Is The Wii U Just A Stop-Gap?

It’s been a mixed few weeks for the Wii U really. First there was the news that Rayman Legends had not only been delayed but had also lost its platform exclusivity, a move that left many Wii U owners noticeably angry. On the other hand, yesterday saw EA stating that the Wii U version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted would be visually superior to what’s already out on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

In some respects, this second piece of news is encouraging for the Wii U. The fact that third parties are actually putting some effort into software on the platform is certainly a good thing. Of course, there is also the fact that when the game actually arrives on the Wii U it will be four months old and likely to flop badly among those with multiple consoles, but the general idea is vaguely hopeful.

Rayman Legends

Rayman Legends was seen as a big hope for the console, but its delay has left many infuriated.

In a comment on that news story, Peter called the Wii U a ”stop-gap, power-wise” and that has me wondering if that’s all the Wii U can ever be? I mean it’s very unlikely that what the Wii U has under the hood will top what the next consoles from Sony and Microsoft will feature, and in terms of pure power it probably will just be a stop-gap. Hopefully it will be close enough to those potential powerhouses for engines like Unreal to allow easy ports, although the fact that Need For Speed on the Wii U is based on the PC version of the game suggests that ports from that direction may be a more common possibility.

Of course, we all know that Nintendo don’t really play the power game, and it’s hardly surprising that their latest console probably won’t top what’s coming from their competitors in that regard. The bigger question with their approach is whether or not the machine is innovative enough to survive against more powerful opposition, and I think they may have a harder time of it.

That’s not to say that the Wii U isn’t innovative, it certainly is. While many complained that Nintendo Land didn’t have the same accessibility as Wii Sports, and to be honest it probably doesn’t, it certainly does its job in terms of showing off gameplay possibilities for the GamePad. The idea of asynchronous gameplay can seem a bit daft until the moment you actually sit down and play a game that’s built with it in mind, then it rapidly becomes a lot of fun.

The problem is that while Nintendo probably have the best solution for introducing a second screen into the equation, unless Sony or Microsoft take the unlikely route of building one into their next console that is, their competitors already have answers for the technology in the form of SmartGlass and the Vita. Neither of these is ideal, and the Vita is certainly lacking with regards to simple screen size, but I think they may well be good enough to appeal to developers keen to explore them and counter any advantage Nintendo is trying to seize in the area.

There is, of course, the possibility that things may go the other way, that a less ingrained version of the GamePad’s gameplay systems on next gen Sony or Microsoft consoles may drive people towards the Wii U by offering them a taste, but I don’t think it’s all that likely. Even if any such effect did take place, it wouldn’t really have much impact for a few years, with people unlikely to pick up a Wii U too quickly after buying a PlayStation 4 or the next Xbox.

Ultimately, if Nintendo can give third parties a reason to bring their games to the platform with some innovation, like EA have with Need For Speed, then the Wii U can be more than a simple stop-gap, providing different experiences. I mean look at Aliens: Colonial Marines on the Wii U, that’s set to feature a motion tracker on the GamePad. Doesn’t that sound great? And I mean the game isn’t cancelled at all, just delayed a little while. In fact it’s not even a delay since they never announced a date. Really, it’s totally not a cancellation and I’m sure Sega will follow through on their promise.

With delays to titles like Colonial Marines and Rayman Legends starting to taint the console, and with games like Need For Speed coming out so long after their companions on other platforms, Nintendo really have got a huge mountain to climb, even if they can convince developers to provide interesting, unique experiences.

But don’t worry, I’m sure Luigi will save the day.



  1. it’ll just be like the Wii, only reason to own one is due of exclusives and retro games to me. I expect the same from the Wii U.

    • But surely the reason to enjoy the original Wii was to try out the controls and wave your arms around with some party games. That was THE big thing!

      • yep, playing Wii sports was the main thing we got it. Party fun with friends. Then after that gathering dust lol

  2. Is that demo really visually better than the PS3/Xbox? I have only played it on the Vita (awesome btw) so can’t comment but not once did I watch that video and think “wholly crap, that looks amazing, I need to fork out £300 now”.

  3. I feel like the Wii U’s USP (Unique Selling Point/Proposition) was second-screen gaming. However, much like 3DTV I think it’s something that most of a particular demographic feels genuinely ambivalent towards. With that in mind, it now looks like an also-ran all too early, hence the stop-gap mentality.

    For Nintendo, surely the biggest worry is their original Wii owners looking at the U and thinking “um… I don’t really see the point in the second screen” and looking to Sony/Microsoft to see what they have out there. If it’s within 12 months time it’s going to be tricky as I’d like to think we’ll be seeing some truly stellar games on the next-gen platforms with regards to visuals.

    I do appreciate it’s not all about the visuals but we are a visual species are people will be wowed by the new consoles, I hope.

  4. There’ll be games on it that people will want to play – eventually. The lack of power didn’t stop the Wii having some great games, particularly Xenoblade Chronicles, Monster Hunter Tri, Mario Galaxy and Skyward Sword, and the Wii U will be the same. I can see a lot of households taking it as their second console, much like people did this generation, assuming that it has a price drop prior to the arrival of PS4 and the next Xbox.

    A lack of power has never seemed to phase Nintendo ultimately, the success of the 3DS against the Vita is testament to that.

  5. Is the Wii U just a stop gap? Betteridge says no, and I agree.

    Power, or lack thereof is irrelevant.

    However, it will take time for developers to get great experiences on the second screen, the Wii U’s USP. By then will people still be interested in the Wii U or will Nintendo just resort to churning out Mario & Zelda after Mario & Zeldo whilst 3rd parties resort to shovelware because of the lack of install base for other customer demograhics.

    Aliens Colonial Marines, Madden etc should be best on Wii U regardless of graphical ability of rival platforms, but Aliens looks terminally crap & Madden 14 isn’t even listed for Wii U yet. What the hell is going on?

    Lack of post-launch strategy related to second screen experiences will be the system’s saviour or downfall, not whether a box with more powerful chips in it comes along or not.

  6. Given the lack of a serious marketing push, I wonder if Nintendo learned an irritating lesson from 3DS and decided to just launch at the price they’d like to charge, soak the early adopters, and drop the price in May or June to build up a user base with everyone else.
    I’ve often wondered if PS3 was so hard to get for so long because Sony simply didn’t want to make many consoles until production costs dropped.

    • Pricedrop at E3 in time for Sept-Dec sales coupled with titles like Mario, Zelda & Monster Hunter on the shelves.

      That’s a certainty, I’d have thought.

      It will print money then, the negatives being said here were all said about the PS3, the 3DS and Vita… so ummmm 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

  7. The industry has changed a lot since the Wii came along, vastly underpowered compared to the PS3 and 360.

    For one thing, the Wii U is the one releasing a year early, and hopefully getting traction. Secondly, it’s of around the same level (with a handful of improvements) as current hardware, and that means that developers are already quite well versed in the kind of cuts they’ll need to make to fit. I mean, quite a few devs have clearly targetted the next generation or PCs with their current engines, whilst retaining the ability to step things down to cater to the PS3 and 360, so I see no reason for that trend to disappear all of a sudden. In fact, better for their budgets that they continue that practice with the Wii U ports, rather than what we saw with the Wii where it gets a wholly different game pooped out by some random hired guns.

    But really it all depends on market share. The Wii U doesn’t currently look like it’s going to go supernova, but as long as it can have a good share in comparison to the PS4 and Xbox 3, third parties will have to support it to maximise their profits. Whether they smash in some 2nd screen gameplay is an entirely different matter.

  8. I think the Wii U launched at just the wrong time, when it’s features were unfinished (that launch update comes to mind) and it’s lineup littered with ports of old games. Now especially in 2013, with a plethora of titles to round off the PS3, and less so, the 360’s lifespan, the Wii U will be left for dust, by core gamers anyway. Whether or not families will hop on the bandwagon like with the Wii I’m uncertain about too, as a lot of people I know have in recent years had iPads and such introduced into the household, that and things like Kinect, which in itself has seemingly dominated family gaming for the past two years. Nintendo should’ve supported the Wii for much longer and kept it relevant in the average household, rather than focus their efforts on a rushed launch with both the Wii U and the 3DS.

  9. The Wii U had just 1 chance to really showcase what it offers over PS3/360 before the hype machine for PS4/Xbox Next started to roll out, the media can be very fickle towards new hardware, as 3DO/Jaguar owners like myself found, 1 minute you’ve just bought into the most powerful and promising gaming system on the planet (Jaguar in my case), next? Pfff, call that a Next Gen console, here’s Saturn+Playstation, your machines are yesterdays news.

    Now, spotlight moved onto Sony and is darting about looking for MS and what’s Wii U got to combat Ps4 leaks with? a port with better textures and draw distance, just not going to happen is it?.

    Nintendo really should have launched Wii U 18 Months ago or at very least had a lot stronger line up than what they have currently.

    Commercial suicide to try and tempt existing owners over with ‘slightly better than’ ports of games they finished months ago.

    Hell with the Dreamcast, Sony went all out to destroy it with on paper (and meaningless) specs, 75 million pols a sec etc and talk of Emotion engines etc, here? they and MS have so far said very little, i dread to think what it’s going to be like once the next round of pissing contest’s takes place.

    If it’s lucky, Wii U will carve out a niche of it’s own, offering something you can ONLY get on it and it alone, it’ll become a persons 2nd console, if not………

    • I feel like it’s going to be a very even share of the pie come the next few years.

      Jaguar, eh? I remember the hole in my mate’s pocket with the 3DO! Ouch.

    • I think the difference with Nintendo over Atari is that Nintendo have a huge roster of game franchises to leverage onto their technology, and a more secure business footing with their DS/3DS successes.

      I doubt that Nintendo are placing much emphasis on slightly better ports to drag people over, although it’s nice to see an effort being made. They will be counting on their exclusives which will appear soon enough. As mentioned elsewhere we’ve had the same conversations over the PS3, 3DS and Vita over the years, and the Vita’s key problem for driving sales is Sony failing to get a game out on it that captures the public’s attention beyond those of us who picked one up early on. I doubt Nintendo will let that happen to the Wii U.

  10. I think the Wii U is going to struggle. It doesn’t have the same take-up factor as the Wii did.

    Every party we went to, people would get their Wii out. People would go home, already planning to get their own ones. My wife and daughter both got a Wii after a party we went to, and friends got them after we had parties. The pick up and play factor was great, partly because of the novelty. After the parties though, the Wii languished, doing nothing. My grandsons went mad over Mario Kart, played it once here, twice at their home, and went back to playing the PS3. My wife got a Wii Fit board, and used that a couple of times, then stopped, bored. She actually dug out out recently, and the “game” told her she hadn’t been on it for 700+ days, and that she had put on about a stone in weight. I think it wanted to tell her “get off, you fat…” but didn’t dare. It’s all been unplugged and put away after that!

    With regard to the Wii U, the biggest difference is that no-one I know (in the offline world) owns one, nor does anyone appear interested in getting one. Without the party factor, I doubt this model will be anywhere near as popular.

    • I agree with your comment as well as the top comment. The wii had a very approachable wow factor that untimately made it a fun party tool / great exercise gig. I sold one a long time ago and recently got a used one and just been using it for exercise. The WiiU will sell as do all Nintendo consoles, mostly for the exclusives and due to the fact that European kids MUST have the new Ninty system no matter what. Me, I don’t see myself getting one unless there are a handful of great rpg or unique exclusives that speak to me.

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