Editorial: Can the Wii U Be Salvaged?

Oh yeah, that's right, they still are not available for sale, another quality idea from Nintendo.

You can find plenty of Wii U’s in stores but never the GamePad.

It has now been just over four months since the launch of the Wii U, and it is impossible to consider the system a success. According to numbers from VGChartz, the Wii U has sold 131,000 units to date, a pathetic total. The Wii U sales total is just as bad on global scale, with its current generation rivals out selling it by a large amount. Had the Wii U been released six years ago with the PS3 and 360, these sales would not be nearly as shocking. However, the Wii U was just released in November, features “innovative” technology with the GamePad, and is the successor to a console that is closing on a hundred million units sold. Things are already bad for Nintendo, but they stand to get a lot worse when Sony and Microsoft release their respective next-gen consoles.

When the Wii U was first released, a lot of commotion was made about its hardware specs. Jaded fantards praised the Wii U as a next-gen console, comparing the its specs to the PS3 and 360. The truth of the matter is that the Wii U was Nintendo’s attempt to match the current consoles, as opposed to kick starting the next generation in any meaningful way. This became evident when the titles that were ported to the Wii U looked, at best, exactly the same as their PS3 and 360 releases. Normally, it is expected that launch titles represent the bare minimum a console can produce, however with the Wii U, that may not be the case. Most new consoles contain brand new processors that developers have to code for, but Nintendo decided that all the Wii U needed was a Wii processor that has three cores and an increased clock speed. This means developers already had a pretty good idea of what the processor was capable of from the start, rather than it being a little square of unknown.

What the hell? My Wii U has 2GB of RAM and a tri-core processor, why can I not live out my voyeuristic fantasies in Watchdogs U?

Wii U owners will be when they realize their “next-gen” console can not play next-gen games.

In the past, gamers have shown that they will flock to the console with the best choice of games, even if it is not a technological beast. The PlayStation 2 was not the best console from a technology standpoint, but it had the best library of games for its generation, helping it lead the way in sales. The Wii U features an almost barren library lacking even one title that could be considered a must have. The few ports that have landed on the console have lacked any major additions, instead opting for thrown in GamePad “enhancements” that contribute little to the gameplay experience. Had developers added great new features or exclusive DLC for their ports, they may have been able to entice the more hardcore fans to purchase a Wii U just to experience their favorite titles in a new way.

Apart from the lackluster ports, the Wii U’s exclusive games are just as boring. Zombie U had many people anxiously waiting its release, but it ended up being a massive disappointment, with many reviewers citing its boring combat and setting as flaws. Besides Zombie U and New Super Mario Bros. U, the Wii U offers very little in terms on games that are not ports. To pile on a bit, the Wii U’s lack of success is also leading to developers abandoning plans of Wii U exclusive games, further removing gamers’ desire to buy the console.

Its got Mario, and not much else!

299 US Dollars! 299 US Dollars!

The last thing that is holding back the Wii U is also the easiest to remedy, the price. When the console first launched, the price was seen as about fifty dollars too high. Time has not changed opinions on the price either. In fact, even certain UK retailers have slashed fifty pounds(which I can assume is about three dollars in American money) off of their prices for both models of the Wii U. Considering that there has been no official price drop, it can be assumed that those UK retailers are now selling the console at a loss. So far, Nintendo has flat-out refused to drop the price because they already lose money on each console sold, that is until a game is purchased.

Nintendo has a mountain to climb with the Wii U, and it seems that they keep walking further from the base. Rather than heralding in the next generation, the Wii U represents Nintendo’s entry into the current generation, albeit six years too late. The GamePad could have some intriguing uses in many games, but, like Nintendo did with the Wii’s motion control, it needs to be something that is naturally added to a game, not forced into it because it is Nintendo’s latest gimmick. As for the Nintendo’s rivals, both have pulled an Apple and switched from PowerPC CPUs to x86 CPUs. Due to the x86 architecture being a standard that is well known, developers will be able to spend less time understanding the nuances with the new CPUs and more time trying to get the most power out of the CPU.

The decision to not sell the console at a true loss is a big reason that Nintendo is not in panic mode yet. Nintendo’s primary goal is to make money, and the Wii U does give them a small source of profit. While the Wii U will not be able to compete in technological sense with the PS4 and 720, it can win consumers over with great releases. However, with the console lacking the power to play ports of next gen titles, Nintendo will once again be forced to rely on first-party games. For the time being, a drastic price cut is in order. One hundred dollars off would sell the console to many people, including me, even without the promise of next gen support. While I do not expect that much of a price cut, Nintendo must do something to right the Wii U, or this will be an extremely long generation for Nintendo.

9 comments on “Editorial: Can the Wii U Be Salvaged?”

  1. Even if I were to suddenly obtain a Wii U, I probably wouldn’t rush to find space for it among my many other consoles, and make room on the power strip to plug it in. I mean, maybe eventually, out of curiosity, but not right away. And I love Nintendo.

    So, price isn’t a problem for me. Graphical capabilities aren’t a problem for me either. There’s just not a lot out there I want to play and not much coming down the pipe that I’m excited for. The inevitable Zeldas, Marios (real ones), and perhaps other franchises (like Metroid or F-Zero) will be the reason I buy this thing eventually. But Monster Hunter, Pikmin and the vague promise of another Smash Brothers aren’t going to sell me on a whole new console. I need more now and more to look forward to later.

    And just from my own speculation, if a system isn’t selling like mad early on, then it likely won’t set the world on fire later. Quality notwithstanding, the PS3 was a slow burn and never really over took the 360. The original Xbox and Gamecube also were slow out the gate and stayed in lagging positions. From what I can tell, big jumps later in life tend to happen more with handhelds than home consoles.

  2. Much of the 360’s lead in sales is due to its earlier release. By the time the PS3 hit, Microsoft had nearly sold six million consoles. A bad economy, huge price tag, and later release meant that people that bought 360s were not rushing out to by PS3s. Also, Sony’s marketing has its share of the blame. The 360 got a nice boost when the Kinect hit because the public was saturated with adevertisements about it. Sony basically used the Move to advertise a Killzone game. Sony’s marketing team is also the reason that they are always beat out by Microsoft during the holiday season.

  3. I teach at elementary schools in Japan. I have only ever heard TWO students mention the Wii U. I have heard hundreds of kids talk about the DS, PSP, and Wii, though. It may be doomed.

  4. @Zoltan: Is is possible that the children are simply generalising the Wii and the Wii U under the same generic heading of ‘Wii’?

    I suppose that would just speak to the problems inherent in releasing a console that has a name and appearance which is virtually indistinguishable from that of its predecessor…

  5. No. The kids seem to realize that Wii U is not Wii. The kids always state specifically whether they have a DS, DSi, or a DS lite. I’m sure only the heaviest (I’m referring to their habits not size) of those gaming children would bother to ask their parents to buy them a Wii U and explain that it is a different console. By the way, the DS is by FAR the most popular among elementary school kids. I don’t think the DS was out when I taught high school but over 5 years ago or so, those older kids mostly played the PSP and some PS3 among the hardcore.

  6. I really hope that the Wii U’s muted success will cause them to take some creative risks for the first time in a long time.

  7. @Ethos: You got the same idea as me. The N64 played host to some creative risks, indeed.

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