Five Lies the Internet Tells about the Wii U

ten things wii u shot 1

Everywhere you turn these days, there’s a news article or a comment about how the Wii U is a “disaster”, a “flop” or a “failure”. There are constant reminders everywhere from the teenager blog sites to the Wall Street Journal that Nintendo’s beleaguered console isn’t selling as well as Iwata-san and company had hoped. There’s no doubt that Nintendo’s overly optimstic sales projections were a tragic misjudgment of the market- a market which I don’t think the Wii really belongs to. The Wii U isn’t really a competitor to the Xbox One or PS4. It’s a Nintendo console made to play Nintendo games. The handful of AAA ports are almost incidental. Sure, the marketing for the console has ranged from terrible to confusing to non-existent- but that’s no reason for such a great gaming machine to fail. Or for self-styled “game journos” and actual journalists to lie about it.

With Nintendo slashing its sales projections- which were way too high to begin with- the Wii U seems to be primed to get steamrollered by ultra-high powered consoles produced by divisions of two of the biggest corporations on the planet, ironically with all of these promises of “next generation” gameplay as yet unrealized. Yet I will be the first to tell you that it is the best current offering out of the next generation consoles. The PS4 that I picked up on launch day has seen maybe about two hours of total play time between Resogun, FIFA 14, and Don’t Starve. I play something on the Wii U daily. I love the Wii U, and lots of game players I’ve talked to and gamed with love it as well.

So what the hell is going on? Is the dogpiling the result of the hardcore internet forumistas punishing the Wii U for being something other than a new machine on which to play the latest AAA military shooter? Is there resentment being expressed here that Nintendo had such a great success selling the original Wii to senior citizens and the maligned “casual” market? Or is there just a complete misunderstanding about Nintendo and the Wii U, a failure by the mainstream and gaming press to acknowledge that the console isn’t quite trying to run the same race as the next-gen thoroughbreds?

I’m hardly “gaming press” (please don’t count me in with that loathsome bunch), but I want to be at least one voice that deflates some of the lies circulating about this fantastic console. If I get just one person to go out and give this machine a chance instead of beliving the bullshit, I’ll consider this article a success.

Lie #1- “The Wii U is underpowered.”

If this were the case, then Wii U users would be encountering massive slowdown and other technical issues while playing Super Mario 3D World. There would be Digital Foundry reports demonstrating how Pikmin 3 runs poorly on the Wii U compared to the other consoles. Oh wait, you can’t play Pikmin 3 on the other consoles. It turns out that the Wii U is perfectly powered to play Wii U games. Both of the mentioned games look incredible- far better than anything I have yet to see on the Xbox One or PS4. And it’s not just a hardware thing- it’s a production design thing. Those games are made to look great on the Wii U, and nowhere else.

Sure- the Xbox One or PS4 might run Assassin’s Creed 4 with better arm hair rendering or whatever, but who cares. It’s the old adage that you buy a Nintendo console to play Nintendo games, and the whole “underpowered” argument falls apart when you acknowledge that the AAA garbage that’s available for the Wii U is almost a perfunctory glance toward the marketplace dominated by Sony and Microsoft. Sure, the Wii U may not be able to run GTAV or whatever game some snarky AAA developer says will never run on the platform- but who cares? You want to play those games, buy a console powered to play them. You want to play Nintendo games (and some great third party exclusives)? Buy a Wii U.

I promise you will not be lamenting the console’s lack of “power” when you’re  playing The Wonderful 101.

Lie #2- “There are no good games for the Wii U.”

Bullshit. The best games I played in 2013 were all Wii U titles. Sure, it didn’t have corny Z-grade trash like Bioshock Infinite or the Last of Us practically breaking their backs to strain for artistic credibility. But it did have some truly outstanding VIDEO GAMES with very traditional VIDEO GAME values released throughout its first full year of availability. What’s more, almost every one of the Wii U’s top games are not available on another console and you will never get them on a Steam sale. You can’t play the amazing HD re-release of Wind Waker anywhere else. Lego City Undercover- the best Lego game to date- utilizes the gamepad in such a way that even if there were a port for other consoles, you’d  be missing out on some of its most fun features. And of course, the top shelf Nintendo titles are only playable on Nintendo hardware. As it should be.

So what if every single big-budget EA or Activision game doesn’t come out on the Wii U? I don’t really care. I’ll take one Super Mario 3D World, a game I’ll be playing for years to come, over the latest Splinter Cell or whatever. I’d rather play through Wind Waker another time than a new Mass Effect game, and if I want that I have a PS4- just in case.  A console with ten great, timeless, perennial games is much more valuable than one that has tons of annualized AAA shovelware piled on to it.

Folks berate Nintendo all the time for reissues and new titles that stick closely to winning formulas- but they’re missing the point that many of Nintendo’s design concepts are timeless and evergreen. Rather unlike last year’s Assassin’s Creed game, which will be duly forgotten before the next one comes in November. Even if you don’t buy any new games for the Wii U, there’s still a wealth of great Wii titles that you can play on it (backward compatibility and all) as well as plenty of Virtual Console titles. It’s amazing how dated multimillion dollar shooters from 2010 feel when you can play SNES games designed for a fraction of those budgets that still fresh and vital today. The best Nintendo titles have always carried forward this sense of timeless design, innovation and uniqueness.

Bayonetta 2, the new Donkey Kong Country Returns, Smash Bros., Mario Kart 9, the next game from the Xenoblade Chronicles team, that crazy Hyrule Dynasty Warriors thing- lots to look forward to, and all games not available elsewhere except on the Wii U.

Lie #3- The Gamepad is a gimmick.

I’ll admit, I thought so too. I also thought that it was going to be a problem because it, like motion control, was a non-standard control device and that means both special programming and the potential for poor implementation. I doubted its value beyond impressing consumers (which really hasn’t panned out). I wasn’t exactly looking forward to games with perfunctory touch screen controls or silly gameplay tricks to get you to look at it.

But it turns out that the Gamepad is awesome. It’s a great controller, for one- probably the best Nintendo has made to date. But it’s also a terrific second screen device that offers some really fun and interesting gameplay elements. Games that really put it to use like Zombi U, Lego City Undercover, and the very underrated Nintendoland pack-in (my four year old’s favorite game) show its potential for innovation. Other games like Wind Waker HD use it primarily as device to simplify interfaces and add conveniences previously unavailable with strictly on-TV play.

But you can also play many games on the Gamepad without the TV, which is absolutely awesome. I’ve played a large part of Super Mario 3D World on the small screen. It’s an in-house handheld, and it works flawlessly. I don’t call that a “gimmick”, I call that a major function and selling point for the console. You don’t even have to buy an additional $200 handheld to get this feature, as you do with the PS4.

Lie #4- “The Wii U’s online features are behind the times.”

We’ve all read the recent reports from the anonymous developer that claimed that Nintendo’s engineers didn’t really have an understanding of Xbox Live or PSN. That may be the case. But I’m having no trouble at all using the Wii U’s clean interface to look at new content, watch Netflix or connect with friends. And unlike the other consoles, I am more than happy to let complete strangers post things into my games or on my home screen because I have yet to see any kind of negativity, hatefulness, childishness, sexism, racism, homophobia or other toxic behavior. I see posts every day “This game is FUN!” or funny, completely non-offensive pictures drawn by players. The atmosphere is totally different.

Nintendo is not setting out to do the same things that Sony and Microsoft are, I’m not sure why the bashers seem to think that they are. Nintendo has always tried to do something different with their online services, from their much-maligned “friend codes” to the way their virtual shop is set up. I can’t for the life of me figure out what is so bad or wrong about Nintendo’s online features. They work great. They’re simple. They don’t bother me at all.

I’m not having any trouble finding online matches of any games, I’ve not had any kind of connection issues, and more or less the online experience has been completely seamless and far more PLEASANT than anything I’ve ever encountered in six years of being online with the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Do these people mean that Nintendo’s online offering is behind the times because there aren’t advertisements and silly video replay features? Because you can keep those. Thanks. I’ll stay in the dark ages.

Lie #5- “The Wii U is a failure.”

Is the Wii U a financial failure? Yes, it appears that it is because of the aforementioned overly optimistic sales projections and Nintendo’s leadership apparently failing to see how Nintendo needs to move very much in its own spheres of influence and stay away from Sony and Microsoft. I think Nintendo would do well to ignore those companies altogether and to just do their own thing- which is what they’ve done well since the NES days. But is it really a failure in a larger sense, beyond not connecting with the consumer?

I don’t think it is at all.

Nintendo designed a top notch VIDEO GAME CONSOLE focused squarely on providing users with a fun experience. It is not intended to replace the cable box. It does not purport to interject itself into your social life with Twitter and Facebook integration or whatever. It does not want to help you make Skype calls or give you access to exclusive ESPN content. It wants you to put in a disc and PLAY A GAME. It’s a toy, and it doesn’t suggest that it is anything other than that. It will not attempt to take over your living room- unless you are counting having a group of friends over to play a great on-the-couch multiplayer title like the new Mario.

It runs the latest Nintendo software as well as excellent third party titles. It also happens to run ports of some of the big AAA blockbuster games if you care to partake in those. But its focus is on classic video game qualities like charm and challenge, not on providing sub-Hollywood “experiences” full of glossy murder and big-balls machismo.

It offers some innovative new ways to play games with the Gamepad and it provides users with access to a broad range of games from throughout Nintendo’s history, connecting the new with the timeless.

For all of these design goals- if not the financial ones- the Wii U is a smash success. So quit lying about it, Internet.

26 Responses to “Five Lies the Internet Tells about the Wii U”

  1. OnePompousPenguin January 21, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    I agree with you on all points. With that said, did that OS update released a little while back fix their incredibly slow interface? That isn’t doing it any favors when it comes to the power argument. Not that I’ve had much trouble when in a game. Just when navigating to the game or especially through the settings menu.

    I ask because it’s been a while since I’ve booted the Wii U up (not due to lack of games, but lack of game time).

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

      It did. The first couple of weeks were pretty slow, but it improved pretty soon thereafter. It’s pretty decent now, I don’t really notice it as being slow or anything like that.

      • OnePompousPenguin January 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

        That’s great! I just got a new TV and was going to test it out with a Wii U game (either Mario or Wind Waker). It would have really killed the mood if I had to deal with that slow OS.

  2. pepe1123 January 22, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    I have just registered at this site only to tell you what a great article you just wrote. One of the best I have read recently. I own the Wii, the Xbox 360 and recently bought the 3DS XL. As far as I’m concerned, I see 0 reasons to upgrade to Xbox One, but I’ve been tempted to try the Wii U ever since it’s been launched. I think all the points you have made here gain a lot more importance once you have a family (and I believe many people see it that way), that’s when you change your mindset and realise that most of the AAA titles are just short-lived gimmicks for teenagers and the only family-friendly consoles out there, providing all that ever-lasting fun factor and real value, are the ones made by Nintendo. In fact, I remember many of my (adult) friends and relatives getting bored of Kinect after a few minutes when I invited them over to my place and we ended up playing the good old Wii. I have bought Kinect mostly because of my daughter, because I thought the controller-free gaming will be easier for her, but to my surprise it doesn’t work that way at all and she doesn’t even seem to like the X360 games.

    So I think it’s Nintendo all the way when you have a family – I would even go as far as saying that all the statements and beliefs that Nintendo has childish titles, while PS and Xbox offer the “mature” content, are totally wrong, I believe it’s actually the other way around. So when you wrote that “this article will be a success if you get just one person to go out and give this machine a chance” – I think I’ll be glad to do so :)

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      I totally agree with you- having kids definitely changes your perspective on some things. And you start to realize that “mature” content isn’t bad words and violence.

      I think Nintendo is definitely more interested in making games that are, in essence, closer to family board games. The kinds of things that you pull out not necessarily all the time, but regularly over the course of years. Rather than playing the 10 hour campaign and never touching it again.

      There is DEFINITELY value in Nintendo’s offering…my kids have already played enough Nintendoland to justify owning the Wii U. :-)

  3. Matt Thrower January 22, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Got no current plans for a next-gen console. Got quite enough of a backlog on Steam and Xbox 360, to be honest. Not to mention a few PS3 exclusives I’d quite like to play.

    But at the moment there’s no compelling reason to want an Xbone or a PS4, and I suspect there won’t be for some time to come. Wii U seems to hold all the interesting cards for many of the reasons you describe.

    So it’s something of a mystery that it hasn’t done better. In a brief chat with an editor recently, he opined that its potential audience had too much of a crossover with mobile/tablet gaming and the latter was winning.

    Make of that what you will. But if I do buy next-gen in the near future, it’ll be Wii-U.

  4. Mark E January 22, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    The problem with Sony and MS is that they have not figured out a way to distill pure fun into any game the way Nintendo has.

    Sure they make great games, but when you play something by Nintendo there is a obvious joy from the get go. I keep buying their systems because damn do I love that.

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

      I think that’s clearly because there are other priorities at work. Even a game like Littlebigplanet, the focus is on user created content, generating a community, selling skins, and other things that stray away from just making a fun-to-play game.

      There is also definitely an element that I won’t call nostalgia, but more of a familiarity. Nintendo games connect those of us who were around in the 1980s or even 1990s with the kinds of things that made us like video games in the first place. When I play the new Mario game, it’s like I never really stopped playing Super Mario Bros. and that sense of continuity is comforting. And since the design principles are timeless, it still feels relevant.

      I keep going back to Nintendo for the same reason- to get back to that obvious joy. Even games that don’t appear joyful- like Fire Emblem- have that unquantifiable “X” element that defines a Nintendo game. Maybe it’s soul, I don’t know.

      • Beeblebrox January 25, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

        Both of you need to try Tearaway, if you happen to come across a Vita some of these days. Made by LittleBigPlanet devs, it’s pure joy. Looks and sounds beautiful, and plays in a quite interesting way. Even though it’s mostly simple (when you fail/die, checkpoint is usually couple of seconds or a minute away), I thoroughly enjoyed it, and plan on playing it again and looking for all the collectibles sometime soonish.

  5. Todd Brakke January 22, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Dammit, Michael, you may have just sold me a Wii U… well, once I do my taxes and get my refund anyway. Don’t you realize I still have a wedding to pay for?

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      Wise up, hubby! Put it on the registry!

      • Todd Brakke January 23, 2014 at 9:46 am #

        I’ll have to check the available items at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Karisma resorts. Incidentally, anyone who wants to get us a room upgrade at the casitas, that sure would be awesome!

  6. zeowyrm January 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I have so much love for my Wii U. The only “port” I own for it is Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and it runs just ducky, although I can never find an online match. To be fair though, I didn’t buy it for that. Monster Hunter 3 dominated most of my playtime with it this year. Well, that and Duck Tales . . .

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

      God, MH3 is a bottomless pit. There’s no reason fans of Dark Souls wouldn’t dig it almost as much. I think Dark Souls is the better design (probably the best single design of the past decade), but MH3 offers TONS of challenge and some really awesome gameplay. Punishing at times, almost always grueling…but very rewarding.

  7. CraigM January 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    I mostly agree. Some of the big games may occasionally draw my interest, but it’s pretty rare. I’m fully PC games, and have been for a few years, strategy games are my thing you see, but I’m not against the idea of consoles.

    I’ve maintained the stance that if I go back to consoles it will be by the Nintendo vector. I just had a baby, and soon enough they might want to play games with dad. Will I buy a Xbone to fit this need? No way. A WiiU though, I’ll gladly get Mario, or Lego, or Pokemon games for the little one. Plus the ability to split out to the handheld screen is a MAJOR point in it’s favor. I could play, without dominating the one TV from whatever the family is watching.

    Plus if they ever put out a Metroid Prime type game, I’ll buy next day. Metroid and Zelda still have quite the hold on me.

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

      I actually just picked up the Metroid Trilogy disc again over the holidays…buy two get one at Gamestop, on sale for $39.99 got it and two copies of Xenoblade Chronicles, sold one of those and covered the entire purchase.

      The family issue is one that weighs heavily on me too. My son just turned four and he’s VERY interested in Mario and Lego and I would MUCH rather him get into games through those than the AAA violence games that are the bread and butter of other systems. We’re playing Nintendoland, SM3DW, Boom Blox, Just Dance, and Lego Star Wars pretty regularly. My 2.5 year old girl is in on some of the action too.

      I think a PC and a Wii U are by far the best bets for the “next gen”. I really kind of wish that i had scalped the PS4 over the holidays and bought a good PC with the profit. I feel stupid for not doing that.

  8. Brandon January 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    My biggest problem with the Wii U is that I have no desire to play Nintendo games. I don’t like Mario games, or platformers in general, I don’t like Mario Kart, I have no interest in Pikmin and don’t replay games simply because they’ve been remade to look prettier. I thought Wind Waker looked pretty damn good when it first came out, I’m not going to spend 50 bucks to play a prettier version of a game I beat back when I thought it was gorgeous.

    The evergreen-ness of a game’s design is only important if you like the design in the first place. If they came out with a new Metroid game in the vein of the Prime trilogy then I’d consider but if the Wii U is just going to be a Mario machine, I’m pretty happy skipping it.

    Then again, I loved The Last of Us so clearly my priorities are out of whack. ;)

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

      Well, that is a legimate reason to disagree, that’s for sure. If you don’t like the Nintendo “thing”, then the Wii U suddenly becomes much less of a value proposition.

      It’s an interesting point you raise here though- if you don’t like the design to begin with, then the iterations are lost on you. This makes me wonder if there’s some dissonance about Nintendo consoles. The assumption is that the audiences skews young. But kids are generally too young to have encountered the first versions of some of these designs. Not that they’re inaccesible or a 10 year old can’t pick up Pikmin 3 and enjoy it, but the whole nostalgia/familiarity thing falls apart. That suggests that Nintendo reallys hould be targetting OLDER players.

      I think one of the most effective pieces of marketing they’ve done was that commercial that had the guy talking about playing Punch-Out!!! when he was a kid, and then it showed him playing the new one (which was awesome) with his son.

  9. Dorkmaster Flek January 22, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    I agree with almost everything you said. The online performance (finding matches, etc.) I can’t actually speak to, because I don’t use it. It may be perfectly fine. But the way their online functionality is structured, I disagree that this is fine.

    It’s a major headache if you have multiple people using the machine that there is one single universal account that everything is tied to. Nobody can have their own saves for each game, and if your console has an issue and you need to replace it (which could definitely happen with some of the updates bricking things), the only way you can get all your downloaded content back is through Nintendo, transferred to a new console. Same deal if you decide to upgrade later on (I had a DSi and bought a 3DS and had to transfer everything between the two).

    If I downloaded something on the Wii, I should be able to play it on the Wii U. Virtual Console, WiiWare, whatever. The content you download should be tied to an online account, the same as Xbox Live, the same as PSN, the same as Steam. That’s the standard, and it’s better than how Nintendo insists on doing things.

    Other than this annoying insistence to have everything tied to the console, I agree the Wii U seems like a great gaming machine and it’s the only console I can see myself buying in the future. For everything else, I have a PC and that knocks the PS4 and the Xbone on their asses. :)

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      Yeah, those are some valid points…I don’t think those are implementation issues so much as they are misguided attempts at controlling purchases without specifically using strategies such as DRM.

      THat actually hits close to home for me too, my Wii was FILLED with Virtual Console stuff…maybe 200 titles? But I traded it in, and when I got the Wii U I was told that there wasn’t any way to get that stuff onto the Wii U without having the actual console. That makes no sense to me, as if Nintendo had no record of my purchase. The thing is, they HAVE to. I think it’s just a policy issue- not a technology one.

      I totally agree about cross-buying. You should have the rights to anythign you’ve ever purchased across systems. Hopefully that is something that can change in the future.

      • Dorkmaster Flek January 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

        They do have a record of your purchase, but it’s tied to the machine hardware ID. Remember, you didn’t make any account to go to the shop and start downloading Virtual Console games. You just did it, and entered your credit card number. The only thing those purchases are tied to is the machine itself.

        That’s a result of not having any online account system for the console. It’s easier for the user initially, because they don’t have to set up an account, but it makes things more difficult down the road and is not worth the initial convenience IMO.

  10. timzania January 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    I disagree pretty thoroughly with this perspective, although this article is a strong and well-reasoned articulation of it. My counter, in general, is that the “Nintendo Problem” is real, too important to ignore, and that the Wii U’s challenges are a useful focus point.

    The Nintendo Problem generally is that this magnificent, historic game development house, despite vast reserves of talent and creativity, does not quite have the resources to maintain its own platforms. “Resources”, here, should be understood in the broad sense: in-house development, industry influence, consumer mindshare, etc. It’s not a simple matter of enough or not enough money.

    Nintendo makes great games of its own, to be sure. They can sell some hardware on the strength of their own titles. But even at low prices, they cannot sell enough hardware to avoid a decline in their player base, leading to further declines in resources and a standard death spiral. It does not matter how much cash they have. Investors will rapidly escalate their demands for action if a death spiral appears to be occurring. To avoid a worst-case-scenario like a sale to EA, some solution has to be found. Understanding the Wii U as an important failure is part of that process.

    But that’s the future and it’s just what I think, so why does that matter to gamers right now? Clearly some people believe that Nintendo’s AAA output is so massively better than everyone else’s AAA output that a proper gamer should see the industry as Nintendo plus a bunch of useless trash plus an indie niche. I personally think that this is too cynical of an approach to the industry to be taken 100% seriously. Artistically speaking, if the only value seen in video games is the mechanics-focused vision of a single company, there is not much reason to play video games, or indeed to argue about them. I don’t find this to be true; I don’t find Nintendo’s abandonment of storytelling (whether overt, environmental, or emergent) to be compelling; and I don’t find Super Mario 3D World to be a better game than Mass Effect 3. Even Nintendo’s supposed mastery of mechanics was rather badly damaged by Dark Souls, which by comparison makes Mario’s challenges seem more aggravating than engaging.

    I’ve played a lot of Wii U at a friend’s but at home I’m quite happy on the PC. I also can’t really disagree with those who see a brighter future for the Xbox1/PS4 than they see for the Wii U. For those who don’t already love Nintendo to death, the Wii U is difficult to find a reason to choose. If Nintendo can keep making great games, I personally don’t believe they need to keep making so-so platforms.

    • Michael Barnes January 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      Great discussion points, thanks for brining them up.

      You sort of touch on what Brandon mentioned above- if you don’t invest into the Nintendo “thing”, then the argument for the Wii U isn’t really tehre in the first place.

      I think what is important to note here is something that someone brought up over at Fortress: Ameritrash, where we were discussing some of this last week. The Wii U- and Nintendo hardware- is kind of emerging as a niche product. This is of course contrary to the wildfire mainstream success of the Wii. But the audience for classic Nintendo games is apparently markedly smaller than the audience for modern shooters and open world games. It’s still there, still appreciable, and still relevant. But it shouldn’t be assumed that a piece of Nintendo hardware is going to sell as much as a next-gen offering from the two corporations that dominate the video games business.

      Instead of challenging MS and Sony- or indeed, folding the cards and leaving the hardware business- Nintendo would do well to specifically target the market sector that WANTS exclusive Nintendo product and all that entails- the classic gameplay designs, classic characters, traditional gaming values. Because what they do is really quite different than what modern gaming is today.

      So when you talk about “the Nintendo Problem”, I can’t help but wonder if that can’t be turned into an advantage- particularly if Nintendo says “look, we’re not up against Sony and MS here. We make a classic, traditional video games console”.

      I think there must be some hint of that in Nintendo’s leadership somewhere…for example, the whole thing with eschewing E3 and the big industry circle-jerks and doing their own thing with Nintendo Direct suggests that they’re isolating themselves from the market that is outpacing them. I actually think that’s a smart move. The problem is that the internet and games journalists don’t seem to want to acknowledge that Nintendo is trying for a different strategy by NOT participating or locking horns with the majors.

      Quite frankly, I think the solution to the “Nintendo Problem” is for them to remove themselves from the silly “console wars”, do their own thing, and remain relevant as a “roots” video game company that does nothing but video games. The catch is, to succeed that way they’ve got to stop doing silly shit like releasing VC games at a trickle (and re-releasing Urban Champion). They’ve got to re-budget and get new top-line Metroid and Zelda games in the pipeline with solid release dates. They’ve got to leverage their many strengths to just BE NINTENDO instead of acting like it matters if they have Call of Duty licensed for the system.

  11. jmenter February 2, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    I found this blog thanks to your review of The Last of Us (which I thought was very good, by the way.)

    This article is great as well, the only thing I would disagree with is #3. In my experience, the gamepad is worse than a gimmick, it’s detrimental to quality gameplay and might even be an albatross around the Wii U’s neck.

    As a controller, it might be one of the worst, most uncomfortable controllers I’ve ever used. The sheer surface area makes the controller portion hard to use without having to glance down to hit the more rarely used buttons.

    As a touchpad it’s also bad. The iPhone and iPad have perhaps spoiled us by setting high expectations for touchpad experiences. The low touch accuracy and high latency don’t help the experience.

    As a display it’s not very good as well. The resolution doesn’t compare favorably to the 1080p display it’s working with.

    In terms of usefulness, the only plus I can see is that it can be used as a secondary display for player two, or a low-resolution auxiliary display for when the main display might otherwise be in use (which for me would be never as the Wii U is the only device hooked up to my TV.) But that’s really not that much of a plus considering the cost.

    The biggest issue I have with the gamepad is during single player games where the context switching and associated cognitive load that must be spent for really no extra benefit. Switching to the gamepad requires me to change the angle of my head, change where my eyes are looking, refocus on a screen that has a different resolution, brightness, white point, etc. just to glance at a map, or check inventory, or whatever. After I’m done with whatever task I’ve accomplished, I have to switch context again to return playing on the main screen. It’s effort that interrupts the “flow” of the game for no good reason that I can see.

    The worst part, though, is the vapid and contrived levels where I’m required to use the gamepad such as certain levels in Super Mario 3D World. Literally the only reason I have to switch from the Wii Controller Pro to the GamePad is to touch doors to open them.

    I’ve read that the gamepad adds perhaps $50-$75 to the cost of the Wii U. If this is true then I would have to say that the only significant mistake made with the Wii U was the inclusion of the gamepad.

    Imagine if the Wii U would have been released at $200 or $250 and instead of the gamepad had included a Wii Controller Pro + Wiimote/Nunchuck and something like New Super Mario Bros U as a pack-in game. I think an installed base almost double what they have now could have been possible.

    Anyway, just wanted to make my case. I think your other points were spot on and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    • OnePompousPenguin February 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      Not including the gamepad would mean Nintendo was trying to compete with the other consoles, but with lower hardware specs. The point of the gamepad is to make playing games on the Wii U a unique experience that can’t be had anywhere else. Take that away and why even bother? Things like Rayman Legends would have just been another platformer, rather than the unique co-op experience it ended up being. Like all other similar “gimmicks” (kinect, move, etc), if you can’t guarantee that everyone buying the game can take part, it will go unused. So having it be an add-on is out of the question as well.

      In the case of Super Mario World, yes that’s a terrible way to utilize that particular feature, but don’t pass on the whole idea based on one poor implementation. Nintendo has shown with the DS and 3DS (and 2DS…sigh) that their form of touch input can be used effectively to enhance a game or even make it entirely new despite their use of less responsive technology. They don’t need the kind of accuracy and latency that a completely touch focused system does. So why make it even more expensive by using it?

      It’s true that the resolution could probably be better, but honestly, most people using it will only notice for a few seconds. If the game is fun, the brain should stop caring what it looks like. I had a similar experience with the Wii. I hated how ugly some games looked…for the first 10 minutes or so. As soon as I was used to it and focusing on the actual game, I rarely cared. Same goes for games that look fantastic. I notice at the beginning, but stop caring after a while. The gameplay is what I actually end up focusing on. If that’s different for you, then by all means complain away, as it is a legitimate weakness of the system.

  12. catstronaut May 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. I even wrote an article on my blog to the same effect: http://catstronaut.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/surprise-the-wii-u-is-fantastic/

    When I look at my Wii U and my PS4, there’s absolutely no competition which console is better. Wii U has a substantial lineup of games that are pretty much the greatest things ever, while the only thing my PS4 has going for it is (the admittedly really awesome) Towerfall Ascension.

    People consistently trash the Wii U for not having any games, but the PS4 and Xbone are taking just as long to get anything worthwhile. People trash the Wii U for having underpowered hardware, yet I haven’t seen anything even remotely close to Super Mario 3D World’s craftsmanship, not to mention the upcoming Mario Kart 8. People trash the Wii U for being behind the times, yet the Wii U’s well-integrated Miiverse feels light years ahead of PS4′s shoddy video uploading, which is basically just an icon on my menu that I’ve never used. People trash the Wii U for not linking accounts, and yet it’s the only console with backwards compatibility.

    Sometimes it feels like I’m living in some bonkers fantasy land where people don’t actually care about playing great games anymore. I’m sure the PS4 and Xbone will get great games down the line, but I’m honestly not sure how 7 million+ people were convinced to buy a PS4 on that promise, when the console with actual great games is sitting on store shelves.

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