The Wii U is arguably the greatest flop in Nintendo history, released six years after Nintendo’s greatest success story, the Nintendo Wii. While the Nintendo DS has sold more units, Nintendo has profited more by the Wii due to its higher price. However, Wii U sales have been lackluster by comparison.
Yesterday, it was announced that Wii U sales were up 200 percent, compared with numbers from August to September 2013. This rise in unit sales comes after Nintendo’s decision to lower the cost of the 32 GB Deluxe/Premium model from $349 to $299 and to stop making the $299 8GB Basic model entirely. While selling more units is good news for the company, Nintendo needed to sell those additional units in order to make up for the lower cost, which is a loss. It was this way from the console’s launch.
Maybe it’s just me, but if you have to lose money on a thing in order to sell the thing, perhaps you shouldn’t be selling the thing.
The purpose of this article, my first in a series about game consoles, is to show why Wii’s successor should have been “Wii 2” and not “Wii U”.
What Made the Wii Awesome
I loved the Wii when it was first released. It was my first TV game console since the first Nintendo Entertainment System. (In the intervening years between the first generation Nintendo console and the seventh, I only played video games on my computer.) It was really the first console to cater to me, a casual gamer. That’s what made the Wii awesome. That’s what made the Wii successful. It was the first game console of its kind to be the first game console for many families—casual gamers of America.
How does the Wii cater to casual gamers? Because games are controlled by logical movements, rather than pushing buttons labeled by random shapes or letters. It is easy to pick up and easily learn how to control the controllers. Even my parents are able to play games with me. It’s funny really, because I remember a time playing Super Mario Bros. on the original “old-school” NES, where my mom, every time she caused Luigi to jump (I was always Mario), she would physically move the controller upwards while she pushed downwards on the appropriate jump button (A). Once again, video games controlled by movement makes sense.
Wii’s Drawbacks Despite Its Success
However, Nintendo eventually fell out of favor with the “avid-gamer” community. Granted, the first edition of the Wii, released in November 2006, was backwards-compatible with the GameCube, plus a separate peripheral “Classic” controller allowed gamers to play select Wii games in a more “old-school” fashion. But this wasn’t nearly enough. Firstly, the “Classic” controller needed to be plugged into the Wii Remote (or “Wiimote”) via a long cord in order to function. Secondly, while backwards compatibility with GameCube is great and all, that leaves no promise of future “non-casual” games.
Additionally, while the Wii sold more units than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360—its direct seventh-generation game console competitors—it pales in comparison to both where hardware is concerned. Both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are HDTV-compatible, meaning that they feature HDMI connectivity. The Wii does not. With PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, you can watch movies (in DVD format on the Xbox 360 and in Bluray format on the PlayStation 3). On the Wii, you cannot. Likewise with CD audio: PS3 and Xbox 360 can play CDs, but the Wii cannot. Both consoles feature greater processing power, more memory, better graphics, more apps, more video entertainment services, better online services, and greater storage. It’s pretty clear that the Wii console is the inferior game console as far as hardware is concerned. So why has it sold more units that the other two consoles?
Firstly, and probably most importantly, price. The Wii is cheaper than the other two consoles. This also means that, despite the Wii having sold more than 22 million more units than the Xbox 360 and the PS3, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been the most profitable console of the three. Secondly, and what I’ve said already, the Wii caters to “casual” gamers, of which there are more out there than there are avid gamers who are more familiar with more traditional controllers.
How Wii U Tried to Bring Back Avid Gamers
What makes Facebook more successful than MySpace, even though MySpace was created almost five years before Facebook? Because Facebook is constantly reinventing itself and refreshing its image, whereas MySpace didn’t do that enough. For its eighth-generation console, Nintendo was looking to reinvent its most popular console, because after six years, the Wii was starting to look severely outdated. Thus the Wii U was born.
The Wii U tried to fix some issues with hardware that had been weak points in the past, namely its compatibility with HDTVs through the use of an HDMI cable rather than a composite cable. I knew when I purchased the Wii U after its launch that it was backwards compatible with Wii games and that it was able to connect with my new Sony HDTV through an HDMI cable. What I didn’t know or fully realize was that the Wii U was split into two menus, the Wii U menu and the Wii menu, and that despite the HDMI connectivity, the Wii menu did not feature HD graphics, whereas the Wii U menu did.
It was not my intent to use the Wii U menu or the Wii U Gamepad when I initially bought the Wii U console, but rather play my current Wii games in high definition. I was sorely disappointed.
Speaking of the Wii U Gamepad, this is the reason the Wii U console is so expensive to produce and why Nintendo has to sell it at a loss to sell any units at all. I really don’t understand this “second screen” gaming phenomenon. I understand that kids can continue to play a game on their Gamepads when their dad comes home and wants to watch TV rather than watch them play video games. I understand that using the Gamepad serves the purpose of being able to continue to play games even when the TV is off. But is this really a problem? And if it is a problem, why?
Wouldn’t it be much simpler for the dad in this scenario to watch his kids having fun playing games or watch the TV show that he wants to watch some other time? Or the dad in the situation could tell the kids to go do their homework and play their games some other time? It’s called compromise, and people don’t seem to do it enough. They want an easier solution where everyone gets their own way, rather than facing conflict and figuring out how to deal with it. However, being a single person who lives in his own house alone, I don’t have to rock-paper-scissors over TV time at my house, so I can’t speak much to this solution-without-a-problem.
What would be nice is to be able to continue playing a TV console game on a handheld controller away from my house, something that the PS Vita can do when you’re away from your PS3, something that a Gamepad cannot do when away from the Wii U. In fact, a few feet away from the Wii U and you start to experience lags and glitches. It’s really unacceptable.
In short, Wii U tried to do too much with this Gamepad concept and failed. However, there is a way that Nintendo can still redeem themselves. First, I will contemplate on what could have been, and second, I will speculate on what could be in the future.
Why Wii 2 Is More Fitting Than Wii U
Whenever I hear the word “Vista”, I get a bad taste in my mouth. That’s because Microsoft’s sixth-generation Windows Operating System went by that name and most people hated it, opting to stay with the very popular Windows XP. Microsoft, seeing how unpopular Vista was, released Windows 7 in half the time (three years) it took them to release Vista after XP (six years). My point is this: don’t give names to next-generation software or hardware; instead, give numbers. Why? Because if it flops, people will remember it less. Therefore, the reputation for the entire family of operating systems or consoles remain less tarnished. Each successor to the PlayStation is given a number. I understand the cleverness behind the Wii U name, but Wii 2 would have tarnished the name of “Wii” less.
But that’s only if, again, Nintendo didn’t try to reinvent itself too much with the Wii U release. Here’s what it should have done with my proposed Wii 2 idea instead. Wii 2 would have:
- been HDTV-compatible, complete with a bundled HDMI cable. The Wii menu and Wii games would also have improved high-definition graphics. The Wii menu would be the main menu. There would be no dual menu.
- been bundled with a Wii Remote as well as “Classic” controller, but not as a corded peripheral to the Wiimote. Instead, the Classic controller would connect wirelessly to the Wii 2 console on its own, much like the Wii U Classic Controller Pro does now, except compatible with Wii games, not just Wii U games. Bundling both controller styles hopefully would have kept the casual-gamer base while giving a gesture to the avid gamers to come back to Nintendo.
- not featured a bundled GamePad. Instead, greater compatibility between the Nintendo 3DS and DS handhelds mean that they could do what the PS Vita does with the PS3 now: continue playing remotely, not just locally.
- had memory, storage, and processing power to match what is already offered by PS3 and Xbox.
- been able to play Bluray discs, DVDs, and CDs, again to match what the PS3 can already do.
- had a very simple data transfer process—not the monstrosity that currently exists between the Wii and Wii U consoles. Backwards transfer would also be possible. Plus, it would all happen online.
- had a much-improved online presence and online gaming.
- had more video entertainment choices (which it has now).
However, the Wii U exists now. Does that mean all hope is gone for my ideas above? No! All these things can still be done, but under the name Wii 3 instead. Releasing a Wii 3 may seem like taking a step back from current endeavors or abandoning a “failed experiment”. It doesn’t have to be. Nintendo can still continue to release games for Wii U, but resume releasing games for the Wii, as well as Wii games that feature the Classic controller rather than the Wii Remote motion controller.
The Nintendo Wii is still the most popular Nintendo console. It seems a shame to stop making games for it just because something different exists that is newer.
What do you think? Could my ideas for Wii 3 work? Share your thoughts in the comments!