Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wii U Worries: Five Concerns For Nintendo's Next System

Despite the claims of Wii U detractors who wish to play revisionist history on what the term "next gen" actually means, Nintendo really is the first of the main three system manufacturers to kick off the next generation of consoles with its Wii U. Regardless, I'm still not totally digging Nintendo's newest platform 100%. There are still many unanswered questions that concern me and boxes that haven't yet been checked. Now, this article isn't some Michael Pachter-esque armchair analysis on how the Wii U is doomed (and after Nintendo's less-than-stellar E3, this is the easy road to take) or if it will sell terrifically. No, this article merely touches upon five potential problem areas for the system in the near future.


The actual name of the console

With the name of the Wii U, Nintendo seems committed to falling into the same trap that it did with the 3DS. With the release of the 3DS, there was (and arguably still is) a lot of brand confusion between Nintendo's new handheld and its old one, the Nintendo DS. Many assumed that the 3DS was just yet another redesign of the DS. It appears that the Wii U is destined to become victim of being considered just an add-on controller for the original Wii. It doesn't help that at this past E3 that Nintendo was showcasing the Wii U GamePad exclusively and not hammering the point home that the GamePad was only a part of a new console. I await many bewildered consumers this holiday season wondering why their shiny new GamePad won't work with their O.G. Wii unless Nintendo does something to enlighten people. 

Will consumers confuse the Wii U for a mere revision
to the original Wii? Only time will tell.
Now, Nintendo has stated that all launch period games for the Wii U will only be able to support one GamePad. Does that mean that Nintendo will be smart enough to not sell extra GamePads during the launch period? That would force people to buy the Wii U console as that would be the only means of getting the new controller. Then again, will Nintendo's marketing push for the system actually clarify that the Wii U is a new system, or will their marketing department mess it up again like it did horribly with the 3DS? Would calling the system the Wii 2 have helped alleviate possible consumer confusion? Would that make some idiots call the Wii 2 half the console of the PlayStation 4? Never underestimate people's stupidity. Nonetheless, the Wii U is already facing an uphill battle as some very vocal gamers love to hate on the console already (well, they were already doing so before the thing was even revealed...), so it needs all the help and positive word-of-mouth to succeed that it can get.

The Wii U's tablet is harder to market than the Wii's motion controls. 

Let's face it. Showing off that the Wii looks fun in a commercial is relatively easy. You just show a gesture that is relate-able like a child initiating their backswing to hit a virtual golf ball on a green or a grandpa performing the motion of tossing a bowling ball down the alley. It isn't as easy, however, to portray how the Wii U GamePad will greatly affect gameplay and be as a rewarding experience, or as close to, as the Wii through a commercial. The concept of explaining how a game or system is fun isn't as simple as showing how a game or system is fun. We saw this with Nintendo Land. To say that the announcement and subsequent gameplay videos of the title were met with tepid reactions would be an understatement. However, when E3 show-goers got their hands on the game and were able to try it out, many conveyed positive impressions and were delighted with how entertaining the game truly was. That is a problem for Nintendo. It will need to go on a full retail assault this holiday season, putting up numerous demo stations at stores, malls, and special events, perhaps -- like Nintendo has said it might do-- send representatives to help players understand the games and console it is demoing, and just spread the word that the Wii U is a brand-new and worthwhile gaming console and experience.

Can Nintendo successfully convey 
fun through images/video?
Where are the third-parties?

It could have probably been surmised to begin with that Western third-parties would once again underestimate Nintendo. It seems to be their M.O. these days no matter how well the big N does. Even with the Wii's success, stubborn third-parties still treated the HD twins like royalty and cast the Wii aside like a redheaded stepchild. When they actually would develop something for the platform, the games would usually be litmus tests for future support. These were no-win situations for Wii owners as the quality of the games were generally awful. If they sold, Wii owners would obviously be appeased by badly made games so little resources and effort would have to be used. If they didn't sell, Wii owners obviously didn't want third-party games at all. Eventually when a serious effort was created for the system, it was too late -- Wii owners had moved on, having had already given up on quality support from third-parties. It was either that or the games were sent out to die so third-parties would have an excuse to say, "See? No one wants our games on Wii, so we are sound in not supporting the system."

Will a year-old port be compelling to Wii U owners?
It seems this self-fulfilling prophecy, at least by Western third-parties, will once again occur with the Wii U. Most of the West is treating the Wii U like they did with the Wii -- giving it a wait-and-see approach. This clearly shows that they haven't learned their lesson. To have a user base on a system, especially at launch, you have to build one from the ground up. Launch is the perfect time to do this, but most third-parties are letting the opportunity slip through their fingers. As someone who wants the Wii U to do well because competition is a tremendous thing, this is maddening. What do we have to look forward to? Year-old ports? Multi-platform games that look marginally better (though streaming the game to the GamePad to play it is definitely cool)? Sure, Ubisoft seems to be making a worthwhile effort with appealing games like ZombiU, Rayman Legends, and Assassin's Creed III (which some are calling the best-looking version), but where is everyone else?

One of the more interesting Wii U projects, Rayman Legends.
Even though I don't care much for Western games (there, I said it), I do care about the Wii U getting an admirable amount of support. It has the power (more so than the PS3 and Xbox 360), and it has most, if not all, the things the West was clamoring for. Hopefully we get word of Japanese support from publishers like Capcom, Konami, and Square Enix. Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, stated that an event showcasing the Japanese side of support would be held after E3. I excitedly await such an event as I'm sure it will help alleviate some of my issues with the current third-party Wii U lineup.

Where are the so-called "core" games?

Leading up to the re-reveal of the Wii U, Nintendo was proudly marching around proclaiming that it was once again going after the "core" gamer (for sanity's sake, I will only be putting that word in quotations when grammatically necessary). However, at E3 the company's presentation had ports available on console consumers most likely already own, and had games like Nintendo Land, Wii Fit U, Sing, and Just Dance 4. Perhaps Nintendo's definition of the word "core" has changed. Then again, the terms "casual" and "core" have had their definitions shifted so much over the past generation that they really serve no purpose or have any semblance of a meaning anymore. Regardless, I think we can agree that Wii Fit U, Sing, and Just Dance 4 aren't for the dedicated gamer, though they can obviously be played and enjoyed by this group.

Though it may appeal to most, I very much doubt
Nintendo Land will appeal to the Call of Duty crowd.
The problem I see is that if Nintendo wants to even attempt to coax a group that has long since abandoned it, the house of Mario will have to do better. I don't think the cute and whimsical world of Pikmin 3, the colorful New Super Mario Bros. U, or the super niche but incredibly awesome Project P-100 will lure these disenfranchised gamers back to Nintendo's side. I think only those open to try new and interesting things as well as fans of the company's games will enjoy what Nintendo offered this past E3. These aforementioned games won't appeal to the type of gamer who frequently plays Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto, and Madden, and turns their nose up to anything that even looks colorful or god-forbid the always annoying "kiddie" insult.

There is hardly any news at all regarding the online system.

I imagine this will be touched upon at a future Nintendo event leading up to Wii U's launch. After all, Nintendo has held a September conference for the GameCube, Wii, and 3DS to generate hype and reveal information for their respective launches. However, I find it troubling that Nintendo has not mentioned much regarding its online system outside of Miiverse.. It certainly cannot be as bad as the Wii, right? Nintendo gets a lot of criticism for its prehistoric online policies and sometimes rightfully so. (Seriously, downloaded games are still not tied to an account?)

The main menu of Miiverse
I want to know if I have to type in a friend code for every person I want to add to my list of online acquaintances like I stupidly (but not as stupidly as the DS and Wii where you have to add a different FC for every online-enabled game) have to with the 3DS. I want to know if I can add people without needing them to add me first (aka send friend requests). I want to know if I get a universal account. I want to know with 100% certainty that all my Wii Virtual Console games will transfer over to my Wii U. I want to know all of the features revolving around the Wii U. I want to know if the Wii U's eShop is organized well. I want to know if I can voice chat with opponents (though I probably wouldn't use it as there's a lot of bigots and annoying kids out there as Xbox Live shows). I want to know how dedicated Nintendo is to online and if it has entered the year 2012 yet. With Nintendo I expect the least from the company when it comes to online, yet I still feel like I will somehow be disappointed. History says I should question how well Nintendo will pull off its online system, and I cannot help but follow its advice.

Yeah, how DO you take out that scary zombie?
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Do you agree with some of my qualm regarding the Wii U? Do you have any concerns that I left out? Let your respectful opinions be heard in the comments section.

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