10 Reasons the Wii U is a Failure

Hey, Not Every Console can be a Winner

I had high hopes for the Wii U when it was introduced, but the console, like some strange hybrid animal, could never get its footing on the rocky shores of the console space. Years of hoping that the console would come into its own came to nothing, and while the optimistic part of me can still list 8 reasons why the Wii U is a success, my sour side sees nothing but a series of poor decisions that made the Wii U even more of an also-ran as the GameCube. As the Wii U nears the end of its life cycle, here are ten reasons the console flopped.

The Weird Controller Stew


You can’t get much less simple than the Wii U’s controller setup. There's the gamepad and the Wii remote, with some games requiring both, especially in multiplayer. There's the Pro Controller. There's a GameCube-inspired controller. In multiplayer, only one player can have the gamepad, which can lead to fights over it or general confusion as it is exchanged from hand to hand. The Wii sold itself through simplicity, the Wii U is weirdly complex. One of the most common questions among those new to the console is simply, "what controllers do I need?" (A question I answer here.)

The Gamepad Perplexes Even Nintendo


When you introduce a new, innovative technology, it's a good idea to have some idea of what to do with it, but it soon become apparent that Nintendo had few ideas for the gamepad. They used it in a few party games, but increasingly ignored it for everything but off-TV play. After a couple of disastrous years and suggestions that the Wii U should simply 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 (which I previewed here), only Star Fox Zero has a release date - actually two release dates, they one they missed and the one they will hopefully make.

Third Party Support is Virtually Nonexistent

Watch Dogs is a rare third party game coming to the Wii U; months after coming out for everything else. Ubisoft

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 games, then noticing the Wii U's weak sales, most publishers lost all interest in the console.

Third party publishers would 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 done it.

It's Underpowered


Realising 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

The Controller is Less Impressive Than an iPhone

Photograph of the Wii U controller taken at Nintendo's E3 2011 booth.
ze_bear/Wikimedia Commons

If you’re going to do something, do it right. Sure, the Wii gamepad's touch screen is a clever idea, but it also feels like it’s already behind the technological curve. While an iPhone is multi-touch, allowing you to do things like expand a photo by pulling it like taffy, the Wii U’s controller is single touch, like their DS. And while the inner-facing camera might allow games to do cute things like put you on screen, an outer-facing camera that could let the controller perfectly align itself with the TV would seem far more useful.

There's No Internal 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. This time around, they are still relying on flash memory, although at least internal memory has gone to a choice of 8 or 32 GB from the half GB in the Wii. You can, at least, attach a USB drive, although about the last thing in my life I need is yet another device I have to plug into my power strip.

It's Too Expensive for What It Is


Nintendo had a price advantage at first over the PS4 and XB1, but once you bought an external hard drive to make up for the lack of much internal storage, the prices evened out, once the XB1 dropped Kinect you could get it for the same price as a Wii U. Nintendo offered a less powerful console to bring down a price inflated by the cost of the gamepad, but ultimately failed to get a real price advantage.

It Ditched Casual Gamers

Batman Arkham City
The sequel aims to be even darker and grittier than the original. Warner Bros.

The Wii was a brilliant idea; a controller so easy and intuitive that it drew a slew of non-gamers into the world of video games. After having sold consoles to millions of non-gamers, Nintendo washed its hands of these converts, putting out a controller with the very collection of triggers and buttons that kept casual gamers from playing videogames pre-Wii. Even though the Wii U still supports the Wii’s remote and nunchuk, they are generally ignored (even when remaking the Wii Game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess they ditched the Wii mote), meaning there’s no reason for casual gamers to even 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 beneath notice.

Yet It Never Committed to Core Gamers

The new version of Wii Fit will include dancercise. Nintendo

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 far more games that could compete with the adult fare found on Sony and Microsoft consoles.

But there weren't. Sure, they saved and made it a Wii U exclusive, and two years later they did the same (less successfully) for Devil's Third, but a single core title every couple of years is hardly worth mentioning. Nintendo likes to develop family-friendly games, and while some series, like Legend of Zelda, Pikmin and Metroid Prime, are loved by core gamers, Nintendo’s own output will always skew towards families. With no support from third parties, the Wii U remains the province of tots and grandmas.

It Offers Less Extras Than the Competition

The main TVii menu. Nintendo

While Sony and Microsoft wanted to be both gaming machines and media centers, Nintendo still believes that a game console should just be a game console. It should not play DVDs, or BluRay, or be an MP3 player. Well, they’re wrong. Increasingly, gamers aren’t even buying those things, they just use the versions that come with their consoles. If someone wants a game console and a BluRay player, are they really going to buy one of each when they can just get a PS3 or PS4? As in so many cases, Nintendo is living in the past, and ignoring what we who live in the present have come to expect from our machines; everything.

True, you can watch Netflix and Hulu, but you can do so much more with the competition's machines.

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