Where does the Wii U go wrong?
I’ve had a real problem deep down with the Wii U since this year’s E3. I thought the idea was interesting last year at its reveal, but now that I’ve seen it more closely and with some more details I’m just not sold on it anymore. Much of the press seemed to feel the same way. Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot stated recently how he felt like the lack of new consoles was stifling creativity in the market, but later on stated on a conference call to investors that Ubisoft was not actually very invested in the upcoming console. That’s pretty sad considering that Ubisoft is basically the only 3rd-party backer of the console with its ZombieU and Rayman titles.
There’s no doubt that the industry is just not excited over this console. A lot of people are trying to figure out “what the deal is” with that. Here’s a quick, not heavily researched breakdown of why I am personally not excited over the new console with some possible areas for Nintendo to either improve on their message or improve their hardware offering altogether:
1) No innovative, new ideas
This is the crux of my issue with the console. The Wii U brings nothing new to the table. It puts a lot of other, really great ideas that exist on the market into one big Frankenstein package. Take a 7-inch tablet, such as Google’s widely lauded Nexus 7 tablet, and stuff it into an over-sized Xbox 360 controller and there you have the Wii U’s “unique” screen-touch-analog-stick controller whatsamabobit.
Looking at the console itself, there doesn’t seem to be much of an upgrade to current generation’s hardware, especially not PC hardware. The console’s primary feature is pushing video to its new controller. I have to say I love this idea in theory, but I’m not sure how interesting it will actually be at the end of the day. Probably not enough to get me to buy the thing. Ultimately this is the same idea as Apple TV or even Microsoft’s upcoming Smart Glass system, but engineered with games in mind. At least this idea will seem new to some, but to anyone with an iPad I think the idea just won’t be interesting enough.
2) No compelling upgrade to motion controls
One of the most confusing aspects of the new console is the insistence that it is still a multiplayer device. Sure, but using the exact same hardware from the last generation? That’s right, the Wii U, as its name probably implies, requires older Wii-motes to do multiplayer gameplay. I feel like if Nintendo wanted to hit this one out of the park, they should have opted to completely remake motion controls, like making huge improvements over the Kinect system. Instead they are shoe-horning a tech that is over 6 years old, a tech that its honestly annoying as hell.
I was never a huge Wii-mote fan. Its awkward to hold, especially with the often-required Nunchuk attachment. Its also just very inconsistent in motion capture, but that’s more of my general gripe with games that don’t need motion controls in the first place. I’m probably still steamed over the fact that I needed to play 2 different Zelda games with the controller, flailing it around like an idiot.
This was just such an easy area to improve on. I hate to be the guy who says “you should have done it this way”, but it seemed like the money was just sitting on the table to reinvent motion controls and call this thing the “Wii 2”, completely eliminating any confusion people had with the hardware (many still think the Wii U is just the controller and not a new console). Instead Nintendo opted to focus on a single controller that will probably never get used by most families who purchase. That leads us to my next concern.
3) A focus away from group gaming
Arguably Nintendo’s secret sauce with the Wii was a huge focus on bringing the family back to the TV together to play games as a group. Where other consoles and games focused on online, it seemed like people were moving away from “group gaming” in the same physical space. The Wii brought them back and loudly declared that group gaming was still a big deal. But this time they invited way more people into the mix with a controller that was easier to understand: all they needed to do was shake it around. The Wii arguably brought dance games back into the fold after DDR had long since faded. Why abandon this for a single controller focus?
In a time long ago I used to love sitting down with my brother just to pass the controller back and forth on our Nintendo 64. Who wants to do this on Wii U controller when it would be so much easier with an iPad?
4) No compelling new IP
This is more of a minor complaint, but I didn’t see a sort of “Wii Sports” like title that really showed off the Wii U’s potential. This may go down later as unneeded, but for now it seems like it should be a give. Many of us still don’t really “get” Nintendo’s vision here, so a package that really shows it off might be what brings us in. Nintendo’s biggest draw for the hardcore base, however, is its excellent software. We didn’t see anything new in terms of IP at E3, which I think disappointed many. Yet again more retreads (but at least I’m getting Pikmin 3).
5) I have doubts about major titles using the hardware
Sure, we can demo all day long that the console could run Darksiders II or whatever new Call of Duty comes to mind, but I have some serious doubts that many of them will actually be interested in the hardware. The install base for already hardcore markets is well established between the Xbox 360, PS3 and the PC. Those consoles already can run all the upcoming, great looking games.
A new console that basically does the same thing, but could be played on a special controller just isn’t much of a compelling reason to switch. Hardcore gamers will not flock to this console for that reason alone. They will flock because Nintendo has great software of its own and it proves that it can tackle the entire hardcore experience as it exists today and it makes significant improvements to the online experience. That’s a tall order, which leads me to my last point.
6) No real interest in hardcore online gaming
Online gaming feels like its pretty covered right? You’ve got PSN and Xbox Live and a multitude of online PC gaming services like Steam to service the millions of hardcore gamers out there. But literally all of those services could use huge improvements to software and services offered. This is where Nintendo could have really shined, but instead they opted to go with nothing more than a Twitter app.
I think if Nintendo gives us high quality group voice chat ala Skype, improved matchmaking services, wireless headset standards, game lobbies that allow players to mingle and group-up easily then they would already be improving on the other services out there. And that’s just the beginning. There are a number of ideas just waiting to be tried that I don’t even know exist. Xbox Live is mostly stifled by a focus on the “non-core” people who would rather watch Netflix or their Facebook feeds. Nintendo has a huge opportunity here, but they are tepid to try and invest in a true online platform, which admittedly would cost quite a bit to start from the ground-up.
And that’s it for now. Obviously the gaming press as well as many Nintendo fans are pretty timid about the new console. I think most would like to see it succeed in a world that is devoid of any new hardware, but we’ll see. Nintendo needs to refocus its marketing and really give us some compelling reasons to jump on board.