This is the second part of a series in which I look at the Nintendo Wii U, it’s successes, and it’s failings. The first part of this series can be found here, if you want to catch up.
Nintendo have a knack of broadcasting their future before they announce it. Not by the way of letting you know what they’re gonna do, but, if you look at their track record, you know something is coming before it’s properly announced. You do get the impression that, once they’re about a year from announcing their next new toy, they completely shut down support for their current machine. I mean look at it from right now: the Nintendo Switch is less than a few weeks away, and was properly announced in December. The Wii U hasn’t seen a “major title” since…probably Twilight Princess HD. March 2016 was the last time the Wii U got a big name, and that was a HD remake.
The same logic applies for the Wii. With Skyward Sword slated for December 2011, Wii games of a Nintendo tinge were in short supply. Donkey Kong Country Returns acted as the sole “proper” Nintendo game between then and Zelda, with little else in between. The writing was definitely on the wall for the white slate of joy,and we certainly saw it coming. That being said, we assumed Nintendo were saving all their big hitters for the launch of the Wii U…
After a year to mull over what we’d seen in 2011, Nintendo took to the stage at E3 2012 with some expectations to meet. Once everything had been explained to everyone, repeatedly, most people understood what the Wii U was, and what it could do. All we wanted was to see some proper good games early on. You don’t get many opportunities to make a second first impression and yet, after a lacklustre showing from Sony and Microsoft in their respective conferences, Nintendo had been given one.
Yet Nintendo, despite a new console and all it’s bells and whistles, being introduced to us, managed to lose. A year after Nintendo botched the initial reveal, they managed to completely miss mark. Once again, Nintendo managed to misread the situation totally, assuming people would be interested in the console simply because it was a new Nintendo console. I mean, sure there are people out there like that. Myself included. But there are a lot more people out there who need reasons to buy consoles.
So, yeah, as I mentioned, Donkey Kong and Skyward Sword were the only *real* big hitters Nintendo produced between December 2010 and E3 2012. That’s 18 months, and 2 titles worth much to your big time Nintendo fan. The Wii U offered an opportunity to reward the UNWAVERING (already wavered) patience of their fans. Armed with a console that, really, needed a big hitter early on, Nintendo chose to spread its bets across a bunch of smaller titles. While the Wii had Twilight Princess, the Wii U went with New Super Mario Bros U. Hardly comparable.
E3 2012 represented the first real moment the gaming public sighed a collected breath of disinterest. Those who weren’t as plugged in as others were still confused as to what it was, and those who’d followed the development of it had been given no reason to get excited. The final moments of an E3 conference are traditionally reserved for the reveal of a big hitter. Zelda in 2004, Halo 4 in 2011, an underwhelming conference had been set up for an exciting close.
Nintendo opted for Nintendo Land; a mini-game compilation created to show off the capabilities of the console, and its asymmetric potential. Kinda like what Wii Sports did, but with Animal Crossing and F-Zero instead of Bowling and Boxing.
In an attempt to reignite the flames of interest, and to tidy up some administration such as, y’know, the price of the thing, Nintendo released a “Nintendo Direct”, to the world. Nintendo Directs had become increasingly common from Nintendo to basically update their audience about what’s coming up, so a Wii U direct was expected. Demos of Lego City Undercover, NSMBu, ZombiU, among other launch titles, were shown off, all building up to the cost of the thing.
Nintendo announced there would be two versions of the console available on launch day: a basic pack, and a premium pack. The Basic Pack came in white, had 8gb of internal storage, and that was that. Comparatively, the Premium Pack would launch in black, 32gb of internal storage, a copy of Nintendo Land, and a year of “Nintendo Network Premium”, which gave players a reward for online purchases by the way of points, which could be accumulated for further online games.
I’ll stop mulling my words; the Basic Pack cost £250, the Premium Pack cost £300. The price wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It’d been long confirmed that the technology in the thing was about on par with what the PS3 and the Xbox 360 were capable of, and those machines were retailing at about £180-£200 depending on where you looked. This may have been the straw that ultimately broke the camel’s back. And the camel wasn’t even out the stable yet.
With Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles only a year off, Nintendo needed to start strongly to gain the attention of those looking to save up for one of those devices. With no huge title to force the hand of the consumer, and a price point that, in reality, was a tad steeper than many expected, Nintendo went into launch day with hopes high…
In the next part, we’ll take a look at the launch of the console, as well as some of the titles initially released on the console. As ever, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to drop them below!