(This piece was written by one-half of my brain. Please also read the other half-brain’s article: 12 Reasons the Wii U Will Succeed).
The Wii U is doomed. How could Nintendo go so wrong, with a series of poor decisions that guarantee the Wii U will be as much of an also-ran as the GameCube was. For the Wii U to be a hit, Nintendo will have to succeed in areas they have consistently failed in, and the public will have to flock to an underpowered machine with a weird controller. They might as well give up now and put out something new.
1. The Weird Controller Stew
You can’t get much less simple than the Wii U’s controller setup. There's the gamepad and the Wii remote, with some games requiring both, especially in multiplayer. There's the Pro Controller. There's the coming GameCube-inspired controller. In multiplayer, only one player can have the gamepad, which can lead to fights over it or general confusion as it is exchanged from hand to hand. The Wii sold itself through simplicity, the Wii U is weirdly complex. One of the most common questions among those new to the console is simply, "what controllers do I need?" (A question I answer here.)
2. The Gamepad Perplexes Even Nintendo
3. Third Party Support is Virtually Nonexistent
There’s a big different between getting third party publishers to announce a handful of games for a console before launch and getting real support for it. After failing with a few ports of aging games, then noticing the Wii U's weak sales, most publishers have lost all interest in the console.
Third party publishers would love to have successful games on a Nintendo system, but for the most part non-Nintendo games just don’t do well, and if there's anything that Nintendo could do to change that, they certainly haven't done it.
4. It's Underpowered
Why did people buy the Xbox 360 and the PS3? Better graphics. That was the selling point; these systems would blow you away with a level of detail you’ve never seen before. What is the Wii U offering? Graphics that may be slightly better than those of the 360 and PS3, and inferior to those of the XB1 and PS4. Why on earth would anyone buy the Wii U over a comparable machine with a backlog of high-def games or new, far more powerful systems? Especially since that lack of power means many new games are not, according to their developers, possible on the Wii U?
5. The Controller is Less Impressive Than an iPhone
If you’re going to do something, do it right. Sure, the Wii gamepad's touch screen is a clever idea, but it also feels like it’s already behind the technological curve. While an iPhone is multi-touch, allowing you to do things like expand a photo by pulling it like taffy, the Wii U’s controller is single touch, like their DS. And while the inner-facing camera might allow games to do cute things like put you on screen, an outer-facing camera that could let the controller perfectly align itself with the TV would seem far more useful.
6. It's Too Expensive for What It Is
Sure, it's cheaper than the PS4 and XB1, but the Wii U's price compares poorly with the last-gen consoles that equal it in power; right now you can get a 4 GB Xbox 360 with Kinect for $250 or a 500GB PS3 for just a little more. The Wii U is $300, with only 32GB of storage. This would be fine if the Wii U were a technological advance over the others, but for a console that's no more powerful than its aging competition, the price still seems high.
True, it's cheaper than a PS4 or XB1, but it also only has a fraction of the power.
7. No Internal Hard Drive
Storage space is yet another of Nintendo’s many blind spots. When they created the Wii they didn’t even consider the issues of downloading games, and even balked when gamers demanded a solution. This time around, they are still relying on flash memory, although at least internal memory has gone to a choice of 8 or 32 GB from the half GB in the Wii. You can, at least, attach a USB drive, although about the last thing in my life I need is yet another device I have to plug into my power strip.
8. Dodgy Online
Nintendo has never understood online gaming. Market forces have dragged them, kicking and screaming, towards very minimal online capabilities, but they have never really seemed to believe that online gaming was necessary or desirable, nor have they focused resources on it the way they needed to. The Wii U's online is certainly an improvement for Nintendo, but they're years behind the competition.
9. Deserts Its Casual Base
The Wii was a brilliant idea; a controller so easy and intuitive that it drew a slew of non-gamers into the world of videogames. Now, after having sold consoles to millions of non-gamers, Nintendo seems to be done with their converts, and is putting out a controller with the very collection of triggers and buttons that kept casual gamers from playing videogames pre-Wii. Sure, the Wii U still has the Wii’s remote and nunchuk, but those are increasingly ignored, meaning there’s no reason for casual gamers to even consider upgrading to the new system. This leaves Nintendo in a fight with Sony and Microsoft for the very core gamers who consider the Wii U beneath notice.
10. Iffy Core Game Commitment
Nintendo claimed that with the Wii U they were making something for the core gamers they had ignored throughout the Wii’s history. The Wii U, would not just be a console for tots and grandmas; this time around there would be far more games that could compete with the adult fare found on Sony and Microsoft consoles.
But there weren't. Sure, they saved Bayonetta 2 and made it a Wii U exclusive, and two years later they did the same for Devil's Third, but a single core title every couple of years is hardly worth mentioning. Nintendo likes to develop family-friendly games, and while some series, like Legend of Zelda, Pikmin and Metroid Prime, are loved by core gamers, Nintendo’s own output will always skew towards families. With no support from third parties, the Wii U remains the province of tots and grandmas.
11. Gives Less Extras Than the Competition
While Sony and Microsoft wanted to be both gaming machines and media centers, Nintendo still believes that a game console should just be a game console. It should not play DVDs, or BluRay, or be an MP3 player. Well, they’re wrong. Increasingly, gamers aren’t even buying those things, they just use the versions that come with their consoles. If someone wants a game console and a BluRay player, are they really going to buy one of each when they can just get a PS3 or PS4? As in so many cases, Nintendo is living in the past, and ignoring what we living in the present have come to expect from our machines; everything.
True, you can watch Netflix, and you've got TVii, which I suppose someone actually uses, but that pales in comparison with the competition.
12. Nintendo Has Lost Its Mojo
One of the main arguments for the success of the Wii U is simply that Nintendo has proven previous naysayers wrong with the Wii, which industry analysts predicted would be a flash-in-the-pan, and the DS, which many saw as a gimmick there was no real need for. But the poor sales of the 3DS that resulted in a shocking $80 price cut suggest that Nintendo’s winning streak could be coming to a close. While the 3DS did rebound, the falter with which it began, and with which the Wii U began, suggests that Nintendo may be getting shakier in their grasp of the market.