Let's face it, the Wii is pretty much dead at this point. The last big blockbuster release we saw for Nintendo's popular console was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and that was months ago. Compare this to the days where we had to choose between Metroid, Kirby, Mario, and a bunch of interesting third-party titles like Trauma Center when deciding which new Wii release we were going to pick up.
Of course, this isn't a judgment against the Wii in any way. The Wii clearly outsold every other console on the market in this generation. However, the Wii came out in a time where Nintendo figured that gamers would prioritize interesting and innovative gameplay over HD graphics, Internet capabilities, a hard drive, and extra functionality like a competent web browser. At the time, Nintendo was right, but the market environment has since changed. As interest in the Wii wanes, Nintendo is hoping recapture the Wii's success with their new console, the Wii U.
So far, they seem to be on the right track. The innovative tablet controller will certainly capture the interest of fans that are still looking for new control schemes. The Wii U is also HD graphics capable, which will satisfy the portion of the market that is looking for a true HD gaming experience. Thus far, the Wii U seems to be capable of much of what current generation consoles are doing, from a system specs standpoint at least. Add a whole lot of other new functionality, like the ability to switch games and movies from your TV to your tablet controller, and the console will also please the tech heads that just have to have the most futuristic piece of technology on the market.
However, the rumors we have heard so far have also pointed toward Nintendo making a couple mistakes. For example, we have heard several reports that say the console will not have a built-in hard drive. This means that gamers will have a limited amount of space to download demos, downloadable titles, DLC, and game updates. This is a functionality that has become expected of HD consoles, and if Nintendo does not include it in some way, then the Wii U may once again lag behind the competition.
In addition, many reports have said that only one or two tablet controllers would be used in the Wii U's operation. Every other player would use an old school Wiimote, and since the Wii U doesn't have ports for GameCube controllers, you are pretty much stuck buying the classic controller if you want a traditional method of control. This is going to severely alienate a good portion of the hardcore community, and will make traditionally controlled games (such as fighting games or first-person shooters) profoundly harder to control on the new console.
Not only that, but the Wii U sells itself on being a social gaming console that is fun for the whole family; if the system can only use one tablet controller, then this creates a split in the gaming group. Only one gamer will be able to use the Wii U's fancy new camera and touchscreen, while everyone else is reduced to a waggle fest. Unfortunately, there may be no way to fix this problem as the advanced nature of the Wii U controller would make it extremely expensive to buy. You wouldn't want to buy four tablets if they cost 100 dollars each, would you?
However, the biggest challenge that the Wii U will have to overcome is its name. Remember, the Wii built its success on the casual market, the type of people who may never have owned a console before. These people aren't used to the console grind. When these people see the title "Wii U" they will probably say something along the lines of, "but I already have a Wii, I don't need another one!" However, naming it something different would allow Nintendo to run a "If you liked the Wii, you'll love the Project Café!" advertising slogan.
So where is the Wii U going to go in the next few months leading up to its release? Well, I think it's safe to say that Nintendo will certainly be concerned with the casual gaming crowd first. All of their advertisements are geared around the nifty way that you can use the Wii U with your family or friends. Many of the games that have been revealed or tech demoed so far were minigames and variations on Mario. The lack of a hard drive shows that Nintendo may be trying to keep the operation of its console simple in order to appeal to the casual audience that may not know much about data management or downloadable content. Of course, we have seen demos for shooters and other games on the Wii U, but they are certainly taking a back seat to the plethora of trailers catering to the casual crowd.
However, the success or failure of the Wii U will come down to one thing: the killer app. This, in part, is why the 3DS had such a slow start. Whenever a new console launches, there has to be some game in the console's launch line-up that is worth buying the console for. For the Wii, this was Wii Sports, but it's not often that a console can sell itself on a tech demo. The Wii U needs to launch with a game so incredibly amazing that people are willing to drop 300 dollars for it. Right now, it is looking like this killer app may be the new Smash Bros., but we will just have to wait and see. More info will be revealed this year at the Nintendo booth at E3, and we will be sure to bring you all the updates.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: May 16, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*