Depending on who you ask, the Wii was either an overwhelming success or a colossal disappointment. The system has sold in excess of 90 million units since its launch six years ago and has undoubtedly expanded the very definition of gaming, leaving the Kinect and the Playstation Move to play catch-up.
However, it would be a lie to say that the Wii was everything that it should have been. Its lack of sheer processing power in comparison to the Xbox 360 and PS3 meant that many third-party developers ignored it entirely, with Wii owners missing out on some major releases as a result. Although some of the Wii’s best came from third-parties, such as No More Heroes and Zack and Wiki, by far the best games came from Nintendo themselves, and these games did not appear often enough to satisfy the needs of most gamers.
The successor to the Wii, peculiarly dubbed the Wii U, aims to address some of these issues. It’s substantially more powerful than its predecessor (now graphically in line with the Xbox 360 and PS3), while still providing a new way to play with its innovative GamePad. The GamePad is the main controller for the Wii U, it comes with every system and is comprised of a large touch-screen, surrounded by the familiar buttons and joysticks of a standardised controller.
Developers may utilise the GamePad as they see fit, in New Super Mario Bros. U its only function is the ability for the player to play entirely on the pad’s screen and not the television, whilst in Zombi U it is used far more frequently in gameplay, such as holding it up to the television to zoom in with the sniper rifle, or to manage the inventory. Another novel and convenient function of the GamePad is the ability to configure it to you television, giving you the ability to access the volume and channel controls direct from the GamePad, eliminating the need for another remote. Of course, the real impact of the GamePad is yet to be seen, as it depends on the ways that developers decide to utilise its functions.
Nintendo have always lagged behind their rivals when it came to online infrastructure and this failing has also been addressed with the Wii U. Friend codes have met their long-awaited demise, with gamers now creating a unique Nintendo Network ID, acting in the same way as a Gamertag or PSN ID. Another welcome online addition is that of the Miiverse, an in built social networking system that allows gamers to post open messages to other Wii U owners, comprised of either text or drawing via the GamePad. Whether it’s requesting help or simply commenting on a particular game, Miiverse messages constantly appear on the Wii U’s home menu, encouraging player interaction and cooperation with one another. Nintendo have clearly attempted to embed their community spirit at an operating system level.
Whilst the hardware is on the whole quite impressive, there are undoubtedly issues. The launch line-up does boast some fantastic titles but technically superior versions of many of these games have already appeared on other platforms, thus constricting the options of gamers that own the other systems. Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Mass Effect 3 are great games, but I doubt many would buy another version of them for the Wii U, especially at their inflated price points. Also while Nintendo have included the ability to transfer all downloaded Wii content and purchases to the Wii U the presentation of this content, locked away in a separated application that doesn’t play on the GamePad screen, is just staggeringly backward.
The most major discussion surrounding the Wii U is whether or not it will be able to compete with the next-generation Xbox and Playstation systems in terms of power. If it cannot, it is more than likely that the Wii U will suffer the same fate as the Wii, being ignored by major third-party developers and suffering as a result.
Currently the fate of the Wii U hangs in the balance. The technology is undoubtedly impressive, with the GamePad potentially opening up entirely new ways to play games, and Nintendo seem to have finally grasped the concept of online gaming. Whether or not the system can compete in the long term though is yet to be seen. One can only hope that the Wii U turns out to become the great system that the Wii should have been.