Update: Why the Wii U Won’t Solve Nintendo’s "Problem"

If you haven’t already, I’m going to quickly open up the floor for any hardcore gamer that got suckered into buying a Wii to admit that it’s the best doorstop/paperweight he or she ever had. The Wii was graphically inferior, completely unsupported by major third-party developers and quite simply, a gimmick.

But that was the idea – a family system. And if that is all Nintendo wants to do, they succeeded. Everyone over the age of thirty-five and under the age of ten that picked up the Wii fell in love and immediately swept up every piece of shovelware they could find. Even if the game was in no way revolutionary, looked awful and was about as complex as Pong…well, that’s what these people wanted. And they wanted it bad. Game Party – an average party game that received a 3.0 critic score at Gamespot (and a 5.0 user rating) has sold around 2 million copies. Meanwhile, Beyond Good and Evil, released in 2003 with consistent scores around 80/100 (equivalent to 8.0 on the other scale) sold under 300,000 copies. It has since been re-released on Xbox Live and PSN just today. It has a cult following and makes many lists of best games ever.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? Sure, Nintendo has created a cash cow. And if that’s all they want to do, I guess that’s their prerogative, but why wouldn’t the company want to appeal to a wider audience? Simply using quality hardware and a dual-stick controller alternative would open the system up to third-party developers and make it a serious competitor in the hardcore market.

I think everyone seemed to hope that that was the goal of Wii U. Instead, Nintendo has unveiled yet another gimmick – now there’s a seven-inch screen on the controller. It graphically matches an Xbox 360 by most estimates, which still leaves it a generation behind. And there’s a reason it looks even that good – the footage shown during the E3 trailer was from Xbox and Playstation games.

Any third-party developers jumping on board with this are getting in over their heads. No one playing Battlefield is going to avert their eyes to the screen on your controller for any amount of time. Additionally, it’s still not a dual stick controller and with a screen on it, I can’t imagine it won’t be expensive.

Unfortunately, this is going to leave many people who grew up with Mario and Zelda and the like abandoned. Nintendo’s original and best-selling IP’s are marred by hardware deficiency and are few and far between, making it hard to constitute owning a Nintendo console when any hardcore gamer will have to compliment it with a Playstation or Xbox.

Nintendo has dropped the ball yet again. Families can still enjoy their party games and shovelware, but no one serious about their habit should be picking this up unless Nintendo has some serious surprises in store.

6/9/11 Update:

As E3 moves along, more news is being released about Nintendo’s newest endeavor. The Wii U controller is 11 inches in length – nearly the size of a sheet of paper. Additionally, the current plan is that only one such controller will be supporter per console, undercutting Nintendo’s current orientation – not that you won’t be able to play with “traditional” Wii controllers. The display is also not HD on the controller.

The price-point is going to be over the Wii’s $250. It’ll be more likely to be around $300, if not more. The Wii U is looking more awful by the day.

Tuesday, Nintendo’s stocks topped at about 28.30. Today they bottomed out at 25.20 – the lowest they’ve been in the past year. There are obviously more people out there than myself currently skeptical about the Wii U.

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