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.