The Wii U is a great console if you give it a chance, there’s no denying that. There’s no other place where you can play Nintendo’s long-running classic franchises on your television. However, in the grand scheme of things, the Wii U hasn’t been exactly successful. Some would even go as far as saying that it’s a failure.
Of course, there are reasons why the Wii U failed. These things don’t just happen. With the NX slowly approaching, it’s a good idea to take a look at what went wrong so that Nintendo doesn’t follow in those ill-fated footsteps.
What is a Wii U Anyway?
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, there is a lot of power in a name. When a consumer walks into a store, a name gives them an idea of what they’re buying. As unimaginative as it may sound, PlayStation 4 lets you know that this is the fourth console in the series. If you want to know if there’s a newer one, you simply ask “is there a PlayStation 5?” This makes it very easy for non-video game players to purchase the platform as a gift for someone else and know that they’re getting the newest thing.
Nintendo started with the NES so it had to get a bit more creative with its naming. For a while it was clear what was going on, until the Wii and Wii U hit. The Wii was the best selling console of the 7th generation. It was a household name. So Nintendo thought keeping Wii in the title for the next machine wouldn’t hurt, thus, we got the Wii U. Yet, they never did a great job of explaining how it wasn’t just an add-on.
It used the same peripherals, shared a lot of games, and wasn’t a huge leap ahead of the generation it was following. A much more unique name would’ve helped those shopping know that this was completely new.
Large Gap Between Major Games
Mario, Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, the list goes on. Nintendo has no shortage of huge franchises that sell with ease. Unfortunately, there’s no way that Nintendo could keep these big franchises coming out fast enough to keep players invested. At least not if they want to maintain their top-notch quality.
A console lives and dies on its video games, and the Wii U’s heavy hitters have had some mighty large gaps between them. This makes it a tough sell for many looking for non-stop experiences. Some of you may be thinking “well the PS4 and Xbox One have also had large gaps between major exclusives.” That’s true but they’ve leveraged something that the Wii U has failed to do on a large scale.
Third Parties Show No Love
The Wii U’s launch was filled with promises and dreams. All of the big players came out to party as they pledged their support to Nintendo’s latest home console. The Wii was fun, but it couldn’t handle some of the biggest games of the generation, leading many developers to give it a wide berth. The Wii U was Nintendo’s redemption.
It was all fun and smiles for the first few months, but then things started slowing down for the Wii U. With that came the pull of support from major publishers and their major games. No major third party games made the previously mentioned gaps between Nintendo’s first party titles much more noticeable.
The PS4 was able to go nearly a whole year without a single exclusive and rake in the sales, but the Wii U stood out like a sore thumb with its few offerings. Although most games released on the platform were absolutely stellar, the absence of major titles like The Witcher 3, Black Ops 3, and MGS V, mean it’s difficult to be enticed.
The Wii U found itself in an odd place. It lead the 8th generation of consoles and beat both Sony and Microsoft to market. It was more powerful than anything of the previous gen, had a cool tablet controller, and more Mario. There was no immediate competition to bar their path to success.
That was until both Sony and Microsoft started making moves. Here were two companies that already had the support of big names for multiple generations. They had yet to lose face and were on the verge of something even bigger. Naturally, gamers waited to see what they would bring to the table. The result was more everything. More power, more games, more support, better graphics (depends on your taste, though), more entertainment, and improved online just to name a few.
Both were able to see what Nintendo did, and made calculated plans on how to shine brighter than the Wii U. It put the Wii U in a weird limbo where it was better than before, but couldn’t match the output of its gen. 8 cohorts.
Winners Need Trophies
Microsoft was onto something when it introduced achievements to console gaming. The competition took note of it, and instead of being stubborn, Sony added trophies to keep the offerings in line. What seemed like a small feature turned out to be a big deal for many gamers around the world. Sharing and comparing accomplishments, looking at shiny platinum trophies or impossibly high gamerscores. It’s a bonus for doing things you were probably going to do anyway.
Nintendo didn’t immediately patch it in for the Wii, but many expected (and hoped) that some type of achievement system would be part of the Wii U. But alas, it was not to be. It’s surprising, but that’s a deal-breaker for quite a few people out there. Having balance between platform features is something a lot of consumers want, and often helps drive your decision when purchasing.
Trophies/Achievements are platform features that Sony and Microsoft are able to check off. Just another element they were able to hold over Nintendo.
No Headset in the Box
The Wii U is the only 8th generation console to not include a means of communication in the box. Last gen proved that online gaming was on a serious rise and companies were thinking of ways to take advantage of it. Microsoft was ahead of the curve with introducing mics and other features right out of the box, and Sony followed suit.
The Wii U could’ve established a strong online presence, especially since it was first to market, but it failed to do so. The lack of an included headset was seen as a statement that Nintendo just wasn’t in touch with the market. Gaming was becoming more of a social experience that required more than just a Nintendo Facebook-like application. Jumping into games and parties, being able to chat with new people, and more are all things facilitated by the simple inclusion of a mic.
Online Service Sorely Lacking
Nintendo has always prided itself on being unique and sticking to its guns. That’s why so many of the company’s mascots are still relevant and shining examples of great design and development. Nintendo’s strict adherence to quality over quantity has helped earn the publisher great respect as well. But sometimes it’s okay to take something from someone who’s doing a bang-up job.
Microsoft quickly figured out online gaming and lead the charge in broadband connections to keep it going. With constant updates, ease of access, and no confusion, Xbox Live thrives. The folks at Sony took notice and managed to drastically improve PlayStation’s own online service, and even added new features like the Instant Game Collection, which Microsoft in turn borrowed. Nintendo must not have been paying attention to the other members of the Big 3, because the Wii U didn’t seem to have a care in the world for its online identity.
With the rise of digital marketplaces and the increased number of gaming communities, this would’ve helped prove Nintendo was looking towards the future.
Delays for NX?
This one isn’t 100% certain, but it is a strong possibility, especially if information regarding the next Legend of Zelda is to be believed. Legend of Zelda Wii U was a big game for the struggling platform and led to many excited fans. It was then delayed and now there’s no telling when the game is to be released.
If it is being planned for the NX, then Nintendo will definitely push that angle, leaving the Wii U wallowing in the shadows. Taking one of the biggest chances the Wii U has at making a strong push and throwing it on something newer and shinier is not a good show of faith in the platform. And if consumers don’t see faith from the console’s own creators, why would they place their own?
A game like The Legend of Zelda can bring a lot of attention. Having that out last year might have helped to spur on holiday sales, and help the Wii U to carve out a bigger slice of the pie. With it possibly slipping to the next machine, undoubtedly along with other games, the Wii U is left for nothing worth looking at for new buyers. It’s just being left to die as its newer, more powerful sibling prepares to be born.