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Nintendo's Wii U: Failure to Launch - Destructoid


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This is a cross post from my gaming/movie/tv/music/politics/culture blog that I started with a friend in the middle of last year call TearsOfTime.com.

Not to be outdone by Microsoft's rumors about the next XBox, Nintendo has been churning out all kinds of rumors about its own next console. Some developers are saying that it will be capable of indescribable features (as in, words, pictures, and video cannot do them justice). Others are saying that the horrible name "Wii U" will be dropped in favor of something that sounds less like baby speak. And on top of all of this, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has confirmed that their next console will be out this calendar year (though he leaves the possibility open for them to not finish by year's end because he's a pussy).

Despite all this, I'm predicting doom for the next Nintendo console. Looking back to less than a year ago, the 3DS had a launch that can only be described as "The Challenger" compared to the amount of hype surrounding the system. Nintendo managed to recover by rushing development of some of their key franchises, but I don't think they can afford to make the same mistake a second time. Last minute renaming of the device doesn't really speak well of their former confidence in the Wii brand. And with the "Wii U's" guts being only slightly better than a current XBox 360 in terms of technical muscle, I don't really see many of the sought after "hardcore gamers" returning to Nintendo after having jumped ship back in the Gamecube days.

Looking back on Nintendo's history, they've pretty much always been right on the cusp of going under. They were a card game maker before the NES, and after the video game crash of the 80s, they looked poised to go down with the ship. They happened to strike gold with their Nintendo Entertainment System however, by branding it as a toy (hence the inclusion of a robot that "played the game with you" on some of the early models). Sticking to the Nintendo brand, they released the Super Nintendo to continue to cash in on the name recognition (as in: "What's better than a Nintendo? A SUPER Nintendo!"). But everyone knew that if you wanted to play Mortal Kombat the real way, you needed to play it on the Sega Genesis because Nintendo didn't allow the blood code. Following this, we had the lackluster Nintendo 64. Even though it had a handful of the better games from that generation, being stuck in the past by using cartridges when everyone else was on to cheaper CD technology limited development of new titles for the system and ultimately it wasn't the breakaway hit of either the NES or SNES.

Of course the next system (Game Cube) was an utter flop compared to the PS2, but it managed to sell a few units because it was cheap. Around this time was when Nintendo really started to harbor the environment of "the only games worth owning on one of our consoles is a game we develop in-house." Then came the Wii. Had it not been for a rag tag group of tech demos, the thing would have never sold. Launching without HD capability or a realistic amount of storage space a full year after the 360 and within a 24 hour period of the PS3, the only saving grace for the little piece of shit system was it's price point and the fact that old people liked playing Wii Sports. And of course the Wii;s staying power was bolstered by its 1st party titles (2 Zelda games, 3 Mario games, 2 Kirby games, 2 Metroid games, and re-releases of some Gamecube games like Pikmin with new motion control interaction).

But now we are seeing more of the same thing from Nintendo. They are unsure of their place in the market by trying to cater to a lost "hardcore gamer" audience. They are only going to alienate the casual demographics they have been cultivating for the last 5 years by releasing a system that can output HD graphics, but at a high cost to the consumer. The Wii sold well amongst new gamers because of its cheap entry point, it's gimmicky motion controls, and it's games designed around a party setting. It also sold well amongst fans of Nintendo's original IPs who enjoy them enough to look past their glaringly SD exteriors. So-called "hardcore gamers" don't give a shit about the Wii.

So it makes me glad to know that they are considering re-branding their new system to distance themselves from the Wii. And frankly, releasing a system that is nearly identical in name and external appearance is only going to confuse the parents out there who just don't get it. A child will say "get me a Wii U! It's small and white and made by Nintendo," and his parent return from the store with a Wii because it was the cheaper and/or not-sold-out option. The child in this scenario will then cry until he gets his way because he is a spoiled brat.

Despite the possible name change, I think that they are still not going to do well with this console. It will be behind the times (technically speaking) and with the next Xbox right around the corner (2013 possible release date) seeking to dethrone Nintendo with its own integrated motion controls (Kinect 2), I think we will be seeing a very poor console life-cycle for Nintendo in the next generation. Maybe I'll pick up Nintendo's post-Wii U system (because we all know that one will be backwards compatible with Wii U games) and just save myself the trouble of owning another Nintendo system for a few years. If the next Nintendo is only just slightly better under the hood than PS3 and 360 games, it stands to reason that no developer will be making any games that maximize the system's potential (other than Nintendo's own development teams) because it would just be too expensive of an undertaking to develop that way.

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