Will Wii U Win the Next Console Race?

Will Wii U Win the Next Console Race?

The unveiling of the Wii U at E3 2011 confirmed a point that’s been illustrated since the home console industry was resurrected in the ’80s: Nintendo does its own thing. After all, Nintendo’s independence is what brought motion controls to living rooms across America–and spawned a “casual/core gamer” divide in its wake.

Since other concerns mushroomed on top of the Wii’s success, including Nintendo’s hesitation to throw itself behind online gaming and the digital marketplace, some of us expected Nintendo to reveal something a little more orthodox for the Wii U for the sake of placating traditionalists. What we got was a tablet controller, a piece of technology that defies tradition as it’s applied to game consoles.

At the same time, Nintendo’s press conference flashed a lot of third-party titles that should be familiar to core gamers: Batman: Arkham City, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge, among others. Digitized blood spattered across the Nokia Theater’s screen in a way we would have thought impossible for a Nintendo presentation only a few years ago.

So what we have here is a Nintendo system that still heavily utilizes motion controls and an easy touch-based interface for casual gamers–but also has a hefty third-party game library and a familiar control scheme for the core group. The Wii U may well manage to cater to everyone, which will propel the system to the front of the pack (again) come the next generation of consoles.

On the other hand, casual gamers may find themselves disinterested in the Wii U (free-to-play PC and social games have the casual market in a hammerlock), and core gamers are going to have to be sold on the Wii U’s controller. Though it’s a lightweight piece of technology and surprisingly comfortable, players who are used to the classic PlayStation 3 controller are not going to relish the idea of holding onto the Wii U’s tablet while playing through a fighting game. Moreover, the line-up of third party games that was paraded past the E3 audience looked familiar. By the time Arkham City comes to the Wii U, chances are we’ll have played it on the PS3 and/or Xbox 360. What will the Wii U version of the game add to an old experience, if anything? Will we care? Is the Wii U going to be picking up the husks of games we already played and tacking on a “touch screen experience,” similar to how the Wii added waggle to far too many old PlayStation 2 games? Will the Wii U quickly take on the look of “last gen” technology while Sony and Microsoft move on to something new?

The future of the Wii U might be fantastic, but it could just as easily be bleak. If you want to lay down a bet, however, consider Nintendo’s track record: It has the strength of its established franchises, plus whatever new ideas Miyamoto’s team will inevitably cook up for touch screen/television interaction. Not every single one of Nintendo’s systems has been a consistent number one on the sales chart, but the company rarely has a problem pitching its system to the masses. Doubtlessly it already has a game plan for selling us on the Wii U, and it’s almost inconceivable that the system will outright flop.

Whether or not the Wii U regains the long-term trust of core gamers is the real question, one that won’t receive an answer for a while yet.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

Leave a Reply