There were many missteps but also some flashes of brilliance when it came to the Wii U. As fans eagerly await the release of the Nintendo Switch, many are hoping that Nintendo can learn from this failure. What did Nintendo do right and went so horribly wrong? Let’s look back at the strange enigma that was the Wii U!
The Name Game
There’s no doubting that the Wii U has been a disappointment for fans and for Nintendo themselves. If you were trying to list all the reasons that the console wasn’t successful, the name itself would be at the top of most lists. It’s bad, real bad. Not to mention it was confusing for people who knew of the Wii (everyone and their grandma). Was it an add-on for the Wii? Could you still play Wii U games on a regular Wii? It didn’t differentiate itself enough from its predecessor and that’s why it hurt the sales numbers. Whether you love or hate the name of the Switch, at least Nintendo has made a clean break and that’s a good sign.
When it was first announced in September of 2012, I was excited for the possibilities the gamepad could bring. Asymmetric gameplay was something that Nintendo promised to deliver with the Wii U and I was a believer. The potential for one person to have a completely different gameplay experience while playing with others piqued my curiosity. Well, less than a year in I realized all that I hoped for had fallen by the wayside. Few games ever took advantage of the gamepad, and when they did, it was merely for map display, item inventory, or for off TV play. The only titles that really tried to do something different were NintendoLand, Zombi U, and Mario Maker. Not implementing inventive ways to use this giant controller was a slight onto the fans who bought into it, and was one of the biggest let downs of the system. The gamepad also drove the cost up on the console, which makes the lack of use sting even more. The switch won’t have this exact problem, but will they be able to use the “Joy-Con” controllers in innovative ways, or will it again simply make it cost more?
The most important part of a console isn’t the graphics, the name, or controller. These things help, but the game library is the backbone. What can I get on this box that I cant get on that box. The third party support was abysmal for the Wii U with many developers completely abandoning the system. There were a few great 3rd party games but the only thing the Wii U had going for it was it’s first party games. Nintendo put on an incredibly strong showing and proved once again they are the king of games. The first party line up included new games in familiar franchises like Yoshi, Mario, Donkey Kong and the most jam packed Smash Bros. game ever. Seems like standard Nintendo stuff, but these were some of the best that their respective franchises have ever seen. Also in the fray were some newer IP’s like Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, Xenoblade Chronicles and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
The Wii U also succeeded where everyone else continues to fail, Couch Co-op. So many different Nintendo franchises that normally weren’t cooperative were bringing along a second player. This is something Nintendo just gets, as it’s always trying to make something that can be enjoyed with others. Playing online is fun, but there is no comparison to smack talking your friends sitting right next to you while playing split screen Mario Kart. While the library is on the smaller side it holds some of the most amazing games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Every Wii U owner knows the pain of waiting for a Nintendo game to come out, but it’s always worth it. There is no doubt that Nintendo will continue its approach to making games, and we have a lot to look forward to with their first party development. If third parties take to the Switch like we’ve been told they will, it could provide a healthy dose of games while we wait on exclusives.
Squid or Kid?
Splatoon! This single game is the Wii U’s legacy. I did mention that there were so many amazing experiences on the system, but they were from well established franchises. Splatoon came out of nowhere, took the multiplayer shooter genre and turned it on its head. Nintendo constantly get’s berated for being too “family friendly”, but this mindset is what helps them make creative games such as this. Instead of bullets and generic military men, you get paint globs and squid kids. There’s nothing wrong with Call of Duty or Battlefield, but when a game like Splatoon comes out, it is completely refreshing for the genre. For better or worse, Splatoon got its start on the Wii U and became a runaway hit. Luckily for the Switch, Splatoon 2 will hit this summer and hopefully there is enough new modes and mechanics to help recapture the magic.
I hope that when people look back to the Wii U, it will be remembered fondly with other systems that were deemed failures like the Dreamcast and Gamecube. Just because a console doesn’t have insane sales numbers, doesn’t mean you as a person can’t be happy with and enjoy it. This is one Wii U owner, who has a ton of gripes with how it was handled, but is mostly satisfied with what it had to offer. And don’t forget we finally get to play the long awaited Zelda: Breath of the Wild to close out its life cycle! As the Switch prepares to roll out, the Wii U will be gone but it gave us many classics that will not be forgotten. Goodbye old friend, Wii will miss U!