When Wii U launched, I posted this on my tumblr talking about the social aspects of the system. I really liked the concept of MiiVerse and the new online accounts structure using Nintendo Network IDs. While I still like both of these features, I’m somewhat disappointed by the system and how Nintendo is supporting it thus far.
I really felt at launch like the Wii U could really enable Nintendo to get the hardcore fan back. I think they probably have done to some extent, but not as many as they need. Particularly because it looks as if they’ve lost a large percentage of their casual market that the Wii enjoyed for so long.
I think the main issue with the system is the gamepad. When I first started using it at launch, it had a really nice unique quality to it. There’s really nothing else mainstream like it, as you can’t really compare it to a traditional tablet. As the novelty wore off however, I found that even though it has all the buttons you would expect, after some time playing it, my hands started to feel very uncomfortable, to the extent where I had to stop using it. This occurred after a fairly short period of time, about 30 mins of playing. This may not apply to other people, but to me, I want to be able to play a system for at least an hour, maybe two before I get discomfort from the controller.
The next issue is the fact that not many games support the gamepad in innovative ways, and even when they do, I find myself only using those functions once or twice and then going back to the traditional control. I even consider the Pro Controller to be my default controller for the system for any game that allows its use.
The third issue that I see with the gamepad is that it is expensive, and because of this, it limited the graphical power that Nintendo could give the system due to needing to keep costs down. This means that effectively the Wii U is a generation behind the two new systems in power, just as the Wii was. And while Wii U games are by no means ugly. In fact, Mario 3D world in particular is beautiful to behold, but it simply can’t match up to the graphical prowess of the PS4 and XBOX One.
The biggest issue this creates is the same one Nintendo have had before, most notably with the GameCube, where they couldn’t get 3rd part publishers to bring their best multi-platform games to the system. Seeing as they’ve lost most of their fickle casual audience of last generation. A lot of people, including myself predicted that before the system launched, it would have made far more sense to just ditch the gimmicks this time around and just made a powerful system with a fantastic controller. Remember the gamecube controller? This would have given Nintendo somewhat of an equal footing in the hardware market with Sony and Microsoft and more importantly made it far easier and cheaper for 3rd parties to bring their games over to the system without having to develop a totally different version of their games for Nintendo’s system. The current situation isn’t a cost-effective one for developers, and subsequently Nintendo are relying on their own games to bring customers to the platform. And that hasn’t gone very well for them so far, and I can’t see how they can increase sales by the number they need to in order to be competitive with the other two manufacturers. Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Are going to be great games, and system sellers, but I don’t think that even the huge potential selling power of those games can shift enough Wii Us to save the system from being labelled as another gamecube-esque failure for Nintendo.
The design choices Nintendo make with their systems continues to mean that their consoles can’t be my systems of choice. I love playing Nintendo games, and I’m sure that Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. will be two of my favourite games of the year (if smash bros. isn’t delayed), but almost everything else I’ll be playing on PS4. It’s a shame that Nintendo don’t seem to care about changing that situation any time soon.