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Wii U Direct Won’t Convince the Masses, Seemed Like a Desperate Reminder to Fans that More is Coming

Wednesday’s Wii U Direct presentation was certainly exciting for Wii U owners, and probably encouraging to some potential Wii U owners who were a bit hesitant to hop on board until they saw what was in store down the line. After all, that was one of Nintendo’s express missions for the presentation: to inform fans about what’s coming to the system in the future, not just in the first half of this year. In that sense, it did its job well. But it’s important to note what Wii U Direct won’t achieve for the system – recognition by the general public as a must-have gaming device.

At the same time, the timing of these latest announcements seems to serve as an obvious reactionary measure against recent reports regarding the new Xbox and PlayStation successors’ specs and upcoming reveals later this spring. Regardless of the face Nintendo seems to be putting up, it seems clear that they don’t believe Wii U has established the advantageous position they were hoping for against the competition and are desperate to correct its reputation as soon as possible.

A big part of Nintendo’s rise to fame was their connection with the everyday person – not just the hardcore gaming enthusiast who can dedicate several hours a day to their hobby, but the families, young people, and working class folks who don’t see gaming as a way of life but rather as a means of entertaining their children, bringing their families together to play, or taking a load off after a long day at work.

These kinds of players need games that they can fit into their daily grind, not games that require large time investments and that require gamers to keep close track of their progress to jump back into the game. It’s the reason why games like Super Mario Bros., Wii Sports, and Just Dance have established such strong footholds and are so recognizable among the so-called “casual” crowd – they know how to be “accessible” to their audience, not just through the pick-up-and-play simplicity of their gameplay but through how easy it is to carve out time to sit back and have fun with them.

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That doesn’t mean these games necessarily have to be easy. Anyone who’s tried to make it all the way through the original Super Mario Bros. can tell you that it took a lot of practice and improvement to avoid getting a Game Over. It just means that there isn’t a steep learning curve, even if there’s a steep challenge curve.

So far, Wii U’s offered a New Super Mario Bros. game and the brand-new Nintendo Land to aim at this kind of gamer. And, so far, these games are the two main experiences keeping Wii U afloat – they’re the two best-selling games on Wii U by a rather considerable margin. Wii Fit U is coming within the first half of this year. These games will likely be long-term sales-drivers… but what else will Nintendo do to prove that it’s got a lot to offer to the “casual” player? Wii Party sold well, but it didn’t sell systems, so it seems unlikely that its sequel will do much better. Games like Wii Sports, which was teased at E3 2011 but never officially announced, are still MIA.

Nintendo seems to expect that simply throwing out a new fitness game, more controller gimmick mini-games, and a new Mario will be enough to get people who bought a Wii to buy a Wii U. Judging by the steep drop-off in its adoption rate, it seems pretty clear that that won’t work. These potential customers need to be convinced by something that Nintendo simply hasn’t done before, something that will inspire them to realize that their current Wii experiences like Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii have truly and definitively been surpassed.

To put it another way – the casuals are pickier than people give them credit for. They need to feel that what Wii U is offering to them is truly next-gen, not just an HD update.

There’s a popular notion that Wii had a terrible software attach rate, and that everyone who bought the system for Wii Sports never bought anything else. This actually isn’t true – there were over eight games sold for every Wii system, and many of those games sold to people who bought into Wii Sports and were curious to see what else Nintendo had to offer. All it takes is that one game that drives the general population to shell out a couple hundred bucks to see what all the fuss is about – and Wii U still hasn’t seen its ace in the hole, not even at Wii U Direct.

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Yoshi Wii U is probably pretty fun, but its emphasis on its cutesy art style isn’t likely to have widespread appeal. Wind Waker Wii U is a good choice for an encore release because it’s no longer available on any current Nintendo platforms, but it’s unlikely that it’ll make enough waves to sustain Wii U long-term or sell it to anyone who didn’t already go for it on GameCube. Monolith’s game looks gorgeous and seems like it’ll be a hit with the Xenoblade crowd… which honestly isn’t that big a group (though I’m sure they make excellent software customers).

3D Mario? Mario Kart? Zelda Wii U ? Smash Bros.? We know they’ll all be great. That Mr. Iwata saw fit to remind us that these games – all of which we already knew about – are coming, while apologizing profusely that he has nothing to show for them at the present time, does well to reassure us that we’ll have a lot to watch out for at E3, but it doesn’t really tell fans waiting to see what’s in the works for Wii U anything they didn’t already know. Not that that’s a bad thing. Nintendo needs to save something for E3. But until we actually see these games and get the chance to size them up firsthand, it’s hard to say whether they’ll be enough to get people excited – and not just people in the gaming enthusiast world, but people outside it.

Nintendo knows that one of the biggest criticisms of Wii U has been that there’s no clear roadmap for where it’s headed after the launch period. They know that Sony and Microsoft will be aiming to one-up them with their own next-gen systems, and so they also know that they need to position themselves as having a lot to look forward to before people become fixated on what the competition has to offer.

Did they succeed at that? I’m not sure yet – as someone who already owns a Wii U, I’m pretty pleased, but I can’t speak for non-owners. We’ll know in the coming weeks and months what history will remember.

  • http://www.triforcetalk9.blogspot.com/ Linkfan99

    Gosh, people just need to buy a Wii U! If you’re debating whether or not to get it, GET IT NOW! (If you’re able) There are PLENTY of great games already out for it, and many more to come. So, don’t wait to get one, you should get one soon. If you were pleased with the Wii, then get this, I like it about twice as much.

    • Vicente Diaz

      right now, with no 3rd party support and any remarkable Nintendo release almost a year ahead, no way im getting one.

      • http://www.triforcetalk9.blogspot.com/ Linkfan99

        “No third party support”? True, not right now, but didn’t they JUST say at Nintendo Direct that that is coming in the very near future?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dixiejunior Kayla Zeh

    great games coming out.. just get it.. the tech is revolutionary.

    • bonezai

      nope

  • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

    For the readers: I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Wii U, that’s why I care enough to criticize Nintendo about how they’re handling it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kory.pelletier Kory Pelletier

      I think they’re handling fine, what exactly is the big issue? They’re a business who wants to get people excited about their stuff. The fans love what they’re doing and how exactly do know what the Nintendo employees and managers are thing? You don’t work for them.

      • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

        I know what their sales predictions are, I know their stock price is hovering around all-time lows, and I know investors are anxious to see things turn around.

        And I know that they’re currently not on track to meet their sales predictions.

        I don’t need to know what they’re thinking to know that as a business this is a terrible position to be in, especially with highly-anticipated announcements from your competitors right around the corner.

        • http://www.facebook.com/kory.pelletier Kory Pelletier

          Then why the negative skew on this article? Seems kinda pointless to gripe about this kind of thing.

          • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

            I guess it’s because I don’t see this stuff turning Wii U around to where Nintendo needs it to be – I just see it being great for people who already have one or were probably going to get one anyway. Which is good… but Nintendo needs more than that. Iwata already said that Nintendo can’t afford to have another Nintendo console that performs like the GameCube (great system for those who owned it, horrible reputation among those who didn’t), yet so far Wii U looks like a GameCube with a touch screen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Thompson/100000355411389 Steve Thompson

      I’d imagine the monolith soft game will hit with the rpg crowd as a whole and not just people who liked xenoblade.

    • http://twitter.com/VAStreamMonster Marty

      I ABSOLUTELY LOVE NINTENDO*

      Fixed it for you. (There’s nothing to love about the Wii U)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Books2323 Angel WithAn O

    When you said that the Xenoblade crowd isn’t such a big group I went “wtf it cannot be”

    Then I checked its sales numbers and realised how true it was…

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      Pretty much. I’m not knocking on these games at all. I actually want pretty much everything we saw in the presentation. I’ve just been watching Nintendo for long enough to know that they’re not SUPER SELLING POWER material.

  • jblaze

    Here’s what I don’t get. You see all the other systems previews of games for other systems and people say this game needs to get released. Nintendo shows games and tells us big things are coming and we say oh its desperation. I for one am glad that ill get some good games down the roa. Instead of making negative articles to get angry hits make an article to tell us why this is a positive move. I guess that would be asking to much.

  • tony o’mary

    I love the wii u. Zombiu, ac3, and black ops 2 are all great games

  • aaron

    this is a stupid article. any games company needs to release what they intend to bring out because the consumer needs to know and currently we didnt have a clue until this nintendo direct. its not desparate at all, promotional sense

  • Robgoro

    At the end of the day, though, it’s more than we knew before the Nintendo Direct aired. Monolith Soft making a big, HD-quality RPG for the WiiU is pretty big news, and the fact that Nintendo regards them as one of their new “big players” after Xenoblade Chronicles is exciting. The announcements do, sure, seem misplaced in that we have to wait nearly half of a year to get any kind of elaboration (especially with Pokemon X and Y in the former Direct); but at the same time, it’s a way to keep anticipation up. It’s just like the 3DS – a slow, frustrating start followed by a long, solid lineup.

  • http://twitter.com/Juhis815 Juhis815

    I’m quite alarmed that they tell the information that several games are under production, and then they will reveal them later at E3 2013, which I clearly don’t understand.

  • Terrak

    I dont think any launch has gone any better either. Even the Wii with its amazing popularity had months of no games (but thanks to Wii Sports it kept selling regardless). I know what you expect. That the next 3D mario, Mario Kart SSB or Zelda should drop now to improve the momentum of the system but this is just wishful thinking. Even the 360 had a weak first year filled mainly with ports. Nothing really unique and showing off what the console was really capable of. So dont expect the Wii U to change anything. Sure the Wii U isnt exactly selling gangbusters now (thanks to the problem of no new games of course) but it natural for consoles in this time of their lifecycle to have sluggish sales. Look at the 3DS it had a slow start too, but with a price drop and several compelling titles and things can turn around. Im sure the Wii U has the capacity to do the same should the same strategy be implemented.

    Theres no need for the sensationalist headline. What Nintendo is doing is not desperate in anyway. Its exactly what Nintendo needs to do to get the console back on track.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      I think the Wii-Wii U difference is the problem. Wii U just doesn’t have anything with super selling power, and its future is still really unclear.

      Wii Sports had awesome selling power; New Super Mario Bros. once had it (but now I think people are starting to want more out of their NSMB games); Wii U just doesn’t have anything to match that – and Nintendo Land isn’t doing it.

      With Wii, there were at least a number of very popular games that had already been shown to the public that were on the horizon: Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or in the case of Twilight Princess, highly anticipated and present at launch. Wii U will almost certainly have next-gen sequels to these games, and more – but so far, they haven’t made any kind of appearance, so people can’t judge or be excited by them.

      I think the landscape is very different. Yes, there were months of no games for both systems, but there was a very clear picture of where Wii was going – not so much for Wii U.