Where Did You Go? – Nintendo Wii U’s success

Read this, and other stories, over at Pixel Enemy.

Where Did You Go? is an ongoing series that deals with not only concepts that have no firm ground, but failed hopes and dreams in the video game industry. Today, we look at Nintendo’s answer to the “HD era,” the Nintendo Wii U.

I asked my girlfriend to accompany me to Kmart in search of a case for my iPod Classic. Conveniently enough, the video game section was conjoined to the MP3 section, so as soon as I was done with my fruitless search, I decided to check out the games available. This was around the time GameStop was hyping the “sold-out” machine.

Do you want to know what I saw? The exact opposite. I saw roughly fifteen Wii U consoles still in stock, waiting for someone to decide to purchase one of them. Yes, we are only five months into the Wii U launch, but with the PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox in the horizon, and a severe lack of games, things look understandably bleak for the Wii U.

What’s the problem?

Well, problems, for one. Let us start with the online infrastructure. First off, the eShop for all systems are completely siloed off from each other. At least relevant to the here and now, why are the Wii U eShop and 3DS eShop completely independent of each other? The PS Store on the PS3 talks with the PS Store on the Vita in that downloads will reflect as such on both fronts. Hell, if I wanted something for the Vita, I would use the PS Store on my PS3 and simply transfer it over. With the Wii U eShop? I have no hope of accomplishing such an accomplishment.

While we are on the topic of downloads, why the hell are downloads attached to the console and not your account? This simply stupefies me. If I ever get a new Xbox 360 or PS3, all I have to do is sign in using my login info, and I can download everything I had saved to the respective systems. Sure, the content is tied to my Nintendo Network ID, so I can re-download everything I might want to delete, so long as the Wii U I have is the only one I will have.

What I mean by that is your Nintendo Network ID can only be tied to one Wii U console. Let’s say your Wii U console conks out. You will not be able to sign into another Wii U console using the same ID. Even if you managed to unlink your ID from a user, you can only re-link it back to a different user on the same Wii U console. Well, that won’t help because your Wii U conked out! All your downloads will stay in limbo, and while content is technically tied to your Nintendo Network ID, it is contingent on the console as well.

Advertising! Do you speak it!?

Is the Wii U the successor to the Wii or is it simply a tablet add-on for the Wii? I know that seems like an incredibly stupid answer, but if I saw the Wii U advertising campaign for the first time without even knowing what the Wii U is, I would be asking the same thing. Yes, the Wii U features updated graphics and new features exclusive to the Wii U, but Nintendo is failing to market the console effectively. If anything, the Wii U GamePad is getting much more screen time than the console and its features, and that is bad.

Take this ad, for example. “When you have the GamePad, it’s easier.” Why? Why is it easier? It eludes me why Nintendo thinks this ad works. The praise seems genuine, at least, but the fine text reminds us that the family was compensated for all this.

For Wii U owners and those engrossed in the video game industry, they know that the Wii U is a standalone console. For them, it is bollocks how I assume there are people out there who believe that the Wii U is not a standalone console, but if that was the case, Nintendo would not be spending all this money on these ads.

Where are the games?

I will not be as harsh on Nintendo about the whole games situation. We are five months into the Wii U’s launch, and there has yet to be a single game I can point at and say that is the reason to own a Wii U. I hold the personal belief that software is what sells hardware, and that statement cannot be more evident than with the Wii U? Where are the games? I will be very careful as to what I say because, for all I know, Nintendo will announce a new Legend of Zelda and Mario game for the Wii U at E3 this year.

Even so, I will just say it: the forecast, as it stands right now, looks dreadful. Sure, Pikmin 3 and Wind Waker HD will be out by year’s end, but other than that, what is there? Don’t get me wrong. There will be great games for the Wii U this year. However, none of those games will be reasons as to why I should own a Wii U, a “killer app,” if you will. At this point, a killer app for the Wii U is a mystical unicorn.

The other things.

There are several other things that might have an impact on the success of the Wii U. For one, those who bought the original Wii back in 2006 might have already moved on to the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and simply has no reason to return to try out the Wii U. In addition, why is Nintendo charging me $300 for a system that only has 8GB of internal storage? Seriously? I understand the GamePad alone is not cheap to make, but if Nintendo sold the Wii U Basic Set at $350 and it packed a 120GB hard drive, I would be a happy camper.

Wii U Basic Set
Why does this SKU exist?

In addition, the idea of multiple SKUs for any system is something I have a problem with. Sure, it might not have affected Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 sales, but I still believe multiple SKUs will cause confusion for some consumers. Yes, it offers choice, but at the same time, going back to my previous point, who wants a system with just 8GB of internal storage? It is nice of Nintendo to allow people to expand the storage, but out of the box, I expect a lot more than 8GB for something I paid $300 for.

My take

It is truly a shame. The Wii U is a great system, and with the Wii U GamePad, there is an incredible amount of potential stored in the system. For all we know, that potential could finally be unlocked within a few months or even a year. Still, with the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox right around the corner, Nintendo is backed in a corner. Now it has to answer why exactly I would get a Wii U over a PlayStation 4 or the next Xbox. As it stands right now, that is an incredibly difficult question to answer.

To be perfectly clear, I am not predicting the end of the Wii U or anything like that. My point is this: there are problems with the Wii U that can be addressed, but other than a possible unification of the various eShops, have yet to be addressed. I want to love the Wii U. I really do. I just do not know whether it has enough to be loved.