Despite a strong showing at E3 this year, there is a big question mark surrounding Nintendo and their upcoming Wii U console. Some say it will be a triumph for the company, while the majority state that the Wii U lacks the innovation needed to truly cause a blow to their competitors Microsoft and Sony.
The launch of the Wii U mimics the progression from the NES to the SNES, in more ways than one. While some of you might be excited by this statement, I look at it from a very cautious angle.
First of all let's talk about branding. Back in the late 80's and early 90's if someone mentioned gaming everyone immediately thought of Nintendo. They single-handedly ushered in a brand new generation of home console gaming, and while Sega and Sonic were stalking the shadows, Nintendo was the name even mums and dads were familiar with.
When it was time for a new console, Nintendo thought better than to announce a radical new name. Instead they stuck with what they knew, placed the word "Super" at the front, ensuring that non-gamers would be familiar with the product, and understand that it was the next model up. That's exactly what they are trying to pull off with the Wii U. Non-gamers will understand it is a new console, have fond memories of their time with the original Wii, and want to join in on the new Wii experience.
While naming is all well and good, my concern about the Wii U launch stems from console sales. While the NES sold by the bucketload, every console proceeding it declined considerably. The company was never able to reach the same level of success, falling to new lows with the Gamecube which only managed to shift 21.74 million units.
With such a lukewarm reception less than six month from launch, I have a feeling that the Wii U will start Nintendo's second decline in the video-games industry, one that could set them back a number of years, or even force them out of the home console market.
Besides Ubisoft, E3 revealed one very important thing about the Wii U - lack of third party support. Without system-selling games like Call of Duty the console will never stand a chance against Microsoft or Sony's offerings, but from all accounts the latest console won't even be seeing titles such as Borderlands 2 anytime soon.
Why would a "core" gamer rush out on day one to purchase a console that doesn't have games that appeal to them. Sure, I'm excited to see what Rocksteady have done with Batman: Arkham City on the new hardware, but I've already played through the game and I don't want to purchase it for a second time. For me, Aliens: Colonial Marines and ZombiU are the only titles that tickle my fancy, and those don't warrant a new console purchase.
All reports from E3 reveal that the Wii U feels like it's playing catch-up with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with our own Ben Salter stating that "it feels like Wii 1.5" from his time with the console. Microsoft and Sony won't be too far from announcing their next consoles, and with the right dynamic, they could truly bury the Wii U before it even starts.
Are we at the dawn of Nintendo's second decline, or will the rise to the occasion and deliver a triumphant console that defies the odds. As much as I love Nintendo, and despite the fact I'll be picking up a Wii U at launch, I severely doubt it.
By Stephen Heller - Bio