It is not secret that Nintendo’s Wii U console could do with some “killer apps”, that is some games that make people purchase the system. It is likely the average non-gaming consumer (a market Nintendo targeted last generation) does not even realise the Wii U is an entirely different system to the Wii. However, after what was regarded as a hugely successful E3 performance, at which they revealed several exclusive titles which are already hugely anticipated by fans, is it time for people to take this console seriously?
Firstly, let us get one thing straight: Nintendo are not competing with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, at least, not as directly as the two “next generation” consoles are competing with each other. The Wii U is, for better and worse, its own very unique entity which feels confident almost to the point of stupidity at times. Take the controllers for example: whereas Sony and Microsoft opt for (essentially) the familiar four front-facing buttons, four shoulder buttons, two analogue sticks and a directional pad, Nintendo settled on a tablet-like “GamePad” with all of the aforementioned fitted around a 6-inch touch screen, a microphone, stereo speakers and the return of motion sensors from the original Wii. Some call it intuitive, some say stupid or gimmicky but there can be no denying the experience of playing with the GamePad is something impossible to achieve on the other systems.
As for those “killer apps”, the release of Mario Kart 8 has seen a major boost in sales of the system. The average consumer seems to be sitting up and taking notice, with an sales increase of over 600% following its release. This was quickly followed by a console price drop (now below £200 in some places; around half of Xbox One and PlayStation 4) and the substantial offer of a free game if you buy Mario Kart 8, not to mention it plays all your old Wii games and supports Wii remotes and nunchucks and just about every other Wii accessory out there. Then, in the near future, consumers can be confident in a system that will be the only place to play a new Zelda, a new Super Smash Bros., a new Star Fox, all in high-definition (albeit not as quite as pretty as next-gen consoles can achieve). In other words, Nintendo is not going down easily.
One big issue with the system at the current time is third-party developer support. Nintendo properties are great and the Mario team has some of the most creative and ingenious people working in the industry. However, with hugely influential companies such as UbiSoft and EA not currently developing for the system, it is likely there is still a large portion of people who would rather go for the Far Cry and Battlefield playing machines. UbiSoft, who stopped developing for Nintendo’s console earlier this year and delayed the Wii U version of the hugely popular Watch Dogs, have recently said that they are consider returning but so far no similar statement from EA and that is a problem: FIFA anyone?
Regardless of third-party support, it is not going to stop Nintendo anytime soon. Super Smash Bros. is due out before Christmas (alongside a questionable but potentially formidable step into the toy market with “amiibo”) and it is predicted to see another influx in sales for the console. That is followed by a 2015 that looks set to decide its fate, with the return of several important franchises and some new properties developed by “in-house” Nintendo teams. I have a feeling they will survive despite a lot of teething problems this generation. Can anyone envisage a home console market where Nintendo is not an option? I sincerely hope not. They’ve been doing this for more than 30 years and they know how to fight.