Gaming editor Fergal Carroll takes a look at Nintendo’s next gen console.
The date has been set. November 30th is the day that Nintendo, the first of the big three, launch their next gen console – the Wii U. All was revealed in a Nintendo event in mid-September. Price points were set, bundles announced, launch titles unveiled and that magical date set. The question is though, will you be taking a step in to the next generation alongside Ninty? Or will you let that date slide by almost unnoticed as you mark the days off until Sony or Microsoft make their big announcements?
If you have been living under a gaming rock for the last few months here is the Wii U rundown. This time around Nintendo’s big innovation, aside from finally bringing HD gaming to their home console, is their self-named ‘Gamepad’, a controller which houses a 6.2” resistive touchscreen, camera, accelerometer and gyroscope alongside the familiar controller layout of two analog sticks, a d-pad plus their traditional button design (A, B, Y, X).
Having a screen in your hands offers a variety of new gameplay mechanics from simply having extra HUD elements displayed there (think maps, inventory etc.) to using the touchscreen to affect the main screen (creating platforms on the touchscreen in New Super Mario Bros U). Some games even offer to the ability to switch the focus from the big screen to the small mid game. The controller also provides some nice bonuses such as being able to play games on the controller similar to a Vita/3DS if the big screen is occupied (by your Ma watching Fair City) or being able to have two players playing simultaneously, one on the big screen and one on the small, like you can in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 multiplayer.
The console will come in two different versions, ‘Basic’ and ‘Deluxe’. The ‘Basic’ model will net you a white, 8GB Wii U console, a gamepad, AC adapters, a sensor bar, and an HDMI Cable for €299.99 while the ‘Deluxe’ version costs €349.99 and comes with those same basics in a black, 32GB console, charging cradle and a free copy of NintendoLand, the Wii Sports of the Wii U. In Europe there is a special ZombiU edition which is the ‘Deluxe’ version with ZombiU, a FPS survival horror, replacing NintendoLand.
All this innovation is good but it only really matters if it was utilised well. The Wii offered a whole new gaming experience but only Nintendo were really able to make it work. There was a plethora of casual games on the Wii which was the systems biggest problem. It had only one demographic in mind – the casual gamer. Everyone’s auntie, uncle and grandmother had one. Sure they might have only bought the system to play Wii Sports (it was just ‘so’ much fun that one time they played it at the family Christmas gathering) and each and every one of those systems sold put money in Nintendo’s already cash laden pockets. So Nintendo were happy but what about their hard-core gamers?
I have several friends that if you cut them, they would bleed Nintendo and even they had to purchase a second console this generation in order to fulfil their gaming needs. These are people that believe, to this day, that the Gamecube was a better console than the PS2. Sure it had its titles but nothing even comes to the vast library the PS2 had to offer, never mind the market share it reached. So even the most diehard of Nintendo fans had to move to greener gaming pastures.
I feel that in order for the Wii U to be a success, Nintendo has to reach out to those forgotten hard-core Nintendo gamers of the previous generations. Sure, the Wii had games which catered for this audience but I could almost name them on one hand. Compared to the line-up of their rivals Nintendo’s offering was paltry. It seemed that besides Nintendo’s set of first party titles that the Wii was only capable of playing shovel ware.
At the press conference, Nintendo did offer some solutions to this problem. The capture of big titles like Bayonetta 2 and Rayman Legends as a Wii U exclusives alongside interesting Wii U only games such as The Wonderful 101 and ZombiU will bode well with the hard-core. Combined with the a major increase in 3rd party support which includes the likes of Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed 3 you could almost imagine owning a Wii U alone and being completely satisfied. Most of these titles didn’t make it to the Wii and if they did they didn’t stand up beside the PS3 and 360 versions. Nintendo will certainly have to continue this with most major releases to keep the hard-core market pleased.
One of the biggest questions is will they be able to repeat the Wii’s success? Surely if one was to apply some simple logic to the system you would say no. Why would a casual gamer buy the successor to a games system they barely used? Their mind doesn’t work as simply as that though. I still can’t believe that the Wii sold almost 100m units around the world (95.65m to be precise). It is a staggering figure considering both the PS3 and 360 have sold roughly 30m units less.
Personally, the Wii U feels more like a stop gap in the fact that it will only tide people over until Sony and Microsoft unveil their next generation consoles. Nintendo aren’t doing well financially at the moment. They posted their first annual financial loss in 30 years back in April. They had to cut the price of the 3DS by €80 only 6 months after its release. So basically the Wii U can’t fail for them. If there is one company that you can always trust when it comes to gaming it is Nintendo. They blew the competition away last time but will consumers have learned or will Nintendo change it up enough to capture all market segments? The Wii wasn’t for me and I have an inkling that the Wii U won’t be either but what about you? The big question is – Wii U? Or won’t you?