The Wii U has been out just a bit over two months now in North America and its seen a lot of negativity thrown its way. Many claim Nintendo still doesn’t have a clue with the online aspect of gaming. To be fair, there are obviously correct sentiments and concerns to be had on that front. Many worry about the rapidly declining sales, the high cost of the GamePad, the hardware specs, the lack of content, the lack of 3rd party support this quarter, and any copious number reasons you really want to come up with. If you look at anything close enough, you can always find reasons to expect failure. After all, success is far from guaranteed in this industry. Just ask Atari and THQ.
Still, through all this negativity there is always a bright shining light, or at least a glimmer, that Nintendo is on the right track. This is why I have come up with five well rounded reasons the Wii U is actually going to “win” this generation (meaning the inclusion of Durango and Orbis, since the PS3 and Xbox 360 are last generation now).
I know what many are thinking: Nintendo’s online is so behind! It doesn’t have universal achievements! I can’t use my account on my Wii U on someone else’s Wii U! The fact remains that what Nintendo is doing with their online infrastructure is actually revolutionary. It may still have some kinks to work out (so did Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network), but ultimately, they have set themselves up well. While you can obviously pause a game at any moment to message a friend, what Nintendo did was add a Miiverse community aspect which essentially combined what is great about forum communities and mixed it with aspects of Twitter to create its own universal online system that will eventually be usable from anywhere.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the reason they don’t have universal achievements is because Nintendo doesn’t want to encourage more “must have to enter” schemes. Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network require every game that goes online to have achievements. While some consumers find a lot of value in achievements, not all do. Nintendo isn’t saying you can’t have achievements, they are saying they will not force you to include them if you don’t feel it’s truly appropriate. But… what about that GamerScore everyone covets! Who really covets it? How often are you going through your friends list and checking out their GamerScore and judging them based upon it? Lets be realistic: You’re not. What is important is comparing yourself to your friends in the games you both are playing. That’s what Nintendo’s system promotes with it’s user communities, Miiverse, communities, and lack of a gamer score.
In addition, Nintendo has created an e-store that doesn’t force itself upon its users and is extremely easy to navigate. Have you fired up your Xbox 360 lately? It’s mostly a bevy of advertising thrown everywhere and it’s not even all for games. That isn’t always a bad thing, but if people want to really know about a product, why can’t they just get advertised to them in the store? Besides, with Miiverse, people can still see what their friends are playing and get plenty of suggestions for content. Yes, this entire structure is different, but that’s what makes it so great.
Nintendo just needs to clean up some kinks and figure out a better way to combine the friends list with Miiverse since right now there are a few minor issues. Still, in a year or two I think you will see this system evolve heavily. If you ask me, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network have catching up to do to Nintendo’s innovative mind here. Not the other way around.
The GamePad is often cited as the console’s biggest downfall, but with Sony apparently hopping on board with a similar idea it definitely appears this was more than just some experiment thrown out to the public. Beyond that, ask anyone who actually owns a Wii U if the GamePad is clunky. Ask them if it hasn’t helped them in some way. Heck, you can take your game with you to the bathroom, and that alone is worth bonus points.
The GamePad is admittedly a hard concept for consumers to understand, even if you let them demo it. Once you actually have the product in your hand and around you daily it really comes full circle. I am not saying that everyone wants to take their games off their TV, but it’s definitely nice to have that option. I am not saying everyone wants Nintendo TVii and a kick-ass touch screen universal remote, but once you have it, you definitely don’t want to go back. The thing is, the Wii U GamePad isn’t something you need. It’s something that once you have it, you can’t imagine life without it. That’s a big deal. How will this work if it can’t translate? Simple: word of mouth. Trust me, the best kind of advertising is to have your customers talk about your products.
The battery life is something that will be improved over time with future releases just like all the pesky Wi-Fi issues will as well. The fact remains that sure, it may not be an iPad, but it offers so much an iPad cannot.
Nintendo definitely has a knack for looking long term and getting products, whether hardware or software, to sell rather well. Even more the lightning rod that was the Wii and Nintendo DS, it’s not like Nintendo was some small time company before then. Sure, maybe the GCN sales weren’t stellar, but that was comparing them to the then record breaking PlayStation 2. Compared to previous generations the GameCube was just fine. Nintendo turned a profit off of it too, so we’re not talking about a Virtual Boy situation here. Nintendo has a long standing history of success and a more recent history of finding a way to get the market into their products. The Wii U is a tough sale today, but it wont always be that way.
When the Durango and Orbis come out and inevitably cost more than the Wii U (no need to say otherwise, this will occur) and Nintendo decides to slash the price of the Wii U anyways… just watch how the sales trend changes. The Wii U is going to pick up steam the longer it’s market relevant. With all the major titles coming, Nintendo is ensuring that at least Nintendo fans will be talking about it, and that talk is going to be heard by many Wii owners who will wonder why that new Wii Fit U game or the next Just Dance title isn’t released for their system. Nintendo’s marketing scheme is a bit flawed now, but it’s only been a few months. History suggests they will get this turned around.
Say all you want about tons of buttons combined with a touch screen being confusing for consumers right now, just wait until people fire up those fresh new Microsoft and Sony consoles. Maybe the interface they hold in their hands is simple, but Nintendo’s channel cascade that is easily editable (you can move the icons around just like you do on an iPhone) is going to really start to shine. Just look how complex it is for general users to use a PS3 and 360 today. They get to the start screen after configuring everything and wonder “So, how do I play a game?”. It’s only going to get worse as Sony and Microsoft focus more on entertainment. Meanwhile when you fire up your Wii U, the icons for your entertainment are right there in your hand. Just like a Smartphone. Unless Sony and Microsoft can figure out a way to make the interface that simple, it’s going to eventually shine and people will “get it”.
I know this seems like “a shot in the dark” based on assumptions, but the fact remains that my Wii U was able to be navigated by a two year old girl after watching daddy use it for a week. She knows how to get to Netflix, how to hit the TV button to change channels, where the icon is to load up the Rayman Demo (she loves Castle Rock), and more importantly she knows that if Daddy wants to watch sports, I can just play her a show or a movie on the screen and she will just lay down and watch it without complaint that I took over the TV.
If all of this is easily done by a two-year-old, clearly Nintendo is onto something. Just give it time, folks, and it will pay off.
Nintendo itself is going to have a large bevy of games released from itself and the studios it’s controlled that will keep the Nintendo faithful buzzing. This is a certainty with any piece of Nintendo hardware. What will begin to slowly surprise people is when the third parties and indie developers begin a slow but steady migration to the Wii U console itself. Outside of being cheaper to develop for than competition will end up being, the graphical fidelity will be a big enough boost from last generation to not only keep up at least in general with the competitors, but enough that many third parties may not be able to justify the higher cost to create their games for those consoles.
Setting aside money, Nintendo is creating a system where they are willing to go out there and truly help and encourage third parties along. Platinum, as an example, now has Bayonetta 2 coming exclusively to the Wii U along with The Wonderful 101. Why? Because Nintendo has the money and the power to throw behind companies like that to allow them to shine. Add on the fact Nintendo has removed almost all the big restrictions for indie developers and a rather simple way to get discovered, and you are looking at a system that will be pulling games out its arse in two years’ time.
Don’t think that’s possible? It’s true this is a shot in the dark as well, but something tells me that shot is going to hit its target. From high costs of development, Nintendo’s bankroll of game financing that can’t be matched, their improved online functionalty, and the huge success of their long standing franchises…. it may be a slow start for the Wii U, but when the dust all settles it will still be standing tall as the competitors contemplate how they can replicate Nintendo’s success yet again. This may not be a 90+ million console seller, but it doesn’t have to be.