(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 a device that is not going to be all that mind blowing. They might as well give up now.
1. The Controller is Less Impressive Than an IPhone
If you’re going to do something, do it right. Sure, the Wii controller’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 in a game, an outer-facing camera that could let the controller perfectly align itself with the TV would seem more useful.
2. Half-Hearted Third Party Support
There’s a big different between getting third party publishers to announce a handful of games for the Wii U and showing real support for it. Right now most of what we’ve been promised are simply ports of PS3/Xbox 360 titles that will have been out for months before the Wii U’s release.
Nintendo has simply never been that good at getting and keeping third party support. When the GameCube came out it had the brilliant Resident Evil 4 as an exclusive, but very little besides, and the GameCube never caught fire.
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 there’s no reason to believe Nintendo can change that, even if they wanted to.
3. No Big Graphics Jump Over the Competition
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. Why on earth would anyone buy the Wii U over a comparable machine with backlog of high-def games the Wii U will lack? Especially if they can wait another year for the Xbox 720, which will have even better graphics.
4. No 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 and SD cards, although at least internal memory has gone to a choice of 8 or 32 GB from the half GB in the Wii.
5. Iffy Core Game Commitment
Nintendo is claiming that with the Wii U they are making something for the core gamers they have ignored throughout the Wii’s history. The Wii U, we are told, will not just be a console for tots and grandmas; this time around there will be far more games that can compete with the adult fare of the PS3 and Xbox 360.
That’s hard to believe, considering how little interest Nintendo has shown in core games these last years. Nintendo tends 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 never look like Sony’s or Microsoft’s. And unless Nintendo can convince third party publishers to put all their top core games on the Wii U, as well as creating a few exclusives for it (which seems unlikely) Nintendo will always be the company for tots and grandmas.
Note: since I originally wrote this, Nintendo has announced their plans to publish Bayonetta 2 as a Wii U exclusive. This gives their core game claims a bit more credence, but keep in mind that Nintendo also published the dark and brilliant Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem for the GameCube and that one swallow does not a summer make.
6. 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. Yes, they're making an effort, but so far they're still falling a little short.
7. Gives Less Extras Than the Competition
While the PS3 and Xbox 360 want to be both gaming and media centers for your home, 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? 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.
Note: With the introduction of Nintendo TVii, it's clear the company is no longer focused on gaming alone. TVii is ambitious, but it is unknown whether it will be usable.
8. The Weird Controller Stew
You can’t get much less simple than the Wii U’s controller setup, since they’ve got both the Wii U controller and the Wii remote/nunchuk combo to play with. Some games may use one, some the other. And right now it sounds like there will be a limit to how many of the touch screen controllers will work with the Wii U – at first Nintendo said only one but later rumors suggest two – so it’s impossible to create a four-person multiplayer game where everyone has a touch screen. I predict fights over who gets which controller and a general confusion as people move from one to the other. The Wii sold itself through simplicity, the Wii U looks to be trying for ultimate complexity.
9. Deserting 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 there’s little talk of anyone designing for them, 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 beneath notice.
10. PS3/Vita Is Breathing Down Their Neck
Want a multi-touchscreen HD controller for your HD console with two cameras and a rear touchpad? Sony’s upcoming Vita touchscreen handheld has all that, and will be useable as a PS3 controller. This means that it would not be difficult for Sony to create a better version of the sort of interface for the PS3 the Wii U will have. Yes, it would probably be way more expensive, but it is also likely to be way cooler.
11. It's Too Expensive for What It Is
Right now you can get a PS3 with a 160 GB hard drive for $250 (add another $80 or so to add the Playstation Move). You can get a 4 GB Xbox 360 for $200; $300 if you want Kinect. The Wii U is $300 or $350, depending on whether you get the 8GB or 32GB model. 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.
12. Nintendo Has Lost Their 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 over. The Wii and the DS could be nothing more than a brief resurgence in a decline that started with the GameCube and continues with the 3DS.