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So long Wii U, we hardly knew you


Wii U

OPINION: Damien McFerran explores some of the reasons why Nintendo has taken a huge step back from the Wii U.

The Wii U has played host to some of the most amazing games of this current console generation, with Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 proving to be critical smash-hits. However, even the most blinkered Nintendo fan will admit that the console itself has been a crushing disappointment commercially, especially after the incredible triumph of the Wii, which sold over 100 million units worldwide. Since its launch in 2012, the Wii U has sold around 10 million consoles, making it one of Nintendo's least successful domestic systems. The console's life has been marred by poor advertising, consumer apathy and an almost complete absence of third party support, and now it would appear that even Nintendo itself has given up on the platform.

This year's E3 wasn't a particularly strong one for the Japanese firm. Like last year, it eschewed the traditional press conference format and instead opted for a pre-recorded "Digital Event", fronted by Jim Henson Company-made puppet representations of its three most famous executives – Satoru Iwata, Reggie Fils-Aime and Shigeru Miyamoto. These amusing caricatures would arguably prove to be the highlight of a broadcast which annoyed and frustrated in equal measure. Metroid fans were given a Metroid game that nobody wanted in the form of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, while valuable minutes were wasted talking about Yoshi's Woolly World – not that we couldn't care for the game you understand, but because we've already seen so much of it already and it launches this week in the UK.

Wii U amiibo festival

However, the most noticeable thing about E3 was that it was curiously lacking in quality Wii U games to look forward to. Sure, Xenoblade Chronicles X looks amazing and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem will be packed with fan service, but they're hardly brand-new announcements – Xenoblade is already available in Japan. In terms of truly new titles, Animal Crossing amiibo Festival smacks of a game created purely to sell lumps of plastic and is a tragic waste of one of Nintendo's most popular modern franchises, while Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash looks exactly the same as every other version of Mario Tennis we've played over the years.

Even Super Mario Maker – which has the potential to be one of the most impressive uses of the Wii U hardware yet – doesn't look like it will reverse the console's fortunes, and besides, it was announced a full year ago at E3 2014. That leaves Star Fox Zero – another E3 2014 confirmation – to carry the Wii U brand this Christmas, and early reports indicate that its convoluted control system and simplistic visuals could prevent it from hitting the same highs as previous entries in this iconic franchise.

See also: Best Wii U Games 2015

Wii U

Bearing in mind that the Wii U has practically no third party support outside of indie eShop titles, the lack of killer reveals from Nintendo at E3 was telling, but hardly surprising given the company's current position. The industry veteran has already admitted that it is working on the Wii U's successor – known as Nintendo NX at this stage - and will officially unveil the console at next year's E3. There's even the outside chance that the new machine will get a retail release at the end of 2016, which would explain the scarcity of Wii U titles at this year's show – simply put, Nintendo's attention has shifted to its new system, and it probably wants to forget the Wii U even exists.

It might sound implausible, but consider what we know about modern game development. Titles take years to produce these days, so if NX is launching in 2016 or early 2017, Nintendo – and its second-party studios – will already be hard at work creating launch titles for the platform. That means resource will be drifting away from the Wii U – something which is pretty clear when you read between the lines of Nintendo's E3 presentation. The newly announced Wii U games – ones we previously hadn't seen prior to this year's event – are very basic from a design perspective and hardly rank as AAA releases. Even Star Fox Zero – which is without a doubt Nintendo's biggest game of 2015 – is being externally developed by PlatinumGames and has only been in full development for a year. To be brutally honest, it shows. This is Nintendo phoning in its commitment to the Wii U, rather than helping the system go out with a bang.

See also: Best Games 2015

Wii U

Then there was the controversial decision to not show the Wii U version of Legend of Zelda at the show – arguably the console's biggest title. Despite Reggie's leaky explanation that Nintendo uses E3 to show games which are close to release (total poppycock, seeing as we saw Super Mario Maker and Yoshi's Woolly World at last year's event), it's easy to hypothesise on why the company choose to go into the biggest industry showcase of the calendar without its most anticipated title.

Could Nintendo be holding Zelda back so it can launch alongside the NX? Reserving the game's big reveal for E3 2016 would mean it could drive interest in Nintendo's new console – which will be formally unveiled at the same time – rather than promote a system which is already available and effectively on life support. It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but Nintendo has prior form with this kind of thing; Zelda: Twilight Princess was originally supposed to be a GameCube exclusive, but got delayed and would eventually launch on the Wii as well. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that Nintendo is holding back Zelda so it can launch exclusively on NX, or publish on both systems but benefit from improved performance on the newer console.

See also: New 3DS vs 3DS

Nintendo E3

Whatever the situation behind Zelda, it's clear that Nintendo is winding down support for its current domestic system. Miyamoto has recently acknowledged the commercial failure of the Wii U, citing the rise of tablets and a lack of understanding about what the console was all about as key reasons for its dismal performance. He then moves on to talking up the NX, proof that Nintendo's higher-ups have already shifted their focus away from the Wii U.

As such, the console will go down as one of Nintendo's biggest missteps, joining the likes of the Virtual Boy and 64DD in the drawer marked "hardware failure". Still, it says a lot about the company that even when Nintendo releases a console which is seen as a complete and utter disaster, it can still generate a profit and produce software which puts games on the Xbox One and PS4 to shame.

The Wii U may be reaching the end of its short life, but with its small yet perfectly-formed library of killer games, it won't go down as a complete loss for gamers.

Hamish Campbell

June 23, 2015, 12:00 pm

Hey what the..? I just bought one of these!


June 23, 2015, 1:45 pm

Personally I don't see the point in owning a PlayStation and an XBox because the game genres served by them overlap considerably. Whereas I will always have time for Nintendo games. They may well cater for a younger audience in terms of content but in terms of gameplay and imagination, you would be missing out if you did not play such games simply for that reason.

Gareth Burleigh

June 23, 2015, 2:07 pm

Have PS4 which I have bought a sum total of 1 game for and the rest of my play on it is the indies the PSN gives me for "free"

Wii U however has enough great and exclusive games to keep you going for a very long time.

Of the 2 I certainly have a lot more fun on the Nintendo.



June 23, 2015, 2:24 pm

i think nintendo is saving those for the nx, the nx specs. gong to be like ps4 or greater. wii u is a fun gaming system, just to bad because 3rd parties wanted to import their games from the high-end graphics with less tweak for each system.


June 23, 2015, 2:42 pm

with most games on xone and ps4 already on pc, all you need is a good pc, and a wiiu to play most of the killer games. Plus, with the small library of GOOD games, you could at least play the wiiu for a while if you have a small amount of time on your hands.


June 23, 2015, 2:46 pm

also, the cpu was different then the xbox and the ps4, thus it would take more time and money to port it to the wii u


June 23, 2015, 2:55 pm

I own a PS4 which just gathers dust currently. After completing The last of us remastered. Playing drive club and Guilty Gear. The current crop of PS plus games are nothing to make me turn the console back on recently.

My Wii U gets used all the time. So many key titles like Pikmin, Smash, Mario Kart, Mario 3D World, Hyrule Warriors and Splatoon.
It depends what you are into but upcoming games like Fallout 4 I will be getting for PC rather than PS4. Final Fantasy Remake and Disgaea will be the next things I will buy for the PS4

Gareth Burleigh

June 23, 2015, 3:30 pm

Totally agree after GameCube I never touched anything by Nintendo until my daughter wanted a 3DS, had more fun playing that than I had in years of Playstation so we went and got a Wii U. Nintendo's ingenuity and wealth of ideas just make you smile while playing them.


June 23, 2015, 4:35 pm

It's a real shame because the Wii U turned out to be a great console. Although I don't think things are quite as doom and gloom as all the clickbait headlines.

pixelmike .

June 23, 2015, 7:54 pm

Let's face it everyone saw it coming even before it launched. Except Nintendo.


June 24, 2015, 9:58 am

glad i didnt buy this pathetic excuse of a console last September when hyrule warriors came out. I was VERY tempted and almost got one, but glad i didnt in the end.
Now i lost interest in the console and its games completely.

Maaaybe if zelda U turns out to be amazing i'd bite the bullet but i doubt it


June 24, 2015, 1:34 pm

true, hopefully the nx will fix that and have the regular controller and the others stuff they make should be optional.


June 24, 2015, 2:02 pm

of course, you would have to wonder if it would be backwards compatible; unless it wont like the N64 and GameCube. It would be odd to let a game like Smash Bros or Splatoon unplayable on it


June 24, 2015, 2:43 pm

Yea, but it takes time to do it, hopefully nx could support all of wii u's stuff as optional device.


June 25, 2015, 12:16 am

The wii u still has life. I don't understand why people think it's dead. It still has another year to go. A 4 year life cycle is completely normal for a console.

Aaron Roberts

June 25, 2015, 5:16 am

I'm in the PC+WII U crowd. I have never felt the urge to buy a system that essentially does what my PC does but worse (with a few exceptions that I wouldn't play anyway).

I'm happy with my WII U, however, I think Nintendo would be making a devastating error if they are planning on dropping it completely. I'm really hoping the NX will incorporate it somehow.

There is so much untapped potential in the touch screen controller idea. I truly believe if Nintendo had the foresight to take a loss in exchange for putting top of the line graphics hardware and incorporated multi-touch functionality more akin to a tablet, then the wii u would have blown the competition away. I can only dream of playing fully realized 3rd party titles designed around the gamepad and motion controls. It's really a shame that Nintendo refused to match the processing power of ps4 or xbone. They could have, but they didn't. And now they are paying the price.


June 25, 2015, 1:00 pm

You made the assumption that the NX is going to be the successor to the Wii U, I see. Despite the fact that Nintendo has said that it will sit alongside the Wii U and 3DS.

stephen Hoult

June 25, 2015, 3:43 pm

Cant complain one bit about this console as from january ive bought, bayonetta 2, tropical freeze, mario kart 8, smash bros, mario 3d world, super mario bros, yoshi wolly world, hyrule warriors and the intent of xenoblades and zelda wii u. All great titles to justify this console


June 26, 2015, 12:43 pm

The Wii U is never off in our house, such a brilliant console its a shame they didn't market it better. It gets way more use than the XBox360 or PC did as the games are generally less about graphics and more about fun and interest.

It also has a very safe online environment for kids, has never crashed out on us and the console\games are so cheap to buy, its a no brainer for a family gaming console.


June 28, 2015, 5:21 pm

Nintendo can't do such a thing. The fanbase will be very mad if it got abandoned so quickly and move a promised game to the nx.

Plus, for the nx, Iwata said they
will start at step zero. They have some surprise announcements for the
wii u soon. They have 10 million sales, thats still a lot of people.
They still need to satisfy the fanbase. Its just some games were not
ready to be shown, maybe we will see more wii u games soon. Not everything announces at E3, just to let you know. 10 million is still a lot of people. I guarantee you that the wii u will get more surprises soon. Clickbates my friends. Plus, it was confirmed for an early 2016 release date for the wii u


June 28, 2015, 5:25 pm

Ok... That will not happen. The thing is, the gamepad is needed for all the wii u games and nintendo is doing something diffrrent meaning the wii u games will only be playable on wii u, there will be no way to play on the nx. If you want wii u games, buy a wii u, its as simple as that. NIntendo is known for making something diffrent on each console so their next console will not be able to support wii u games, mark my words, its true, wii u games will not support the nx. The gamepad is highly unique and its needed for all the games, plus, nintendo likes to revolutionize how you play things so the next console will be different, thus, not supporting the awesome wii u games.


June 29, 2015, 1:46 pm

i say it really depends on nintendo, they can make it display like how the tv is, more of a 2nd screen.


June 29, 2015, 2:22 pm

E3 is the place to make those announcements. Strange they would wait...


June 30, 2015, 10:52 pm

Some games are probably not ready, so it will be better to show it later, so it looks more polished and it can release as soon as possible, look a 3d world. I guess they could have reassured us at e3 though.


June 30, 2015, 10:53 pm

Sadly, nintendo said it will be a home console. Maybe it should release in 2018, so they can release some wanted wii u games on the wii u still. There are still games we need that will fully utilize the console.

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