Nintendo undoubtedly hit it big with the Wii. After the mediocre success (or lack thereof) from the Gamecube, Nintendo was reeling. As such, they switched their focus from powerful hardware to lower costs while trying to lure in the casual crowd. People had a lot of questions about the Wii in the days leading up to its launch. The horrible name, the non-HD graphics. It was certainly shrouded by the PS3 in terms of hype….but not sales.
The Wii began selling fast right out of the gate. Wii Sports and its motion based gameplay was a huge hit not just with gamers, but with kids and soccer moms and girls that had never picked up a videogame in their life. It was accessible, and it was cool. You could swing a bat to hit a baseball or swing a racquet to hit a tennis bowl. If you wanted to bowl….you just bowled the same way you would do in real life. Forget about the lag, the inaccuracies, and the way you could trick the controller with a simple snap of your wrist. People didn’t care because they were having fun. The Wii quickly got a reputation as both a party system and a casual system aimed at people that weren’t normally gamers. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo was making money not just on software, but on every console they sold as well. Non-gamers didn’t care about cheap hardware or a poor (almost non-existant) online system. Fun was fun, and they were having that in spades.
For months and even years, Nintendo dominated the sales charts with its little bitty system pumping out low resolution party games that were cheap to make. It was the video game equivalent to reality TV. Cheap to produce alongside good ratings on non-loyal customers while the big boys (serial TV shows) spent oodles of money on complicated effects and good actors for a smaller return of more loyal fans. For a while, it worked great.
Soon however, things began to turn. Nintendo’s gimmicky motion controller could only hold onto the casual fans for so long. While there were still 1st party Nintendo titles to attract some hardcore fans, poor 3rd party support alongside the weak graphics and weak online system quickly lead to the majority of hardcore gamers beginning to favor their Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles. We’re now at 22 months running that the Xbox 360 has outsold the Wii and that is a crown that the Wii will likely never take back.
With that being the current horizon, Nintendo decided it was time to act while Microsoft and Sony tried to stretch their expensive console generation out as long as possible. Enter the successor to the Wii, the Nintendo Wii U. Even though the Wii was the last system to release last generation, the Wii U is the first to release this gen, and later on we will tell you how to get a free Wii U.
The first order of business was adding HD graphics. That is no big deal in the modern landscape. The more difficult task was coming up with another gimmick to bring the casual crowd back in. Motion control had worn out its welcome and Microsoft/Sony had better versions of it by then anyway. The answer came in the form of a massive controller complete with a 7″ touchscreen. This was different than the simple VMU units we saw on old Dreamcast controllers. The Wii U Controller is a fully functional portable device when in range of the console, capable of playing full blow Wii U games (not just portable versions of them) right there in your handheld controller.
Additionally, the touch screen will allow you to augment your play on the big console (IE picking plays in Madden without your opponent seeing them), and of course Nintendo has kept its motion control gimmick going as that is still tied to it.
The Wii U also added some additional online functionality and storage, though it still lags behind Sony and Microsoft on those fronts. The graphics and console power are now the leader of the pack, but the increase over the Xbox 360 and PS3 is marginal given its full generation advantage, and when the new Xbox/Playstation systems launch (likely later this year) they will no doubt once again dwarft Nintendo’s offering.
It seems that, yet again, Nintendo is relying on a gimmick winning them the war alongside comparable cheaper hardware. One can’t really blame them given the success they had with the approach last gen, but can they hit a home run again or will this gimmick not be as well received as the last one?