There are many out there that have anticipated and heralded the doom of Nintendo on a seemingly endless number of occasions (you know who you are). Those individuals would say the venerable company has been on a continuous decline, and then completely abandoned the hardcore fanbase with Wii, and many believe that the Wii U will be Nintendo’s death rattle. Not only do I believe the doomsayers are wrong, but I believe that the Wii U will have good sales, and indeed given the right circumstances could be a smashing success.
Nintendo may not have always seen eye to eye with most hardcore gamers, indeed since the Super Nintendo they’ve been slowly falling out of graces with third parties which means less games on their systems. They’ve always had the first party series that are etched into our very childhood, but for most gamers that simply isn’t enough. With the Wii U, Nintendo seeks to come back into the hardcore fold, as it where, and prove it has what it takes to not only outsell the big boys like it did with the Wii, but win back the hearts of the hardcore gamers that pretty much built the company. It’s going to be a long uphill battle, but I believe that Nintendo is heading in the right direction to obtain that goal. Sure the Wii U has some flaws, but overall it’s an impressive piece of equipment that I think people discard too easily.
Let’s get Nintendo’s biggest mistakes out of the way first, as well as discuss some of the points that many people (some co-workers included) point out first and foremost as the reasons Wii U will fail. First off I think that everyone ( hardcore Nintendo fans with Hyrule shield tattoos included) can agree that Nintendo screwed up with the name of the system and the way it was presented overall. Sure, the Wii was an unmitigated success sales wise and building off an existing brand is usually a very smart idea, but not when it comes to an upgrade of your console. This goes double when a lot of the people you want to upgrade are the casual crowd and are already confused on whether or not this is a new system, a Nintendo tablet, or some sort of add on controller. A lot of us that are on the internet every day on gaming sites and are generally knowledgeable don’t need to be shown these things, but for the casual market (that dwarfs us 4 to 1) they aren’t sure what to think. Nintendo needed a new name to set this product apart I think, though at this point we kind of make do with what we are given. They should have come fast and furious out of the gate at E3, instead of the late to the party with a Nintendo Direct video. Yes, it was the only big news during that week, but it also wasn’t front and center of a huge media show, which it could have been.
[pullquote_left]Nintendo is usually at it’s best when it bucks the norm and embraces innovation; it worked for Wii, the DS and it could work for the Wii U.[/pullquote_left]
Second Nintendo’s new system is just over a month away, and yet still we have little to no solid information about their online strategy. We know about the Miiverse and TVii, but what about how the hardcore gamers they are seeking are going to manage their online experience? Will it be on one overall account? Will the terrible friend codes be gone for good? These are questions we still don’t have the answer to; a month from release that’s baffling, and honestly a little worrying.
Another big thing you hear people say is that Wii U is a current gen console that is just playing catch up with Xbox and Playstation, and I simply don’t believe that is true. Yes, graphically Nintendo is playing catch up and will finally be able to be host to the same types of games that Microsoft and Sony have enjoyed this entire generation. However, there is much more to a new gaming experience than just smashing as many extra polygons onto the screen as possible. Do we really need to see each individual bead of sweat on an athlete or be able to count each individual piece of grass? Sure this stuff looks great, but isn’t it the same old games we’ve been playing with a new coat of paint? Many would argue that by the Wii U not taking that extra leap to what they would consider next generation graphics that they are setting themselves up to be behind in just a year; again I don’t believe that this is entirely the case.
First off, Microsoft and Sony are still very happy with the dollars rolling in the door; and I really don’t think they see much of a threat in Wii U. They are at a point that they are making a solid profit on consoles, something that doesn’t happen really until late in the life cycle of a console due to them usually selling at a loss. Especially with Playstation 3 this seems to be the case, since in the last few years is when it’s really began closing the gap sales wise. With constant upgrades to the hardware and things like Kinect and Move being added to the experience these consoles are different beasts than what we’ve ever had in a console before. We’ve seen comments on the web that neither Microsoft or Sony are eager to rush into a new generation and with all these factors I really don’t think we will be seeing a new system released next year from either of them. It would be very rare for a console to be announced at E3 (which I believe both companies will do) and release within that same year. That could possibly give the Wii U a year and a half to a full two years of being the only new thing on the market, and I think people are severely underestimating that. [pullquote_right]That could possibly give the Wii U a year and a half to a full two years of being the only new thing on the market, and I think people are severely underestimating that. [/pullquote_right]
Gamers and tech heads like new and shiny, and once the news outlets get a hold of this tablet combined with a true console experience (in addition to the Wii’s motion control), I think the Wii U has the potential to absolutely explode. Whether you like the idea of the console or not, it’s something that’s instantly accessible and something that neither of the competitors has. Instead of just being about better graphics the Wii U is something truly new in the gaming space with endless possibilities of input and control available. Maybe it’ll be a bit confusing, but in one space you have the touch screen, motion controls (that actually work: I’m looking at you Kinect), the pro controller, and a bevy of accessories that many gamers already own; all backwards compatible with the new system.
Ok, so Microsoft has announced their Smart Glass and Sony has the PS Vita and the PS3 hook up, but I think people are missing a key issue here. First off not everyone has a smart phone or a tablet and numbers show every PS3 owner doesn’t own a Vita. Even if you look at the base numbers and add it up the entry fee for either of these systems permeatations of a Wii U set up is more expensive than the new console. On top of that in order to fully take advantage of the hardware developers would need to be able to assume that the consumer has access to these functions. I just don’t see many developers stepping up to make games for a set up that maybe 30 percent of the install base will have (that might even be being generous with statistics).
This isn’t the case with the Wii U. Indeed, developers know that the consumer will have everything in his hands to make the experience work, with equipment that’s already been proven. Many of these same developers have already had experience with the DS and made some really awesome stuff happen with those two little screens and a little bit of computing power. Imagine that blown up to a console experience and one large viewing space.
If you look at it from one perspective Wii U could be an utter failure. Nintendo is just now joining the HD race and is going to be left behind graphically within the next two years yet again. A lot of launch titles are just ports of existing games that most people have already played and the online functionality of the Wii U is still shrouded in vagueness, with Nintendo not having the best track record in that area anyway. They didn’t market the new console appropriately and pretty much dropped the ball with their E3 presentation, that could have blown people’s minds. Oh, and the name is stupid.
However, if you tilt your perspective just a tad you’ll see a machine that is not only a new way to play games, but something that brings all types of games to one space. You’ll be able to enjoy things like Assassin’s Creed on the same system that you can crack out Mario on. The system will be instantly appealing to pretty much anyone with children and to tech heads and gamers that desperately want something new in the console space during a generation that has lasted what seems like forever. Nintendo is usually at it’s best when it bucks the norm and embraces innovation; it worked for Wii, the DS and it could work for the Wii U.
In addition, if what I predict above is true, Microsoft and Sony are basically giving Nintendo the space of a year and a half to two years to build a stronger customer base and catch up on lost time. Both companies have pretty much written Nintendo off in most cases, and I think that’s a huge mistake. If Nintendo plays their cards right, and they are certainly aligned to do so, than by the time Xbox 720 and PS4 come out (which will both undoubtedly be very expensive with the tech they are talking about) we may see a situation where Nintendo has grabbed a large population of gaming it hasn’t had the attention of in a while; a population that may not be ready to throw down another 400 or 500 dollars for just another pretty graphical upgrade.
Time will certainly tell, but if anything people can stop saying Nintendo and the Wii U is doomed. I think they’ll be just fine.