The Wii U: worth buying?

TWiiUhe Nintendo Wii. The Wii was a breakthrough video game console. A breakthrough in several ways. It brought gaming to a whole new group of people. It got gamers actively involved in the games via the innovative and simple Wii Remote and its add-ons.  It reintroduced others to a whole raft of classic Nintendo characters.  As cool as the Wii was, it was lacking in many ways. The biggest strike against the console: it’s lackluster graphics. Yes, it is about the games, but its lack of high-definition video output made the console seem obsolete right out of the gate. It also had a huge storage issue: you could only use the SD cards for storing data, not the games.  Nintendo fixed that, but could not do anything with the video output. Yet, the console sold tens of millions of units. For four years, the console remained difficult to purchase.  And then, it was. Nintendo could not give them away. So, what do they do? Why, they introduce the Wii U.

The Wii U hardware was bolder: it was true high definition, featured HDMI output and, what’s this? Another oddball controller?

Playing on the tablet craze, Nintendo made the Player one controller Windows Phone 238this odd, six inch touch screen tablety device. Sure, it has all of the standard controller controls, but this touch screen? What the hell are they going to do with that? Well, the intention was to use it as as secondary screen for games that were designed to use it. For example, Call of Duty uses it for your heads up display. There’s a golf game where you set the pad on the floor and use a Wii Remote as your club. You swing and aim for the ball on the display, which then transfers to your television. Cool. Only…well, it hasn’t’ really caught on.

In fact…

The Wii U has not set any sales records. While it may have surpassed the Intellivision and the GameCube in sales, it is nowhere near what the Wii did.

Why?

Well, there are many reasons, but Nintendo deserves the biggest blame. Not the console.

The console is terrific.  It is fast, has gorgeous video and a friendly user interface. It has user profiles and parental controls.  The eShop works well.  You can tie it to your Nintendo.com user account.  There are tons of virtual console games and more on the way. Games can work with the 3DS and the retail games are slightly cheaper. Plus, many third party publishers have supported the console.

Well, they DID support it. Many have abandoned the console while others are still supporting it, but it has taken a back seat to the XBOX and Sony Playstation. Games like Call of Duty Ghosts and the Batman games are out, but the DLC have been cancelled. No map packs for Call of Duty and the new story line for the Batman game is history.  Buyers of these games on the U have been given the royal shaft by these publishers.

Blame Nintendo.

This company has done nothing to differentiate the console from its predecessor. They pulled a George HW Bush: rather than saying WHY he should be re-elected, he rode on the coat tails of his success against Iraq during the first Gulf War. Nintendo tried to rely on the success of the Wii to sell the new console. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell consumers that the Wii U was NOT a Wii add on, which many thought. They didn’t tell consumers WHY the U is better. They failed to show what the U can do. They had one or two short lived commercials in the US and that was it. For every Nintendo commercial I saw, there must have been ten for the XBOX. 

Is it too late?

No, but they don’t have much time.  There are some big hitters coming, like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Brothers U. A new Zelda game has been promised and a few other favorite characters. The problem is that these should have been out already. These are system seller games and should have been out when the console debuted and certainly in time for the previous holiday season.

The console is spot on: build quality, ease of use, compatibility with Wii accessories and good games. I think the Wii is a bit more attractive, but the U is nice to look at as well.  It’s storage is still a bit weak, but much better than the Wii.

Look, even with the woes, this is a console worth buying and it is a shame that it gets little love. The media have also contributed to the consoles poor reception. They, the gaming press, finally got their revenge for the Wii. Remember, they poo-poo’d the Wii. Dogged it for years. When the sales stayed constant, they did back down. The stories about Wii’s collecting dust must have been a pile of poo since Wii software also dominated the sales charts for most of the console’s life.You don’t sell that much software if the product is collecting dust. And those sales were not all new purchasers.

Nintendo would do well to start advertising this thing as a new console. Let people know why they want this thing. Create buzz.  It really is a worthwhile purchase if you play games.  I hope they start supporting their product. If they wait much longer, Mario might need that iPad. And so would Nintendo. Let’s not let that happen.

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