Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wii U: Great fun missing a market

Wii U Console and GamepadThis past holiday season saw the introduction of the Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the Microsoft Xbox One (XB1). This guy, however, bought neither. Instead, I went and bought The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World for my Nintendo Wii U. I've had it for over a year now and enjoy it immensely, however it seems the world doesn't agree with me...

This past holiday season, the PS4 and XB1 enjoyed a great holiday season selling 4.4 million and 3.1 million consoles in 2013 respectively (according to VGChartz, which should be taken with a grain of salt). These numbers are only from the holiday season, as each were released in mid-November. Meanwhile, the Wii U sold 3.2 million consoles over the entire year, even when having a price point below the competition. In addition, Nintendo just changed their Q1 2014 forecast from a nearly $1 billion profit to a $335 million loss after seeing sales tank much more than expected post-holidays. Overall, people simply aren't buying the console quite as much as hoped.

Now, full-disclosure: some people would likely call me a Nintendo fanboy. I grew up on a NES and later, an N64. I didn't own a non-Nintendo console until I was almost out of high school (PS2). Today I tend to enjoy most consoles equally, but it's still difficult for me to not get and enjoy Nintendo products almost immediately upon launch (to prove my resistance, I didn't get a Wii U until December 2012). Although this love persists, I do not claim myself to be a Nintendo fanboy simply because I also enjoy the other consoles as well (and even PC *gasp*). It comes down to one simple thing: very few things are more fun, and I mean pure-unadulterated-children-running-and-skipping-fun, than Nintendo games.

Sadly though 2013 simply wasn't a great year for Nintendo and the Wii U. The "Year of Luigi" (only took 30 years to celebrate the best brother a man could have) simply did not pan out. As someone with both a Wii U and a 3DS, I'll say it wasn't for lack of good games.

Instead of continuing talking about how unfortunate this recent turn is though, how about we focus on why I'd buy a second Wii U before a PS4 or XB1?

To begin, some people think the GamePad is a gimmick, but after using it I can say it's actually a great feature. It really is simply if the DS and Wii had a child. You get a touchscreen right in your hands that you can interact with directly and/or play on the TV. And then it also enables off-TV playing for most of the content: playing New Super Mario Bros U on the TV and someone wants to watch something else? Immediately play it solely on the GamePad and let them do whatever they'd like. The one missing killer feature is the ability to play DS games (or even 3DS) on the Wii U, similar to how they had the Super Game Boy for SNES or Game Boy Player for GameCube, but given their track record here I'm sure it's just a matter of time. If anything, the GamePad is before it's time; Android and Chromecast (or iPhone and Apple TV) will likely bring a lagless feature like this in the near future, and gamers will rejoice.

Next, the games are solid. People might find Mario games childish, but there's no negating the joy and fun that comes from playing one (which holds very true for Bros U and 3D World). NintendoLand is a solid launch game, introducing the features of the console in a new and exciting way. Wind Waker HD is the only current Zelda, however it's a beautiful remake of an amazing game (nothing quite as free-feeling as sailing). I'm sure PS4 and XB1 will get there, but at the moment there's nothing on either of them which excites me.

Overall, while I hope it's not true, if the Wii U is a swan song for Nintendo's home console business, it's one so beautiful I would truly openly weep.

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