Daily Reaction: Will Nintendo’s Wii U be a Success?

Daily Reaction is a PSLS exclusive feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

When the original Nintendo Wii was originally shown, everyone at the time thought Nintendo had completely lost their minds. While the motion control aspect was interesting and was expected to bring a new and unique experience into homes, it seemed like they had forgotten their passionate fanbase. Unexpectedly, the Wii blew up and outpaced every console this generation, selling millions of units and even forcing the competition into motion gaming. Now, Nintendo is set out to release the next evolution, called the Wii U, leaving onlookers again to wonder if Nintendo can strike gold twice.

Dan: Honestly, I was one of those people who scoffed at the very idea of the Wii when it was first announced. Motion gaming is something still very much in its infancy, and consoles just are not able to create an immersive experience to give me the depth, I would want from physical gaming. I thought just having a wand or wiimote was not going to give people an experience that would captivate any audience, it just seemed to me like an elaborate way to not be a joystick. I was completely wrong, the casual or non-initiated gamer fell absolutely in love with the idea of the Wii. The ability to play a game with little to no real need for minute levels of finger dexterity really bridged the gap between the general audience and the gaming industry.

Now Nintendo is trying to move the Wii U, and I again can’t help but think that it won’t offer me anything I really would care about. Yet, knowing what I know now, I know it will sell well – probably better than even the PS4 or Xbox 720 – I just do not think it will move the same number of units it initially had. Much like the Tickle-Me Elmo craze years before it, the Wii had generated a media storm that gave it enough presence in consumers minds, that everyone wanted it. As its cost was well below that of its competition, consumers were able to practically impulse buy it without much thought. Eventually, most of those adopters realized that this white box with all of its accessories was just gaining dust. So, when Nintendo comes around again with the Wii U, those who bought into the hype are just going to move onto the next big item.

Seb: So a lot of people scoffed at the idea of the Wii, but that was because motion controls were unproven, and unknown and untrusted quantity. Those people turned out to be wrong. But the people scoffing at the Wii U? They’re scoffing because big tablets aren’t unproven, in fact they are a very popular field with a ton of products – and none of them require you to be 20ft away from a static box. They took the idea of the iPad and then removed its most attractive feature – portability. It’s like cloning Usain Bolt and then shooting him in the kneecaps.

But sure, Mario, Link and Pokemon will help them sell a bunch, as will being first on the market and the strength of the Nintendo brand. But compared to the Wii? Peanuts. This is not a mass market product. The Just Dance crowd already have their Wiis, and if they upgrade they’ll get a Kinect. The average COD/Batman/Mass Effect gamer won’t be interested in ports or an incremental graphics improvement, and the younger kids will ask their parents for a iPad Mini this Christmas.

If Ninty didn’t have their huge franchises, they’d be dead in the water, as it is, that’s all they have and it won’t be a roaring success.

Dan: Yes, Nintendo will not do as well as they did with the Wii, but that does not mean that they still will not possibly match, if not exceed the sales of the PS4 and Xbox 720. The major reasons are simple, Mario, and money. Come Christmas parents are going to probably pick up a Wii U sooner than they will spend the asking price for the higher end consoles, not to mention the gift-ability of the Wii U is significantly higher than the other 2. Lastly, Mario, Zelda and the rest of the Nintendo crew are mainstays in the gaming industry. So most hardcore gamers, even those yelling at the TV during CoD, are going to want to play the latest iteration of those titles. So while Nintendo probably will not blow up the charts like it did before, I do not doubt that it will still sell incredibly well.

The biggest issue the Wii U will face is a similar one it faced with the Wii, 3rd party developers are just not going to be able to move product as well as they can on other platforms. Namely because, even though they might be able to include some interesting functionality with its tablet interface, the visual fidelity will be so underpowered that most consumers would rather play them on another system. Even the success of Windows, Android, and iOS tablets will start to eat into the Wii U’s selling point of it utilizing a tablet. This is also not to mention that in the unlikelihood that Sony actually gets its act together and pushes the Vita as a real competitor for Nintendo. So, while Nintendo will move a substantial number of consoles, they will face similar problems moving 3rd party games, even though 1st party will again top the charts.

Seb: Yeah, I guess the PS3-Vita combo can do the same as, if not more than, the Wii U, but it’s never going to be massively supported as a single platform.

My issue with the Wii U is that they still haven’t clarified which audience they’re going after – core or casual, and neither of them have a huge incentive to buy it. Core gamers who can’t afford a console just for Nintendo games are far more likely to wait the extra year or so for the far more powerful PS4 and 720, and I don’t see casuals buying into this game mechanic – each console comes with just one tablet controller, and everything else is controlled with the painfully inaccurate 2006-based tech that is the original wiimote.

Part of me wants to commend Nintendo for trying something different. I’m all for shaking up the industry that helps break up the monotony of just ‘let’s add more power’ devices. But sadly they took the wrong route. Even if the iPad wasn’t a big hit, the whole second screen thing is flawed, too much looking up and down or holding the heavy controller up to your line of sight. I’d even go as far to say that the DS (and 3DS) has very few games that effectively make use of the dual screen despite it not having the line of sight issues. Most end up just using one screen as a giant map… something I have already seen on Wii U games.

Will you be picking up the Wii U this Christmas? Will the Wii U see the same media explosion that the Wii did?  Do you keep up with each Mario and Zelda release? Let us know in the comments below and please follow Seb, Dan, and today’s super-fan Vesra for some sexy Twitter times.

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