp. The same can’t be said for the gamepad that the game was streaming to, though. Because the screen is so small the text is near impossible to read.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Wii U will do for multiplayer. We already saw a big change in the way families play games after the Wii, and I don’t think it will be any different this time round. The single player experiences have yet to deviate from what I can pick up on the console equivalents though, and I don’t think we will see some revolutionary developments in that area for quite some time, that is, until Nintendo steps in to show us all how it’s done.

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

  • Funny thing is, "Wii U" stands for "Wii You." It was introduced as a system that was designed to be a more single player focused system. Came right out of Reggie's mouth two year's ago at E3.

    Now, apparently, that's irrevelant and it's "Wii Your Way," even though the fundamental design has stayed the same.

    Why do I need to purchase a new system for us all to play with Wiimotes?

  • Nice piece, Matt. You are the hero that the gaming industry needs, but not the one that we deserve. Or whatever that Batman quote was. Eh, you can't blame me for trying.

    Yes, I copied that from my comment on N4G. 😛

    I look forward to DD's take on Nintendo Land and NSMBU. Those are the games I would want the most on Wii U.

  • i agree very much on the amount of hate that nintendo and wii u is getting"

    (as many just peruse the "negative nintendo quote of the day"crap and flood the forums ad nausem, i must disagree on assasins creed 3 though, so far ive played it on the gamepad alone…and the feeling is exilirating. rendered in 3d is a plus (no noticible frame rate drops)..yes im a 42 year old gaming dinosaur. (started back in 85) but its sad to see "fellow gamers" regardless of choice of platform, wanting nintendo to fail so bad..(this extends to some sites as well)

    anyway sorry for the rant, kudos and regardless of launch hiccups i must say the fun ive had in so few hours is telling to what i can expect from the wii u in the long haul.

  • I will never understand why people criticise a console – any console – at launch. Of course things are going to go wrong. It's what happens over the next six months that will count. It was those six months that hurt the 3DS – not the launch itself.

    I suspect the Wii U will start to show its strengths in the market in six months, and that's when families will start to wake up to it.

  • Thanks for the reply Matt, but from what i gather, its not a matter of the console..its more along the lines of people and media most of the time simply blindly bashing for the sake of it. you read most comments and if you dare speak nicely about a good experience had on a nintendo product, you get bombarded by ten or twenty "hardcore gamers" stating the same cookie cutter responses they produce.but i digress, i fear for this industry when i see us gamers as a colective openly bashing and enjoying others failures or misteps, with the notion that that will get them a better product or experience…i hope people in the end consider the error of their ways before they bring down the industry with them.

  • That's what I'm working hard to counter, htaed 7 :). The games community in general – from the gamers through to the media and the developers/ publishers, have a long way to go before the games industry can be taken as seriously as the film industry as a form of entertainment and a artistic experience.

    This is despite the games industry being worth as much.

    The best place to start is for the media organisations to report accurately, though. The criticisms of the Wii U are often legitimate, but they also need to be balanced and properly distributed by the media. The reporting I've seen of the Wii U has been fairly poor overall, so I agree with you there.

  • If that is the case Matt, more power to you.
    Its funny and ironic in a cruel sort of way, that way back in the 80's and 90's the mainstream perception was that everyone who enjoyed this was "nerdy" or "geeky" (in a time when those terms were degrading..jaja) and being in such a clasification ment that we would be more protective of our fellow gamers, we were a comunity in every sense of the word minus internet of course.
    we were the "hardcore" then, because we would game on anything that would give us great games.
    again the irony lies in the fact that now that very mainstream autoproclaims themselfs as Hardcore and we are relegated to being "casuals".
    i miss dearly the great publications like electronic gaming mag of old, the gamepro, the diehard gamefan among others. and above else the respect and love towards japanese culture and gaming, nowadays its like people want to erase that from our history like it never happened by trying to force feed us on western publishers (nothing against them, but i feel all deserve respect and support)
    again sorry for the vent, but i feel you understand
    I wish for a day where i can talk to a fellow gamer about the greatness of a particular game, without having them respond so quickly with a: why you want to play on an x years outdated hardware? or my console is better because it pulls off 4 fps more than yours crap.

  • I'm glad you mentioned Gamepro – I worked there for a number of years 🙂 It was a great publication.

    In terms of magazines, Famitsu is pretty much the only one I read these days – I hope you hang around, good sir, because believe me, you won't find a bigger supporter of Japanese games amongst the gaming press 🙂 I live and breathe them.

  • See, I think it's funny that the Wii U is being heralded as a system for "local multiplayer" gaming, when it was originally sold as "Wii You" – a console *more* (not solely) single player focused. But hey, tack on some Wiimotes from last generation (and an extra GamePad at some point in the future) and it's now a local multiplayer console!

    Err… sorry. I just don't buy it. If I'm going to play with Wiimotes, it's going to be on games that I'm picking up for a few bucks on the Wii, not a system I've got to shell out $300+ for.

    Nintendo's advertising for Wii U has been terrible. I'm still hearing a lot of talk of parents going into stores thinking that the GamePad is just an add-on for the Wii. The system's identity has been all over the place: first it was Nintendo bringing the console experience back to the hardcore gamers; then it was the best console for local multiplayer and now it apparently does pretty much everything.

    Wii U has a broken identity and that's where a good bit (not all) of the criticism comes from.

  • The way I see it, the local multiplayer thing is a bit of a hidden Easter Egg. The console is being marketed (in Australia, at least) as a definite sequel to the Wii – even if not everyone quite gets that yet – and that it's in HD, has Mario, etc etc.

    I only discovered just how good it is with local multiplayer when Sam, my wife and I were able to play multiplayer together. The familiarity with the people I was playing with, coupled with the asynchronous multiplayer (which is genuinely innovative for local multiplayer) was an absolute blast – not dissimilar to the experience of playing Wii Sports for the first time.

    Unfortunately, that's a kind of entertainment value that is almost impossible to market, aside from getting people to do it, so the Wii U is going to be a console that grows more from word of mouth than anything else, I suspect.

  • Oh, I've absolutely no doubt that it's a complete blast in local multiplayer!

    For me, I don't have the option for local multiplayer but a handful of times a year any more. When I do, we're usually either pulling the Wii out, or playing Sports Champions with PS Move or jumping around with a Kinect game.

    This is where I see an issue with Wii U. If you don't have the option for consistent local multiplayer and have the other systems, then there's just not a whole lot of reason to shell out the high cost for the system, unless there's a game you just 'have to have.'

    The vast majority of the games for Wii U will likely be multiplatform and that's because of the Unity engine. A lot of people don't realise that the Unity engine is actually designed to allow developers to easily create games across multiple platforms and excitement for its use with Wii U has been overwhelmingly positive. But, it's also becoming ever more apparent that console exclusive aren't the way to go any more, even with indie titles. Different Tuna (Derrick the Deathfin) hasn't even made their money back ($64,000 USD) with their PSN release yet.

    I see a lot of the Wii U indie titles making their way to tablets. 🙂

  • I think in all fairness the Wii was in the same position, and it still managed to be a roaring success. Those of us who live and breathe the games industry (myself included) often forget that we're not the numbers. The numbers are the families with young children for whom the Wii was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Sunday evening together.

    Playing some local multiplayer at home with the PS3 (and realising how limited it is for that experience, unless you shell out for a Move, and even then there's not that many interesting games to play) woke me up to where the Wii U's strength and potential lies – it's in that local multiplayer story. Whether a consumer is buying it because they think it's an add-on for the Wii, or a dedicated new console, is essentially irrelevant. They're buying it, they're going to tell their friends about how much fun it was for little Johnny to chase them around in Catch Mii, and their friends are going to go out and buy it.

    It's the kind of think that made Monopoly popular while billions of other board games failed. The social interaction (and social marketing) is going to be a strong drawcard here, I suspect.

    It's just that most "hardcore" gamers will, once again, roll their eyes at the console once Nintendo gives up trying to please them.

  • "Your lack of faith is troubling"..err never mind.
    you know, there was a time when pc gaming was thought all but dead, there was a time when i used to laugh at how that little company called electronic arts competed with the japan giants at the time and made quality games,hell i even thought back then.."these guys could be Godfather's "Don" of gaming (im not laughing anymore…sigh). and there used to be a time when Nintendo (by accident or choice, dosent matter)
    rescued gaming from the gutter, laying the foundations to make this industry as huge as it is today.

    out of the three points in time guess which is fact..and the rest PERCEPTION.

    In the end what eventually could kill our industry isnt the Mobile sector, tablets, fisical vs digital media, or the deficiency of yen.
    (i have a theory bear with me)
    i believe console wars of old (yes sega vs snes was funny) plus the advent of internet and some keen marketing from publishers,
    at some point exploded and got out of hand.
    the result: the real calamity of our hobby…trolls,pc elitists (console too but mostly them),self entitled "gamers" who get in the way of the creative process..(cough,mass effect 3..cough) who are gaming nowadays for the wrong reasons.
    to me it has been eating away at gamers..slowly but surely to the point
    where only the cookie cutter yearly ed, trumps the new ip's almost all time.
    AGAIN, whats most ironic or double standard..is that the media, the above mentioned elitists, and some of the many "jaded hardcore gamers"out there that flood the forums that bash inovation in favor of POWER and grafics, when are questioned of their favorite all time games, most mention Mario,Zelda,Metroid among their top pics.

    Do you see something wrong with this picture?
    …Yes most certainly, yes. And that is a fact not perception.

  • Mate, we're on the EXACT same page here! 🙂

    I absolutely want to see Wii U's success in the market and I believe it will, but not for the reasons that the media (or Nintendo themselves initially, and sometimes still do, market it as) "a core gaming console," or the "start of the next generation of home consoles."

    To me, all of the above is hogwash. It's 'the next generation of Nintendo's home console' and that's exactly what I want it to be. I don't want them to hide their system specifications (that's how you know something isn't right when it comes to true next generation multiplatform ports), because if it isn't going to be able to handle the 'real' next generation's games, then don't sell it as a console that can do just that, because what really matters is that it's Nintendo's next home console and if you're still loving Nintendo's games or a gamer new to Nintendo, there's a guarantee that you're going to absolutely adore the system for their first party titles alone.

    Like you've clearly stated before me, it's a matter of perspective and Nintendo has blurred those lines so severely on their own, that they've fed the naysayer and hater crowds, and make people like me – those who enjoy the criticism for positive reasons – look bad.

    I believe that you are indeed right that it is the gamers themselves who are killing our industry. The constant need for more, unwillingness to try new or creative games types, etc., that are driving the industry (home consoles) into the ground. But, if you look at the mobile industry with a different perspective, you'll see that there are awesome games cropping up on that front that are bringing "videogames" back to their roots, and I've been revelling all in it here lately too. 🙂

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Previous Story

    Primal Carnage is updated; now comes with music

    Next Story


    Latest Articles