10 Reasons the Wii U Failed

There were high hopes for the Wii U when it was introduced, but the console could never get its footing in the console space. Years of hoping that the console would catch on came to nothing, and while there are arguments the Wii U can be considered a success, Nintendo's poor decisions ultimately undermined players' Wii U expectations. Here are ten reasons the console flopped.

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Confusing Controllers

MarioKart 8 on a tv and Wii U Controls

You can’t get much simpler than the Wii U’s controller setup. There are the gamepad and the Wii remote. Some games requiring both, especially in multiplayer. Then there's the Pro Controller. There's a GameCube-inspired controller, too.

In multiplayer, only one player can have the gamepad, and this can lead to fights over it or general confusion as it exchanges hands. The Wii U is weirdly complex. One of the most common questions those new to the console ask is, "What controllers do I need?"

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Perplexing Gamepad

Wii U gamepad quick start menu

When it introduced its new gamepad, it soon became apparent that Nintendo had few ideas for its use. It was utilized by a few party games, but its innovations were increasingly ignored for everything but off-TV play.

After a couple of disastrous years and suggestions that the Wii U should be re-released without the pricey controller, Nintendo set Shigeru Miyamoto on the task of creating games that would prove the beauty of the controller. Of the three he showed off, only "Star Fox Zero" had an announced release date, which became two release dates, the one they missed, and the one they eventually made. This confusion further hindered the Wii U.

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Minimal Third-Party Support

Screenshot of Watch Dogs, a rare third party game for Wii U

There’s a big difference between getting third-party publishers to announce a handful of games for a console before launch and getting real support for it. After failing with a few ports of aging Nintendo games, then noticing the Wii U's weak sales, most publishers lost interest in developing for the console.

Third-party publishers love to have successful games on a Nintendo system, but for the most part, non-Nintendo games just don’t do well, and if there's anything that Nintendo could do to change that, they certainly haven't helped third-party developers.

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Original Xbox 360

Erin Huffstetler

Realizing a console about as powerful as the Xbox 360 and the PS3 a year before Sony and Microsoft launched much more powerful consoles seemed like a bad idea when it happened, and the decision hasn't aged well. Not only was the result something that was less intrinsically exciting for hi-def graphics fans, but it created difficulties in adapting XB1/PS4 games to the Wii U, exacerbating its third-party issues

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Dated Controller Look and Feel

Photograph of the Wii U controller taken at Nintendo's E3 2011 booth.

ze_bear / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

While the Wii gamepad's touchscreen was a clever idea, it felt and appeared as if it was already dated technology. While an iPhone is a multi-touch device, allowing you to do things like pinching to expand a photo, the Wii U’s controller was a single touch device like the Nintendo DS. The inward-facing camera could allow games to do cute things like put you on screen, it seemed that an outward-facing camera that could easily align itself with the TV would have been far more useful.

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No Internal Hard Drive Storage

Nintendo's external hard drive


Storage space is yet another of Nintendo’s many blind spots. When they created the Wii they didn’t even consider the issues of downloading games and even balked when gamers demanded a solution. With the Wii U, they relied on flash memory with only a choice of 8 or 32 GB — at least an improvement over the 500 MB on the Wii. You can, at least, attach a USB drive to expand storage, but having to do so is an unnecessary burden for a device marketed as being simple like the Wii U.

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Expensive for What It Is

A Wii U Price Tag

Nintendo had a price advantage at first over the PlayStation 4 and Xbox, but once you bought an external hard drive to make up for the lack of sufficient internal storage, the prices evened out, especially once the Xbox dropped Kinect and the paired Microsoft devices could be had for the same price as a Wii U. The Wii U was a less powerful console, in part to bring down a price inflated by the cost of the touchscreen gamepad. Ultimately, it failed to get a realize a price advantage.

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Failed Casual Gamers

Batman Arkham City screenshot
Warner Bros.

The Wii was a great idea: a controller so easy and intuitive that could draw a host of new casual gamers into the Nintendo world of video games. But after having marketing consoles to millions of these casual converts, Nintendo abandoned them and put out a controller with the collection of triggers and buttons that had kept previously casual gamers away from video games.

Even though the Wii U still supports the Wii’s remote and nunchuck, they are generally ignored by new games (even when remaking the Wii game "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" the Wii remote was neglected). Thus, there was little reason for casual gamers to consider upgrading to the new system. This left Nintendo in a fight with Sony and Microsoft for the very core gamers who consider the Wii U too simplistic to warrant notice.

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Never Committed to Core Gamers

A couple of young men playing Wii U

Nintendo claimed that with the Wii U they were making something for the core gamers they had ignored throughout the Wii’s history. The Wii U would not just be a console for tots and grandmas; this time around there would be more games that would compete with the adult fare found on Sony and Microsoft consoles.

But there were precious few. "Devil's Third" was a Wii U exclusive. While some series, like "Legend of Zelda," "Pikmin," and "Metroid Prime" are loved by core gamers, a single-core title every couple of years is hardly a commitment. Nintendo likes to develop family-friendly games, and so its production always skews towards that style of gamer content. With little support from third parties, the Wii U remained the province of tots and grandmas.

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Fewer Extras Compared to the Competition

The main TVii menu

Sony and Microsoft had designs to be both gaming machines and media centers, but Nintendo stubbornly held to the belief that a game console should remain solely a game console and not stray into playing DVDs, or BluRay discs, or function as an MP3 player. Increasingly, however, gamers had turned away from those additional devices, opting to use their consoles to fill those media roles. As in so many cases, Nintendo clung to traditional views and ignored gamers' shifting expectations and demands from their consoles.

It is true that you can watch Netflix and Hulu on the Wii U, but you can do the same on competition's machines, so Nintendo still fell short of the mark.

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