How Nintendo turned the Wii U around
It took Nintendo nearly two years to get there, but the Wii U is now a fantastic game console. There are more “must own” games on the Wii U right now than either of the other next-gen consoles, and all but two of them are family friendly titles that anyone of any skill level can enjoy for hours. Getting to this point was no easy task, but now that Nintendo has a solid, inexpensive console with no shortage of great content, the chances for success increase significantly. The road Nintendo took to get here was far from smooth, and as a result it’s going to be hard to regain the trust of gamers.
When I left Nintendo’s press event for the Wii U back in October of 2012, there was no doubt in my mind that I had just seen the future. Nintendo had managed to successfully deliver their DS experience on the television, with hardware that was on par with the current generation of consoles and a focus on the entire living room that I found entirely refreshing. Unfortunately, what Nintendo delivered at launch was exactly none of these things. The launch was full of problems, not the least of which was the sheer volume of consumers who didn’t even understand that Nintendo was delivering a new gaming console. Features were missing, the launch lineup was less than exciting, and the console itself was just plain slow.
The first step towards getting the Wii U up to fighting strength was actually finishing the console, which included simple things like ensuring the GamePad would always work when in range of the console. Nintendo also quickly reacted to the desire for better battery life on the GamePad, and released larger batteries for those who wanted to lose a Saturday inside games like The Wonderful 101.
In finishing the OS and releasing most of the features that were promised at launch, Nintendo also figured out a clever way to give users something to do while the console started up. The Quick Launch menu on the Wii U GamePad made it easy for users to just jump straight into an app as soon as they hit the power key, and in many cases makes the console feel significantly faster than it actually is when it comes to booting and loading games. Quick Launch is a fantastic feature to have if the GamePad is your primary method of playing with the console, and it goes a long way towards making the Wii U feel nimble.
The Wii U could do some neat tricks, but at the end of the day it’s all about the games. This is something Nintendo seriously struggled with after the launch, and to make matters worse there was no classic Nintendo back catalog on the Wii U for months after the launch. This got resolved eventually, and promoted with the help of an Earthbound re-release. Where Nintendo really started to strike gold was with the launch of Super Mario 3D World for Wii U. Not only was it one of the first Mario titles in years that didn’t feel like a cheap gimmick, but the later levels reach levels of complexity that eclipsed even the original Mario games.
Nintendo got some third party help with Child of Light and Epic Mickey 2, and then offered original experiences with Skylanders and Disney Infinity, but the next big wave of great games wouldn’t happen until mid-2014. As we look back at the year and see Nintendo big hits like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros Wii U, Hyrule Warriors, and the Nintendo-guided Bayonetta 2, the console now has a fantastic lineup of games that should be a part of every collection.
It took Nintendo a while to get there — and it’s still something that needs a lot of work — but the acceptance of digital users and the inclusion of indie game developers is going to continue to be a huge deal for the future of the Wii U. In 2014 alone, Nintendo’s platforms have seen well over 100 indie games hit the eShop. While that’s a bit behind what Sony and Microsoft have been pushing through their brand new next-gen consoles, it’s a huge step forward for Nintendo.
Nintendo is also embracing DLC with this current wave of games, and enjoying the benefits for games like Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8 already. The digital embrace from Nintendo needs a little work still, especially when you consider how difficult it is to recover you games if something happens to your console, but 2014 as a whole has been hugely positive for Nintendo’s approach to digital content in general.
Arguably the most fascinating thing Nintendo has done with the Wii U — something we’ve only recently come to appreciate — is engineer a situation where users are directly encouraged to pick up different kinds of games due to interoperability. We’ve seen a couple of the Mario titles unlock special features and characters when you have game saves from other titles, but Nintendo has kicked this into overdrive with the release of Amiibo. Through these inexpensive NFC figurines, Nintendo has managed to create a scenario where you can bring characters across multiple games, and you actually get things in the new game by doing so. Exclusive weapons in Hyrule Warriors, custom racing suits in Mario Kart 8, and the figure player fighters in Super Smash Bros. is just the start. Nintendo has created a revenue stream that encourages the purchase of other games just to get the bonuses across all of the other titles you already own, which could be a huge deal moving forward.
The uphill battle Nintendo has dealt with as the Wii U finally became a viable product for people who aren’t diehard Mario fans has been tough, and to make matters worse we’re already seeing this console show signs of aging. The first half of 2015 is going to be a big deal for Nintendo, and as long as the Wii U continues to see positive growth thanks to an increasingly impressive game library things will keep looking up. There can be no doubt that now is the time to own a Wii U, and those who have endured the long road it took to get here can finally appreciate their purchase like they were meant to.
Source: News – Geek.com