When innovation becomes gimmickry, a rich history lapses into nostalgia, and eccentricity becomes old hat. I’m talking, of course, about legendary games company Nintendo, who have followed up the epochal Wii with the abysmal Wii U. How abysmal is abysmal? The sales speak for themselves – the Wii U sold less than half a million in its first month, compared to the Xbox One and PS4’s million in a day. Even worse, in the first quarter of this financial year, even the seven-year-old Wii outsold the Wii U.
But just what is a Wii U, and why is it Nintendo’s biggest joke since the Virtual Boy? Maybe Mario can help explain: ever since Super Mario World demonstrated the depths of the Super Nintendo in all its 16-bit glory, gamers have expected the Mario game that launches any Nintendo console to show off the best of its new technology. So what kind of Mario game has Nintendo come up with to show off the Wii U’s HD graphics and RAM - processing power that Nintendo claims makes the Wii U 20 times more powerful than the Wii? Well, it turns out to be the lazy New Super Mario Brothers Wii U, a tarted-up HD rehash of the old, 2D Mario format.
But what about some other Nintendo franchises? Is there a Zelda game? Yes, a re-release of a 10-year-old game, but now in HD! How about Mario Kart or Smash Bros? You’ll have to wait until later this year. Maybe you can kill time playing the new Super Mario 3D World, which is another sequel to a 2D Mario game – but in fabulous HD!
Now, if you’re one of those ‘hardcore’ gamers who always looked down on the Wii for pandering to ‘n00bs’ with accessible, family-friendly games, don’t worry – the Wii U has created some shoddy ports for some of your favourite games from other consoles. Thing is, I can’t imagine anyone who would want to play them using the outrageously bulky Wii U Gamepad. Tekken Tag, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty are all laughable launch titles on the Wii U.
The commercial disaster of the Wii U won’t sink Nintendo; sales of the 3DS are strong despite competition from smartphones, and Nintendo still owns over $5 billion in assets. But with the Wii U operating at a multi-million-dollar loss, it may not be long before Nintendo has no choice but to follow Sega and Atari into home-console heaven.