Back in 2005 Nintendo showed off the Wii for the first time, and there was this general perception that it was a bit of a joke. The name was silly (to be fair it still is a little silly), and the motion controls drew ire from many quarters.
Many just didn’t seem all that excited by Nintendo’s newest console, possibly because it had eschewed the typical route of pumping all the development funding into improving its computing power. I mean obviously the only way to succeed was to push past what Microsoft had achieved with the 360 right? The console arms race seemed to have been going so long that people had forgotten that it wasn’t the only option.
Of course then the Wii actually arrived on shelves and, pretty much, exploded. The new input methods appealed to a broader audience, with you shockingly being able to play tennis by simply mimicking a tennis swing.
The Wii may have looked silly at launch, but it's hard to ignore its influence on the industry.
What the Wii did, as many have pointed out, was to make gaming simple and accessible. It’s true that certain elements of the Wii are horribly complicated, the online system being a frequently bemoaned failing of the console, but if you just want to stick in your copy of Wii Sports and bowl then it’s pretty much perfect.
Despite the new market that the Wii opened up, it was still seen as comical or outdated graphically by many. Whenever it was pointed out that the Wii was well and truly trouncing the PS3 or Xbox 360 in terms of sales there’d often be the claim that it wasn’t competing with the HD consoles, that it had somehow gotten pushed into its own category.
To this day I expect you can find some who would claim the Wii wasn’t a success, despite its clear influence on Sony and Microsoft in terms of Move and Kinect.
With the Wii U we seem to have lurched back around to the starting point of the Wii. Some aspects of Nintendo’s approach may seem utterly comical, such as the potential marketplace confusion from launching the new “mini Wii” so close to the Wii U launch, but it does appear that Nintendo’s successes have been forgotten by many.
This does raise the rather obvious question of whether or not the Wii U will ever be considered a success. Within the industry it’s clear that elements like sales figures and attach rates will largely decide that question, but from those not concerned with the business side of things I do wonder if they’ll be the same kind of denial that the Wii’s undoubted supremacy brought.
With Reggie Fils-Aime announcing that the Wii U shifted 400,000 units in its first week it does look like Nintendo may have another success on their hands, particularly as the console doesn’t arrive in the EU untill Friday and won’t find its way to Japan until the 8th of December. That may not be quite as much as the Wii managed, and it’s way behind the GameCube’s launch, but it still puts it ahead of both the PS3 and Xbox 360, and gives it a pretty significant base to carry on pushing forwards from.
Of course it would be foolish to declare it a success now, although it’s also far too early to bemoan it as a failure. No, the important thing with the Wii U is to try and be open to it, to look at what Nintendo are doing and considering it aside from their marketing and posturing.
Once again they’ve taken a risk and built something that actually feels different to the same old tactic of boosting hardware might, yet they’ve also tried to make strides to readdress the balance of their games by bringing titles like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty to the console. What more can you really ask of them?
All I want is the Wii U to be given a chance to stand on its own merits, to exist away from the jokes and snide remarks. Lets see what Nintendo have brought to the party before we mock it too harshly.