After a less than stellar outing with the Nintendo Gamecube, the house of Mario surprised everyone with the Wii and took the throne of best-selling console over competitors Sony and Microsoft. However, the gimmicky nature of the hardware dented the company’s reputation and, now, it is at risk of being completely knocked out of the gaming hardware market.
Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, should have been an ideal gaming machine. It came out before the competition, it had a controller that seemed set to exploit the tablet craze, and it was also the first Nintendo console to offer 1080p graphics. Again, it should have been an ideal gaming machine.
However, that has not proven to be the case. In terms of hardware and interface, the Wii U does not impress. Right now, it is proficiently running games ported from the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, but those consoles are half a decade old. If it is just barely beating them now, imagine how dated it will feel when the next iterations of the big boys arrive.
Couple that with awkward interface issues and poor battery life for the Gamepad controller, and the Wii U is not coming off as a slick powerhouse.
Of course, Nintendo has never been known for power. However, when technological advancements in audio-visual design have advanced so drastically, the Wii’s lack of muscle in comparison to its contemporaries stood out far more than the Nintendo 64’s weakness against the PS1 or the Gamecube’s against the original Xbox. That didn’t stop the Wii from getting sales, mind you, but it the dent Nintendo’s reputation with proper gamers.
The fact that there simply wasn’t too much critical acclaim for its software, particularly when compared to the competition, also didn’t help.
Again, that didn’t stop sales but it did set a dangerous trend. Gamers stopped taking the console seriously while developers also came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a profitable system for them because, other than Nintendo’s self-made games, very few proved to be successful.
But that’s also common for Nintendo because the best-sold games on its consoles are usually its own. As one gaming journalist stated, “People buy Nintendo consoles for Nintendo games” and, for the most part, this self-reliance has worked.
Of course, that no longer seems to be the case because Nintendo’s properties alone have not been able to entice users to buy their latest console. The Wii U has sold just over 3 million units and, as the numbers suggest, it’s not picking up steam (in January alone, the seven year-old Xbox 360 sold nearly six times as much).
Besides, the Wii has still failed to be a must-buy console. As aforementioned, it’s not a technical marvel. Also, right now, it has no exclusive software gems, a problem so apparent that Nintendo has officially apologized for it.
Therefore, until some great games arrive, the only decent products on the console are the backwards-compatible Wii games or the ports of pre-existing games, the latter of which are currently less expensive on their original machines because they’ve been out for a while.
Also, it seems that future development isn’t looking to optimistic either. Currently, less than 5% of developers are making games for the Wii U and one of its shining stars, Rayman Legends, is no longer even exclusive to the system.
To cap off the distrust that developers seem to have in the console, a former design director for Epic Games (Gears of War) even went so far as to state that Nintendo might just become a software-only company down the line.
Of course, all is not lost. Nintendo is no amateur and, even now, they’re working on their classic franchises. Also, exclusives such as Lego City: Undercover are looking to be great examples of what Nintendo has to offer.
However, until the company can provide a legitimate killer app for the Wii U, fans may keep believing that their console princess in another castle, possibly one not owned by Nintendo.