3 Days After Wii U's Announcement, Its Future Already Looks Bleak

Preface: Already, I know a lot of you will say it’s far too early to make the bold claim my headline infers. “The console isn’t coming out for another year at the earliest. A lot can change in 12-18 months.” you will say, and I agree. What we know about the Wii U now is not indicative of how the system will fare when it’s finally released. However, that doesn’t mean we should ignore what we currently know about the system until it’s launch.

Another E3, another year of big news and announcements–among them, the Wii’s much rumored successor, the Wii U (previously under the pseudonym “Project Café”). A new console sporting HD “next gen” graphics, with a peculiar tablet-inspired controller that situates a 6.2 inch touch screen between a button layout typical of most gamepads. Met by the crowd with much applause and fanfare, I can’t say I currently share their same enthusiasm. Right now, it’s still far too early to say anything for certain, but what they’ve shown leaves me both concerned for it’s potential success and filled with questions.

Is another gimmick enough?
Coming from the DS’s dual screens and the Wii’s motion controls, the tablet inspired controller looks to be the console’s star component, once again cementing Nintendo’s pledge to continuously innovate with their products. My concern isn’t that this won’t be a unique feature–it clearly is–but whether or not it will be utilized effectively and to it’s full potential. Looking at the DS and the Wii, you have 2 systems where the majority of top rated games barely realize their respective system’s hallmark features. When I look at Mario Galaxy 2, I see a game that has all but given up on the Wii’s motion controls. And when I look at Nintendo, I see a company that fails to deliver the innovation they promise. The potential for the device is there, but my faith in Nintendo to extract it is not.

It’s also worth noting that this marquee feature may soon be redundant, as the iPad is already showing the same functionality, while Sony boats the PS3 and Vita will be capable of similar feats. Will the Wii U be capable of distinguishing itself from the pack if the similar experiences are available elsewhere? By laying their cards on the table so early in development, they’ve left themselves open to being mimicked and it’s already showing.

Who is the target audience?
Initially this would seem like an easy answer. It’s right there in the console’s ridiculous name. It’s a console for gamers; for casual players; for people who don’t yet own a gaming console. In short, it’s a platform for everyone. But in trying to be all things to all people, it shows. You have a console that, quite literally, tries to cram every piece of today’s relevant technology together into one system. However, the Blue Ocean strategy this is not. Nintendo is trying to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore alike and in doing so, is left with a console that seems to be having an identity crisis with what it wants to be and who it wants to appeal to.

Tech demos don’t sell consoles.
And neither do multiplatform ports of year old games. Price and functionality are what matters most to people. Dedicated gamers will mostly likely own every system regardless, but the majority will invest in a single system with the features they prefer; Be it the PS3 as a multimedia platform or a 360 for XBL’s unique offerings. Nintendo was quick to highlight the Wii U’s unique controller, but failed to mention that only a single Wii U controller can be used per console. And how will the rest of the console fare? Will we have a “Nintendo Network”? The only online functionality we’ve heard of is it’s compatibility with the 3DS (which utilizes the much lamented friend codes). It also features a proprietary disk format instead of the widely adopted Blu-Ray. What gives?

Likewise, how much will it set us back? Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, has gone on record stating that it’s unlikely the system will be priced as low as the Wii ($250 USD at launch), while Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter guesstimates the system’s cost of components alone to be in excess of $300 USD. Both signs pointing to a pricey release even if it were to launch tomorrow. Let alone 18 months from now, when it’s likely the competitor’s prices will have dropped even further. Which leads me to my final question.

Will it be irrelevant before it’s release?
I can’t help but feel the Wii U is going to be too little, too late. A price too high with games that can be played on cheaper consoles. An inferior online network and incompatibility with today’s most popular media format. A unique, game changing feature that will go largely unrealized and will already be available on other devices by the time the Wii U is finally available. Already, developers are slamming it and investors are selling their stock.

Is it too soon to have such a bleak outlook? Perhaps. A lot can change in 18 months and, according to a recent interview with Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aime, we’ll be hearing more about the Wii U’s online capabilities within the near future, which might alleviate some of these concerns. So there is still the possibility of hope. However, it seems the more we learn about the console, the worse our outlook becomes. I wish the best for Nintendo, but it’s hard to see anything about the Wii U that points towards a successful future.


  1. Cheeseknight

    Alright so here we go.

    You claim the Wii and DS did not utilize their “gimmicks” to their full potential. Yet, the Wii’s highest rated games include Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime Trilogy, World of Goo, and Resident Evil 4, all of which require you to use motion control to great extents. Why is Super Mario Galaxy 2 then, which lacks in motion, higher rated? Simple: reviewers prefer their Mario games simple. And so do the gamers. That point is moot.

    Let’s look at the DS now, which examples weren’t given for. The highest rated game is Chinatown Wars which utilizes the touch screen in every possible way. Also in top-rated is Phantom Hourglass, Meteos, and The World Ends with You. Let’s throw in the Professor Layton series just to add some more examples.

    You may say “Well, a lot of those aren’t made by Nintendo.” So be it – that’s picking and tearing apart a small issue. But it also proves that third-parties have stepped up, as well as indie developers, to create unique experiences which I’m sure can also be replicated on Wii U.

    Tech demos do sell consoles. I can name a LOT of people I know that bought a PS3 after seeing the FF7 tech demo. People out there still believe that’s coming. It’s sad, but true.

    Lastly, the “game designer” citation you used links to a Bioware designer whom I’ve never heard of. I feel like one developer is hardly a good example, especially after the console already has Levine’s support which is needless to say a LOT more prestigious.

    Honestly, I’m not that excited for the Wii U. It seems silly and the presentation was rushed together due to pressure from it being leaked out. But I don’t see the need in bashing it, especially by using Nintendo’s record and one-off examples for “evidence.”

    One last thing, Nintendo’s stock dropped after the Wii’s announcement too. That’s the stock market for you.

    • The game designer he cited is the lead gameplay designer for the Mass Effect franchise.

    • Ramunas Jakimavicius

      On the stock market thing specifically, I recall an explanation I read that seemed to be the best. Stock drops any time any company tries something innovative/risky. The Wii was new and risky. The WiiU is new and risky.

  2. David

    Systems are about the games and I have precisely zero interest in any of Nintendo’s first-party franchises. So, unless something changes, I’ll save my money for upgrading my PC – thank you very much.

    Even if it did, that controller looks horribly unwieldy (original Xbox, anyone?). Moreover, to make it the selling point of the system, yet limit it to one – one! – is just shoddy product design.

  3. wiifan

    Here we go again. Another idiot to already say the new console is doomed. Ran out of Doomsday articles and thoughts for the Wii already?

    The fact that the Wii had the remote and nunchuck separated the old controller into a better controller even if I don’t have to move it for my FPS game play. But you say Waggle if you have to use motion and “No Full Potential” if you don’t “Waggle”.

    Just another stupid article wasting cyberspace.