Although I have always been a huge supporter of Nintendo and their way to push gaming’s boundaries, I must admit that since the announcement of the Wii U my skepticism grew if this console would be the right move. After seeing last week’s Wii U press event and gathering all the tiny bits of information from different sources, I came up with five reasons, why I fear that the Wii U won’t see a glorious start into the next generation of gaming like the Wii did.
1.) Pricing: You can argue that the console is not as expensive as other consoles at release but for Nintendo’s standards the pricing is higher than the previous generations. That might not scare off the core gamer crowd, but for the casual gamer who bought a Wii, it might be too expensive. A real bummer is the high price for a second controller with around $150. Although none of the games of the start line-up supports a second controller, it is a very high price point to get another player into the game later on.
2.) Online functionality: We’ve seen some of the in-game social connectivity features of games, but there has been no overall vision presented by Nintendo regarding the online store, user profiles or a (in-game) message system. Will the awful “friends code” system of the Wii return? How is online functionality integrated into the main console menu? How do you purchase digital content? So many questions, which have to be answered prior to launch.
3.) Media center: Yay, there will be Netflix and Hulu in the US. What about Europe? Are there any video streaming services? What about the TVii functionality beyond Japan and the US? Futhermore, the Wii was not able to play DVDs so the question is if the Wii U will be able to serve as a kind of media center platform for playing DVDs, Blu-Rays and providing access to further streaming services.
4.) Target group: The main success of the Wii was the enlarged customer base. A lot of people who never owned a game console before bought a Wii and a handful of games. I think that most of these people won’t be in need of a new console soon, so we won’t see so many casual gamers buying a Wii U. In my opinion it is up to the hardcore gamer crowd – they have to be convinced to buy the console and spread the word. I know a lot of core gamers who bought a Wii, which now collects dust since a months or years. Most of the early excitement for the motion controls is gone now. After all those Wii, PS Move and Kinect casual games people will be more skeptical about new input technology than at the start of the current console generation.
5.) The games: From the ‘release window line-up’ of around 50 games, which will be released until March 2013, a lot of the games we will see are versions of already published games with extra content. Nice for someone who has not played Batman: Arkham City or Mass Effect 3 yet, but to be honest – most core gamers, who are interested in these games already own them. And if not, they will be much cheaper on the PS3 and XBox360 the time the Wii U arrives.
So, what about the original games for Wii U? The New Super Mario Bros. U game looks great as all Mario games do, but it seems not to make use of the new controller in a convincing way. Nintendo Land seems to be the Wii Sports of this generation – lots of mini games to show off the controller’s possibilities. It looks very family-friendly – so I think the appeal to core gamers will be limited. The only game at release day with potential appeal for the core gamer crowd is ZombiU by Ubisoft, which uses the controller very well and introduces some interesting and new gameplay aspects. Some of the other exclusive games like Pikmin 3, Bayonetta 2 (who would have thought…) or The Wonderful 101 seem to miss the launch window until March 2013. Of course, there are some forthcoming multi-platform titles, which will be also available for the Wii U, but there is little reason to buy a new console for these if you already own a PS3 or XBox360.
To sum it up, I think the Wii U will face a rough start – maybe similar to the one of the 3DS. With the PS4 and XBox720 around the corner, I think most gamers will wait until they know what’s coming next year and afterwards make a decision about their future investment.