Whether you love or passionately hate the Wii it would be hard to deny that it has become an iconic symbol of the casual gaming movement with more then 87 million systems sold under its belt. Can this success be matched by the upcoming Wii U?
Since the announcement of the Wii U at the E3 Conference in June many have met the Wii U with both excitement and criticism. This time around Nintendo seems intent on a strategy of making a game experience that is equally exciting for the ‘casual market’ and the hardcore market. Can this be done? Maybe, maybe not.
I am not going to focus on whether Nintendo can forge success in the hardcore market in this article, mainly because I think its been talked about a lot elsewhere and its not the real focus of this article, though perhaps I will write a later article that goes into that side of the strategy. The fact is winning the hardcore will add extra $$$ to Nintendo’s coffers but its been proven in this last generation of gaming that the casual market has deeper pockets and will often shell out for hardware even if they never buy more then one game, such as is often seen with the Microsoft Kinect for the Xbox 360.
Does the Wii U offer an attractive product for these casual gamers? Possibly.
Let’s focus on some of the major selling points for the original Wii:
1) Innovative new control system that focused less on button-smashing and more on getting up and playing.
2) Low price point.
3) Family-friendly games such as Wii Sports and traditional Nintendo favorites.
Arguably all previous Nintendo systems had the same factors present except the new control system and yet the Gamecube had the lowest sales for home console by Nintendo up to this point. So was it all about the Wii remote? Honestly it was a good part of it. It was new, it was different. It was frankly a little gimmicky.
So what does the Wii U bring to the table that Wii didn’t?
1) According to Nintendo, a much improved online system.
2) The death of friend codes (yay!)
3) HD graphics. Something lacking in the Wii.
4) A tablet controller, but only one per console (as of the date of this writing)
5) Better 3rd party support (or so its looking).
What is it missing that the Wii did have?
First off, the hype of being something new. Sure the tablet controller is a new add-on, but it doesn’t add anything major to family gaming as there is only one per console. So essentially you still use the Wii remote for home-based family multiplayer, which means there is no attraction of a new way for the family to play.
The second thing is price point. While Nintendo hasn’t officially announced the price point of their next system it is widely believed it will be at least $300 and probably no more then $400. Many families might be less then willing to shell out this kind of cash especially since they can already get their dose of motion-sensing from the original Wii which is pretty much present in every household that has children.
Personally, I think it will be hard to generate the kind of success they had from casual gamers last time and I think Nintendo knows this. With more and more casual gamers moving over to tablets and smartphones it seems that Nintendo is re-positioning itself as a system that is for ‘everyone’: casual and hardcore. But is that really a new strategy for Nintendo? Looking back as the NES, SNES, N64, and Gamecube, which had many adult/hardcore games and lighter fare casual games, I would say that’s a big no. So really in many ways Nintendo seems to be returning to their roots more then anything. Is that a bad move? Its hard to call at this point.
Nintendo really needs to focus on putting out higher quality titles in this next generation if they want to really be a mass success again. While many of Nintendo’s first party titles were rather good, they were severely lacking on good 3rd party titles. It seems Nintendo has been working hard to get new developers and 3rd party franchises to commit to the Wii U so perhaps things are looking up for the Wii U’s future.
Nonetheless only time will tell if the Wii U will become the iconic item at the level of the Wii or not, but I personally look forward to the days to come and will try to remain optimistic about the future of gaming.