The WiiU : The Hype and Dismay

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Launching with a lot of hype and some initial dismay, the WiiU is still causing both (but mainly dismay) after being in the public’s hands for a while. Initially the WiiU sold well, even better than the Wii, but now the numbers have fallen flat and the WiiU has even become subject to the humiliation of the Playstation Vita outselling it in some regions. What is going wrong and is there anything positive about the WiiU? We will start with the lifeblood of any system – the games.

Launch Games

marioThe launch window games where good but not great if you take away the fact that a lot of them where already on other systems. The game which summed up the shambolic launch window was Mass Effect 3. The game itself was met with positive vibes when it was announced. Just before the launch, EA announced that the Mass Effect trilogy would be available on both the Xbox and PS3 at the same price as the WiiU version of just Mass Effect 3. This nullified the value of the WiiU release.

Nintendos’ own main launch window games in Nintendoland and New Super Mario Bros U were as expected. Both are solid games with some flaws but they are typical “Nintendo” in that there were polished. The biggest disappointment was that they delayed Pikmin 3 not once but twice. This should have been the main (ie not mini game) to showcase the WiiU instead of the New Super Mario Bros U.

Mario always gets mocked as being a “casual” game, however New Super Mario Bros U is far from casual. The game itself had the most frustrating and hard levels I have faced in a long time, however the pacing of the game was off. The difficulty of the game was hardest around the middle and so the last levels are relatively easy. This is Mario’s first proper HD game and to be honest, it is a slight disappointment. The new 3D Mario game coming this year should fix this.

Nintendoland is a “better than you think” selection of Nintendo based mini-games. Again, Nintendo missed a real opportunity here – if they opened Nintendoland to other developers they could have added more attractions to the park. Nintendo could have vetted the quality of the games and with that, both parties could have won. By adding more attractions to Nintendoland from other developers, say a Darksiders or Mass Effect mini-game, this would expand the game and open up new game franchises to other people. However Nintendoland is solid, fun and should bring some nostalgia to older gamers.

The established games which are available for the WiiU are a mixed bag. Call of Duty plays like it should bar the number of people available to play online. If you try and play anything bar Team Deathmatch or Free for All you may have a wait to play as the numbers of gamers playing are low due to the WiiU being a new console and having a low install base. It just does not paint a good picture when you are trying to play, love it or loathe it, the biggest console game to date.

Assassins Creed 3 plays well and other games like Darksiders 2 play like they should. Some games try to add features to the gamepad controller which don’t need there. Others add gamepad “features” which actually distract from the game in the case of Batman Arkham City.

Another factor in the WiiU launch titles was the price of the games themselves. Many of the games were priced more expensively than new release Xbox and Playstation games. Factor in many of the games were already on the other systems for months and as a result are a lot cheaper and resentment has built up to why should you pay more for a WiiU version?

Overall though, if all you played last generation was a Wii, the Wii lineup had appeal but not lost a lot of luster if you had played the Xbox or Playstation. Most gamers I know DID have a Wii with some other console so the notion of gamers being interested in 3rd Party multiplatform games which have been out for months on other consoles, for play on the WiiU is fanciful at best. The launch window games is a case of “could have done better”.

2013 games

In our Must-see Video Games of 2013 article I have 3 WiiU games on the list. The future looks good for the WiiU exclusive game-wise. The 3rd party support is a very big worry for the WiiU in the face of the competition coming this year with the new Playstation 4 and Xbox 720. They need to step this area up but lets start with the positives.

The next couple of months there are three games which should be counted as good games however, like other consoles, it should be said there is a real slump of games coming over the summer period but the WiiU is worse.

pikmin 3

Pikmin 3 is the real stand out title for the WiiU coming up in the next couple of months. This for me is Nintendo’s real first proper go for the WiiU and it will be interesting to see how well the game will be played. Next up, is Lego City Undercover which is, in effect Lego Grand Theft Auto. I am really excited about how this will play out. Finally we have Monster HunterTri HD while is an HD remake it should still make a good addition to the WiiU library.  Both Lego City and Monster Hunter our out now but I haven’t managed to pick them up as yet

There is a game coming which really helped the Wii sell units but currently it’s date of release and features are sketchy. That game is Wii Fit U. This is the game which helped in large part to shift the Wii to the family audience. However Nintendo has not explained the WiiU to the general public on what the WiiU is so this game is a key game for Nintendo and it could tell us how the WiiU will fare long-term.

You cannot mention WiiU games without mentioning Rayman Legends. This has turned into a farce from the multiple delays and then losing the exclusive rights to the game. Nintendo slipped up on this as Rayman, while not a “system seller”, was an important title for the WiiU. It showed that Nintendo meant business.

wind-waker-hdLooking further on in the year, Nintendo has announced a 3D Mario game. I will go out on a limb and say that it will be the best looking console game of this year. This is the game which Nintendo will be pitching against the next-gen consoles so will need to be special. All we know now is that it will be shown at E3 along with Super Smash Bros.

A full blown Zelda will not be out this year but a HD remake of Wind Waker is coming this year. Following on from this, Nintendo should release more HD remakes of existing games and I am expecting more announcements of that ilk. These are easy quick ways to boost the WiiU library but they should reconsider the price of HD remakes if the full price Amazon listing is correct.

With Nintendo picking up Bayonetta 2 they are trying to boost their standing in the “hardcore” games. The rumors of Nintendo picking up another game of this ilk is all positive but there are ongoing issues with 3rd Party support which was promised but now is starting to evaporate with a number of developers questioning their support of the WiiU.

As always, first and second party support for the WiiU is very strong and arguably the strongest of the 3 main consoles however its the 3rd party support which lets them down. Going into this new age of consoles and microconsoles you cannot ignore 3rd party developers. While exclusive games are the most important thing for the console you need the 3rd party games to pad out the rest.

The gamepad

Much has been made about the WiiUs gamepad. It is lighter than you would think and is quite innovative as well. The killer feature for me is off-screen play.  This essentially means that you can play your game if others want to watch the TV.  This mixes the best of what a tablet does and what a console does perfectly.  I have used this feature a fair bit and it really is a brilliant addition especially for families. All in all you do get used to the gamepad quickly but you do miss it’s touch feature on other consoles when you go back to them.

The online features

COD WiiU

Online features are mixed bag. As previously mentioned online is lacking for some games. Call of Duty can be sparse when venturing out of the mainstream games and other games like Fifa are lacking some features.  To be kind we can say it’s developing and has a way to go for online gaming as it needs to improve it’s install base and for the developers to take them serious.

The killer feature for the WiiU was Miiverse.  This is a mix between twitter and forums.  Each game has a section where you can comment, leave a screenshot of a game, or draw a picture.  You can then follow people like Twitter and see their posts.  I have had a lot of fun with this. Here’s the kicker though, following the Playstation 4 announcement Miiverse looks last generation.  While the WiiU only allows pictures of the game the PS4 will allow videos and looks like a more developed system. This will be a real worry for Nintendo as yet again, it will look a generation behind but we will know more when more of the Playstation 4 features are announced.

Conclusion

Lets get this out now –  the WiiU isn’t a bad system. At the moment it has work to do but is functional and has nice ideas.  This does make up for the fact that there is nothing much to play on it and it has no system sellers.  Even when Mario 3D, Zelda and Mario Kart come along there is no long term appeal as the third parties are not taking it serious.

This is Nintendos’ biggest challenge and it looks like they haven’t learned from the lessons of before. First party games will only bring you so far – you need the 3rd party developers on board to make your console sing.  For now, my WiiU is packed up in box with a “wait until it gets played again” tag on it.

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