So, Nintendo’s E3 press conference — it was, to put it mildly, pretty damn awful. Many people are already preparing the Wii U’s eulogy, but are they jumping the gun? There are plenty of legitimate reasons to be pessimistic about the Wii U, but there’s also reason to believe it could be another surprise Nintendo success.
So, here are five reasons why the Wii U is DOOMED, and another five reasons it may not be…
The GamePad Ain’t The Wiimote
The Wiimote may be the most ingenious little chunk of plastic the gaming industry has even produced. That controller pretty much sold 100-million Wiis single-handedly. It was a completely revolutionary controller disguised as a TV remote even your grandpa wouldn’t be afraid to pick up. Okay, sure, it didn’t always actually work, but the few times it actually did work, it worked brilliantly. It made games more tactile, involving and interactive. Yeah, six year later there’s still gamers shouting “but I just want to PUSH A BUTTON!” but most of those people would probably rather push a button to scratch their asses if you game them the option, so f–k ’em.
Point is, the Wiimote was a really smart creation, and the Wii U GamePad ain’t no Wiimote. They’re trying to do the “disguise it as something non-gamers like” thing, but it simply doesn’t look enough like a tablet to pull it off. I can’t see my grandparents wanting to touch a Wii U GamePad. Furthermore, it doesn’t have that simple, “oh that’s cool” appeal of motion controls. Nintendo showed off a handful of uses for the GamePad at the show, but none that deliver the instant charm of seeing somebody swing a sword in a game by actually swinging their controller. Again, yes, I realize it wasn’t until last year’s Skyward Sword that motion controlled sword fighting was delivered in a satisfying way — it doesn’t matter. It’s the promise that counts. With the Wii U GamePad Nintendo couldn’t even promise anything particularly exciting.
The GamePad is very very shiny though.
Nintendo Isn’t Ready for HD
Due to the lacking storage capacity of cartridges, most N64 games sounded fairly terrible. Voice acting was a rarity, and most of the music sounded like something from a 16-bit game (or worse). Nintendo switched to disc-based media for the Gamecube, making storage capacity no longer an issue — and yet, most of Nintendo’s games for the ‘Cube still didn’t sound all the great. Silent characters and dated chiptunes were still the rule. Nintendo had been working with the N64’s limited sound capabilities for so long that they were badly behind the curve — it wasn’t until mid-way through the Wii’s lifespan that spoken dialogue and orchestrated music became a regular thing in Nintendo published games.
The same pattern appears to be repeating with graphics on the Wii U. I think most of us hoped Nintendo was honing their graphical skills in secret. That as soon as they had an HD system to work with, they’d get right to producing cutting edge visuals. Unfortunately all the Nintendo developed games at E3 basically just looked like sharpened up Wii games. Nintendo is behind the curve yet again, and I suspect it’ll be years before they manage to produce visuals up to even 2012 standards.
Pikmin 3 looks pretty good, but this was an E3 where we saw The Last of Us. So yeah, not that good.
Nintendo Still Isn’t Playing Well With 3rd Parties
Nintendo crowed about 3rd party support at E3, and then showed a bunch of dated ports with tacked on GamePad gimmicks. Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition isn’t support Nintendo, it’s an insult. Even the N64 had more exclusive 3rd party games promised for it — the Wii U 3rd party situation is not looking pretty.
People Don’t Know This is a New System, and Still Won’t When it Comes Out
Here’s some quotes from a rather amazing CNN article about the Wii U. Apparently the guy who wrote them knows at least a little something about technology, watched Nintendo’s press conference and went hands-on with the Wii U, and after all that he still thought the Wii U was just a new controller for the existing Wii. What’s your average Wii Fit player going to think? It’s the 3DS all over again.
The Wii Brand Doesn’t Mean S–t
The Wii is one of the best selling consoles of all-time. Nintendo is obviously hoping many Wii owners stick to the brand and buy a Wii U. Particularly casual gamers. Here’s the problem — mention the word “Wii” and you’ll get one of three reactions depending on who you’re talking to…
“The Wii? Oh, yeah, that was cool I guess. Wanna play Words With Friends?”
“F–K THE WII! I JUST WANT TO PUSH BUTTONS!!”
“Oh yeah, I’ve got a Wii. Still play it too! Never quite understood all those ‘gathering dust’ comments. Have you pre-ordered The Last Story?”
There are dedicated Wii fans, but they’re a tiny piece of the pie. Most Wii owners are casual gamers with zero brand loyalty, or people who apparently only bought the machine so they could be VERY ANGRY at it. The Wii brand alone isn’t selling anybody but the 600 thousand people worldwide that bought Xenoblade Chronicles.
The Wii U’s Launch Line-Up is Actually Pretty Damn Good
People were down on Nintendo’s E3 press conference largely because they didn’t tease us with a bunch of stuff that may (or may not) ever arrive like they usually do. It made for a show that felt very light in content, but here’s the thing — the Wii U’s launch line-up is actually one of Nintendo’s best in ages. They’re delivering a new Mario platformer, a fairly robust new minigame collection for the casuals, an exercise game for mom and a long-promised new Pikmin game for the hardcores. Sure, we have no idea what’s coming after that, but frankly I’d rather have a solid, confirmed line-up of launch titles, than a bunch of empty promises like we got with the 3DS and Wii.
A Nintendo platform hasn’t launched with an original Mario platformer since 1996.
Nintendo Land is a Genius Idea if it Works
Wii Sports did a great job of grabbing the casuals, but a terrible job of converting them to Nintendo’s bread and butter franchises. Nintendo Land looks to do both — if the game is good enough, it’ll get people on board with the party-friendly fun and introduce new gamers to the likes of Mario, Link, Samus and more. If Nintendo Land does its job, this could be a generation where we get big budget F-Zero and Metroid games that actually sell. Imagine that.
The Wii U GamePad Isn’t As Useless as Nintendo Was Making it Look
For some reason almost all the Wii U games being shown at E3 were action games. I don’t think the GamePad is particularly well suited to action games. The controller’s big, kind of clunky and looking down at a second screen just won’t work with fast-paced games.
The game that appears to best use the Wii U GamePad is Pikmin 3. With the 2nd screen you can keep track of all your Pikmin soldiers or make use of an overhead tactical view. This is the kind of thing the GamePad is going to do well — making complex strategic games more manageable. I think Starcraft II or the upcoming SimCity would work great on the Wii U. Also, for the first time MMOs will actually be playable on a console — the GamePad could be used for all the communication and inventory stuff that’s difficult to handle with a regular console controller.
Gimme a little of this action on the Wii U.
Microsoft and Sony are Underestimating Nintendo Yet Again
Microsoft and Sony didn’t even tease their new consoles at this year’s E3. The message was pretty clear — “We’re not taking Nintendo seriously.”
That’s a dangerous thing to do. It leads to things like dropping from a distant number one to number three in the console race. But then I guess memory is fleeting thing.
There have been some rumors that Microsoft and Sony are working on their own tablet-like controllers, but after Nintendo’s poor showing at E3 this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Nintendo’s competitors shelve their tablets. That might be smart…or we might be gearing up for the Wii all over again.
Nintendo Fans Are Easy to Please
Nintendo nerds may be raging now, but all Nintendo has to do is unveil a 5-second clip of an HD Metroid and they’ll be running to GameStop with 250 dollars grasped in their sweaty palms. No Nintendo platform can ever be a true failure (Virtual Boy excepted) because Nintendo fans’ money is only ever a Zelda trailer away.
What do you folks think? Doomed or not doomed? That is the question…