Recently, I picked up a brand new deluxe edition Wii U for $150 at Target. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the price, as it’s half of the current $299 MSRP, which is already low compared to some of Wii U’s competitors. The Xbox One, for example, started at $499, but later dropped the Kinect camera to match the PS4’s $399 price tag.
I spoke with a Target employee, and she said the only reason why they dropped the Wii U’s price was because they don’t package it with Nintendoland (or exclusively with Nintendoland) anymore, and they apparently had a ton of them sitting around.
I think this is proof enough that the Wii U flopped, not just that, but flopped epically. Well maybe not just Wii U, but Target’s Canadian arm as well. Their stores are often so empty you might have thought the world somehow came to an end when you entered them.
While the reason why Target may be doing so poorly maybe difficult to pin down, after some quality time with the Wii U, I could think of a few reasons why it bombed miserably:
1. The GamePad
It takes some time to wrap your mind around the system’s main controller, which Nintendo calls the Wii U GamePad. It’s overwhelming especially with its huge honking touchscreen in the middle. Considering that many of their games are targeted to kids, I was a bit miffed how youngsters could use the GamePad comfortably.
While the controller doesn’t feel as cheap and flimsy as the demo units in stores, it’s still on the light side considering its size, but, don’t worry, it’s not so light that it will float from your hands into outer space.
Unfortunately, the GamePad’s touchscreen doesn’t seem to work that well too. It appears to not recognize taps at times or shows severe lags between taps. Luckily, I didn’t experience those issues during games, but rather during less crucial events like using applications such as TVii. However, the issues with the touchscreen maybe because the system is underpowered (see point 7) rather than a problem with the controller.
I heard of complaints about the GamePad’s battery life as it supposedly lasts around three to five hours. I’ve always kept my GamePad in the charging cradle when it wasn’t being used, so I’ve never encountered a battery problem myself, besides starting up the system for the first time. The battery then was likely drained because the console was sitting in a storeroom for ages just waiting for someone to buy it. For those who found the GamePad’s battery life short, however, Nintendo now offers a high-capacity battery that boosts the controller’s life to eight hours.
When playing with the Wii U, I wasn’t too sure if I should’ve looked at the GamePad or the TV. I ended up looking at the controller almost exclusively and started to wonder why I needed the big screen TV anyway. Games like Mario Kart 8 try to put helpful things on the GamePad’s screen like a map and leaderboard, but looking down even for a second often meant I’d crash or drive right off a cliff.
The GamePad almost has too many features as well. In addition to the touchscreen, there’s a stylus, camera, mic, NFC reader, rumble, two analog sticks in addition to a +Control Pad. It kinda felt like they threw everything at it, hoping something would stick. Hey, it worked for the Samsung Galaxy line, but the problem here is what they threw into it left people confused, which brings me to my next point…
2. What the heck is a Wii U?
I think many thought the Wii U was essentially another Wii, kinda like how the Xbox 360 had Elite and Arcade variants, while others couldn’t understand the Wii U’s GamePad. Not that you could blame them, considering the controller kinda looks like a standalone system, which it isn’t.
Then once you get that it’s a new home video game console, what does it do exactly? Can it play Wii games or just Wii U games? What about GameCube disks, CDs and DVDs? (For the record, yes to Wii and Wii U games, no to GameCube disks, CDs and DVDs.)
Then there are other features Nintendo threw in seemingly just for the sake of confusing everyone even further. It has something called TVii, which is like a TV guide/IPG and a TV-focused social network built in. The feature seemed quite intriguing to me as someone who’s interested in TV, but I couldn’t tell if it would work in Canada at first and if it did, if there would be missing features. Surprisingly, it worked and was fully functional, even turning off the TV set and digital box, as well as managing the input settings, volume, and digital box’s IPG. Some of those features work outside of the TVii app, even when the console is off, but the TVii app itself was slow.
Then there’s Miiverse, which I’m not quite sure exactly what it is. It seems to be a social network based around Miis and Nintendo games, where you can share screenshots, sketches and thoughts on Nintendo games and “yeah” them (essentially the same as a Facebook Like) or leave a comment. Why do we need this when there’s already Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and the rest for communicating, and a quick search on the web for game tips, I’m not entirely sure. It’s also integrated into games and the Wii U Menu somewhat obnoxiously. It seems rather useless and almost begs to be vandalized, so I’m not sure how Nintendo managed to ensure everything is sanitized.
For some strange reason, if your cellphone, tablet, laptop or desktop weren’t enough, the Wii U also includes a browser and access to YouTube. They were both very good and much more functional than their Wii counterparts, mostly because inputting information was far easier with a touchscreen opposed to waving around a Wii Remote. The web browser includes a curtain so you can browse the web without everyone in the room being able to see what you’re doing. You can also read PDFs, watch online videos and use tabs. YouTube videos play on the GamePad and the TV simultaneously.
There’s also a Skype clone, Wii U Chat and much like the console’s YouTube, web browser and Miiverse, it’s already made redundant several times over by your phone, tablet and computer. It uses the camera and mic on your GamePad for video chatting, but seriously, why would you do that considering the camera on the GamePad is pretty lousy and you can only chat to the handful of other people who have Wii Us?
Actually, after fiddling with the Wii U for hours and reading up on it, I’m still not sure about all of its features, which is a bit frustrating, but at least it gives me something to play around with for a few hours.
3. Transferring data from a Wii was a pain
Figuring out how to move my Wii content to my Wii U was a true brain scratcher: Did I have to sign into my Club Nintendo account to save my downloaded games before I transferred the data? Why couldn’t I transfer files that were already on the SD card? Are the games saved on the SD card going to be lost forever? Why does it have to delete everything on my old Wii? What if something goes wrong and I lose everything?
While I struggled with the whole concept of moving my data, actually making the move was no walk in the park either. I had to move the SD card from my Wii to the Wii U so the Wii U could’ve prepared it. That process involved a stop to the Wii Shop Channel, installing some software, loading it up and reading a bunch of screens, which brought up more questions than answers. After, I had to move the SD card to the Wii and download a channel to port over my content. That process involved more reading. Then I had to move the card back to the Wii U to complete the transfer.
Thankfully the Pikmin loading animation was very amusing—one of the best loading screens I’ve come across—it almost made me forget how confusing the whole process was and how absolutely long it took. Unfortunately, transferring Wii content wasn’t the only thing the Wii U was incredibly slow at…
4. Updates take forever
I mean updates are astonishingly slow. If you ever have to update anything on a Wii U, just set it and forget it…literally, that thing is going to take forever. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent hours updating the system, apps and games since I got it. Even if you update the system the preinstalled apps need their own updates as well. Thankfully, for app updates you can go to the Wii U Menu and do something else in the meantime.
5. It’s not the sexiest machine
The Wii U looks like a longer Wii with curved edges opposed to Wii’s sharper edges and that’s about it. To make matters worse, the Wii looks better than the Wii U especially with its nifty stand. The Wii U’s stand looks laughably cheap in comparison.
6. Virtually no third-party games
The game situation is just sad on the Wii U outside of first-party titles. If you don’t like Mario, Zelda, Pikmin, Pokemon, Kirby and the rest of Nintendo’s staples, then you’re likely going to be disappointed with what’s available. Chances are you wouldn’t even think of a Nintendo when considering a game console. Actually, it might come across as a pseudo-console, or worse, a toy. There’s no Grand Theft Auto, The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, Gran Turismo, Forza and the like on the Wii or Wii U, which was one of the reasons I had to pick up an Xbox 360 last year. The Wii U had a few decent third-party games closer to launch, but most third-party developers bailed because…
7. The Wii U is severely underpowered
Some third-party developers aren’t bothering with the Wii U because it’s already a slow machine compared to its rivals, meaning they’d have to water down their games to even get it to run on the system. Even Hyrule Warriors‘ screen resolution is reduced when you add another player. The underwhelming specs may explain some of the hiccups I encountered with the touchscreen on the GamePad being unresponsive (revisit point 1) and the sluggish TVii.
The Wii U maybe one of the worst consoles they’ve put on the market yet. Actually, their consoles have been pretty lousy when compared to their competitors since virtually their start in video games—it’s their games that almost always saved them. Don’t believe me—let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
The Wii was still in standard definition when the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were in HD, the GameCube looked like a toy compared to the Xbox and Playstation 2, the Nintendo 64 was still using cartridges when the PlayStation and Sega Saturn were on disks, the Virtual Boy was awkward to use and the display was fire red, the Genesis did what Nintendon’t when it came to the SNES and the NES’ gimmicks near the start of the console weren’t used to their full potential (R.O.B. only was supported by two games) and its cartridges were notoriously finicky.
The problem with the Wii U, I think, was that it was not only underpowered and behind the times (which is true for nearly every console Nintendo put out), but Nintendo couldn’t quite market it correctly leading to complete confusion when people heard the name and saw the huge controller. With no help from Nintendo to figure out what the heck it was, people just didn’t know what to make of it or just didn’t care. Developers seemed willing to give it a chance at first, but when the audience wasn’t there and they were forced to choose between watering down their games to run on the Wii U or abandon the platform altogether, they chose the latter. Then without key third-party titles, the chance of attracting more users dwindled causing a downward spiral of not enough third-party games and users.
I’m happy with the system, but not for reasons Nintendo might like though. For $150 I now own my very own piece of one of the biggest missteps in gaming history—it’s a great novelty for the price especially considering it’s still supported, but for how much longer is anyone’s guess.
The Wii U still has its moments. Super Mario 3D World is fun, although the controls are frustrating, Mario Kart 8 is Mario Kart (but I wonder how many times Nintendo can get away with releasing the same game over and over again), Nintendoland has some alright mini games that will kill some time and controlling the TV from the GamePad is a godsend, but the majority of the rest of the console is a hot mess—mostly half-baked, poorly thought out stuff that shouldn’t have seen the light of day outside of Nintendo’s labs.
Here’s hoping their next system is better or Nintendo might go the way of Sega or Atari.
(Featured Image via Wikimedia)