The State of Wii U: Rumors of its Early Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Wii U’s had a rough six months. No denying it. It’s hard to pull off a console launch, and judging by the struggles that 3DS and Vita had in 2011, it would have taken a miracle for Wii U to beat the trend. Since 2013 kicked off, the system has only seen 10 new games – three of which hit today, May 21. The platform’s current weekly sales have become something of a laughingstock among critics. None of this is good.

However, there’s a silver lining beneath all the bad: Wii U is starting to come together as a platform with a mission. And compared to other next-gen devices, it’s actually not doing too badly.

Wii U Refined

Wii U is “bigger, faster, and stronger” than it was when it first launched thanks to the big spring system update. As promised, the update seriously cuts down the loading time for software and menu screens, in some cases by up to about 40% – that’s a pretty significant difference. It also makes it quicker to boot straight to the Wii Menu to take advantage of the console’s software backward compatibility, allows for the use of non-GamePad controllers for Wii U’s core applications such as the Internet Browser and Miiverse, and can now play Virtual Console games with Wii U-enhanced features.

In many ways, the console seems as though it’s been refined to the point it ought to have reached when it first launched. And that’s a good thing.

super-metroid-vcThough the Virtual Console library is small right now, it’s steadily growing, with multiple games added each week – and almost all of those new releases including one or two noteworthy titles. Since the service began, two Mario games have hit the system, with Nintendo offering a discount for those who purchase both. Three Kirby games are coming this week. If this pace keeps up, Wii U owners should be able to steadily build up a library, as opposed to facing a painfully slow trickle like the one we’ve seen with 3DS, where games worth buying only show up every couple months.

But imagine if the service had kicked off in November. By now, we’d have about 50 retro games to pick from. And six months from now, we’d have almost 100. Unless Nintendo starts picking up the pace, that’s many months of lost time that it’s unlikely the system will offset with future releases.

The Famicom 30th anniversary discounts line has done a great job serving as an Ambassador program for early adopters, even without an imminent price cut to apologize for. By the end of the program, participants will have gotten the chance to pick up seven games for a grand total of just over $2. That’s a great deal to offer your most loyal customers. Of course, it still can’t quite make up for a several-month wait… but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Wii U Isn’t Alone in the Rough Road to Next-Gen

Even if Wii U is in better shape than it was when it launched, Nintendo’s still having a hard time selling the darn thing. Every week it seems like there’s a new doom and gloom story, with games getting cancelled, third-party companies badmouthing the thing, and low monthly sales reports all around.

wii-u-salesHowever, let’s look at the bigger picture. Wii U has managed to sell 3.45 million units since launch as of the end of March. That’s more than Xbox 360′s 3.2 million during the same relative timeframe in 2005-2006 and not too far behind PS3′s 3.61 million in its own first two quarters (source). And unlike Xbox 360, which only saw serious competition from PS2 when it launched in 2005, Wii U faces pressure from both Xbox and PlayStation, both of which have spectacular support going into 2013, versus Wii U’s paltry offerings in both the first-party and third-party departments.

Third-party companies have talked down Wii U’s software sales, but those aren’t doing all that badly either. Wii U’s attach rate is actually pretty comparable to Xbox 360′s launch rates as well. That’s funny, because I don’t seem to remember publishers yanking support for 360 in 2006.

And this generation has proven to be much more painful for new game platform launches than the last. PS Vita only managed to sell 790,633 units in its first seven months. 3DS started off strong but quickly dropped to a little over half the rates we’re seeing with Wii U in the U.S. in its second quarter.

All this points to Wii U falling more into the norm for hardware releases, both last gen and especially this gen, not Wii U being an especially negative exception. This generation’s transition period is going to be difficult for everyone, not just Nintendo.

Wii U’s Future is Bright

It’s worth nothing that the similarities between Wii U and 3DS in terms of their first years extend beyond just their sales momentum. During 3DS’s first year, the big sales driver titles were The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7. Ocarina of Time went on to become Nintendo’s first million seller for the system by the end of its second quarter.

NSMBU-preview-5Wii U’s already in better shape than that, with two two million sellers (yes, you read that right) in the form of New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land. And what else does it have coming later this year? A Zelda remake in the form of Wind Waker Wii U, a new 3D Mario title, and a new Mario Kart. And on top of that, we’ve got games like Game & Wario, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, and Sonic Lost Worlds all in the pipeline for 2013.

I wouldn’t anticipate Wii U to see as big a turnaround as 3DS – that’s just an exceptionally high expectation, and Wii U’s got a higher price tag with no price cut in sight – but it seems like Wii U is poised to follow a similar trajectory to the little handheld for the rest of the year. Nintendo’s setting up a similar holiday lineup for a reason. Now they just need to prove that these new games are ambitious enough to propel Wii U into the future.

Anything else, including glimpses at the next Smash Bros., at Zelda Wii U, or at Retro Studios’ secret project, is just icing on the cake.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s never to underestimate Nintendo. I wouldn’t worry too much about Wii U at present. Wait until Nintendo fully reveals their hand at E3. That’s when you’ll see where Wii U’s really going this year.

  • zdog

    I think it boils down to two things. Shipping hardware before firmware was ready and no system defining 1st party title to help people know what this console is all about. No Nintendoland doesn’t count.

    • brianc6234

      The real problem is it was released two years too late. The Wii U is a current gen console, not a next gen console. Once most people saw how powerful the PS4 is going to be they decided why waste money on the Wii U. Just wait and get a more powerful console. The Wii U has too little RAM. It doesn’t even use USB 3.0 for the hard drive you have to connect to it if you want to do any serious gaming. It just isn’t a good console to buy unless you plan to buy more than one.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lancejburns Lance J. Burns

        While the people who buy ps4s await their greatness, I’ll just be playing smash bros and mario kart.

      • http://twitter.com/aceofblade tyler kopeck

        I don’t understand this buy games becase they look good fad. its pretty sad in fact that people don’t care if the game is bad they just want it to look badass. Or maby its just you who doesn’t understand a good game is more than graphics and hardware. If the assassin games or skyrim were originally on the wii U would you not play them because the ps4 had better graphics?

        • zdog

          There is truth to that, people in Brazil are loving the playstation 2. The sega genesis had life there through 2002.

      • Blackice

        I’m afraid that it probably is true that the Wii U won’t have the same 3rd party support as the other two consoles after they release. However, core gamers who buy Nintendo’s systems are buying them for the 1st party titles they can’t get anywhere else: that’s how it always has been, that’s probably how it always will be. Any 3rd party support we get is nice (and there are some pretty decent 3rd party Wii U titles, even if they are mostly late ports), but it’s not the main reason to own the console.

        Beyond that, did the less powerful Wii fail because the other two consoles were more powerful? Core gamers still bought it, for the above reason, and its lower price point and other factors made it ideal for more casual people as well. We’ll see if the Wii U travels the same path or not, but the former is likely after Zelda, Mario, Metroid, etc. are released, and the latter is probable, again because of the (most likely) lower price point.

        Finally, there’s always the “good graphics don’t make good games” argument. I would argue that most core gamers do place gameplay over graphics. If that’s true, many of us will still have a very good reason to purchase the Wii U.

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

        Sounds like somebody missed that part where Wii had an awesome last-gen.

        • Ghiradorf

          Oh, that Wii? The one that gave Nintendo ten years of suitable funds?

        • Matthew Wesley

          I know, It’s like people forgot the last 6 years.

      • Matthew Wesley

        Are you a game designer? Software designer? Hardware designer? The ps3 was technically the most powerful last gen console, it still was outsold by the wii. As a matter of fact, almost every console generation, the console with weaker specs wins. Wii the last gen, xbox second, ps3 third (although xbox’s rrd didn’t help its install base). Ps2 the generation before. Ps1 the one before that. Snes before that. Nes before that. Atari before that. Games determine the victor, and I’m sorry to say nothing coming to ”superior” xbox 1 or ps4 is really unique or revolutionary. More madden, more shooters, more racing. No innovation.

        • keenan

          actually the dreamcast had segnificantly lower specs,than the ps2 and we all know how that ended lolol

      • Jxudo

        The Wii U is just as much a Next Gen console as the PS4 or Xbox One.
        It’s not about HOLY CRAP GIVE ME MOAR POWER that makes consoles next gen. It’s about how well the games are developed on them.

        • zdog

          I disagree. Mario RPG was a very very well designed game, but was definitely not part of the ‘nextgen’ of Nintendo 64. Nextgen is defined as a new generation of technology that allows you to create games that COULD NOT be created before. Wii U’s claim to that definition is utilizing a second screen that allows you to create games, ie Nintendoloand that were not possible on a previous generation.

          • Jxudo

            Exactly what I meant. You don’t have the possibility too see, say a second viewpoint or your map/inventory on a second screen on any other console. Which makes the Wii U next gen, because it wasn’t possible before.

      • zdog

        I agree with your two years two late. As much as I love the Wii, (favorite console behind snes) I was very disappointed when it released and was treated to what were essentially gamecube games with a new controller. No question, Wii destroyed the competition and proved more power didn’t mean better system. All the same I had come to expect a discernible graphical jump between every Nintendo console up to that point and frankly the first time I’ve seen that jump since the gamecube was with the new Mario and Sonic Olympics game. Makes me very very excited for this upcoming Nintendo Direct. But there is no doubt about it, Nintendo has purposely placed themselves graphically a generation behind the competition. A lot of people are okay with that, and I am too. But I certainly wouldn’t complain if Nintendo games were fun AND bleeding edge. That just isn’t Nintendo’s way though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jugglaj91 Joe Onley Jr

    Nintendo is all about waiting. Yes it did less than they thought because they tried to play catch up. When Nextbox/PS4 have a dry spell it will be all “its a new console of course nothings out yet” while Nintendo got “ITS ALL OVER!!!1!!1!” I think people are just wanting Nintendo to die out for some odd reason. But for me though I would rather have a new way to play a game than just ANOTHER powerhouse.

    • Chris

      I agree and i don’t understand why people want to see Nintendo fold. I really think that would be devastating to the gaming industry as a whole. PS and XBOX would probably pump up their console prices even more because they wouldn’t have Nintendo’s lower price to keep em in check, they could probably sell them at at least their cost instead of losing $200 like they did with the PS3 and who knows what that would be and besides there wouldn’t be any innovation, it would just be the same old same old

      • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

        CoD.. CoD everywhere.. D:

    • brianc6234

      It’s not about there’s nothing out though. Don’t believe that dumb excuse. All consoles go through that. The Wii U just isn’t powerful enough. Why would Nintendo think they could make a new console that’s just a little more powerful than the current consoles? They don’t know what they’re doing. Someone should lose their job over that one. Who was it who designed it? They’re clueless.

      • Ben Bustin

        Some phones probably have more power than a Wii, but that doesn’t stop people. Great games > graphics, power. Nintendo accomplished great games on the Wii despite “their lack of power”. Maybe that’s a strategy of theirs, knowing they can spend less on hardware, and make up for it in better developed games. Given it takes Nintendo years to finish a console selling game, I’m sure people would rather wait 2 years for a Mario/Zelda (480p) game than waiting 6 months for another 1080 fps (likely, cod). Its been the same since the 64. I don’t think it will ever change.

        • zdog

          Yes and no. We’ve seen a lot of Mario and Zelda games in a pretty short period of time. I wouldn’t mind waiting longer for a Nintendo IP that would blow my mind graphically. Nintendo has given us so many new experiences, but I’m still waiting on that one. I anticipate It’ll happen at this next Nintendo Direct.

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

            “We’ve seen a lot of Mario and Zelda games in a pretty short period of time.”

            We’ve seen one original Zelda game within the past 1.5 years, and we’ve seen a remake 2 years ago.

            Other than that, it’s been almost 4 years since any other games.

            I wouldn’t call that a pretty short period of time.

            Not to mention that they just had their 25th Anniversary; what can you expect but a few extra remakes/ports?

            • zdog

              6/2011: Ocarina of Time 3D
              9/2011: Four Swords Anniversary edition
              11/2011: Skyward Sword
              5/2013: Oracle of Seasons 3DS virtual console
              5/2013: Orage of Ages 3DS virtual console
              Holliday 2013: Wind Waker U
              Holliday 2013: Link to the Past 2

              Now I’ll be the first to admit that some of these are a stretch. All the same that is 7 Zelda releases (small or not) in a ~3 year period. I stand by what I said before, I would settle for less and get more. As far as Mario is concerned, his list would be twice as long. But in the end it is OKAY Nintendo is smart enough to not fall into the graphics trap, because say they did spend 6 years making a Zelda that outdoes Skyrim…it would still sell for $60. Or you could make several games that are still just as fun and sell them each for $60.It makes business sense, and the part of me that appreciates good business sense trumps the part of me that appreciates good graphics.

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

                Okay, those are valid, but here’s a couple things:

                1) I wasn’t counting future releases
                2) I wasn’t counting ports (Oracle of Seasons/Ages), and those are also future releases
                3) Four Swords Anniversary Edition isn’t available anymore. I know that that doesn’t make it void from the list, but for some reason I thought it did when I made the previous list.

                I guess great graphics would be cool for Zelda, but as you said, I’d rather have great gameplay.

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

        It IS about “there’s nothing out.”

        3DS was in a similar position to Wii U when there was “nothing out.”
        PS Vita is still in a WORSE position and there’s “nothing out.”

        3DS turned around when the games started coming, and Wii U has more games coming faster.

        • Nevan Lowe

          And to add to what you said, guess which one is more powerful? The 3DS. system specs mean little to nothing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

        What is this power fetish of yours all about dude? If you would really care about power (which does not, and will not ever contribute directly to the quality of a game) you would set up a gaming PC and not spend your time and money on consoles to begin with.

        And yes, I’m sure Nintendo have no idea what they’re doing. I’m sure you, with all your 14 years of life experience have a much greater sense and idea of how the gaming/console market works. Pff, what does Nintendo know anyway, it’s not like they’ve been making consoles for decades or anything..

        • Ghiradorf

          Nope, they never innovated the entire D-Pad concept. I have no idea what you’re talking about……

      • Matthew Wesley

        I hate to break this to you, but nintendo’s been making video games for 30 years, consoles for 27. I’m reasonably sure they know more about console design than you.

  • MusubiKazesaru

    I have no problems with the Wii U as a system, the gamepad is phenomenal and the launch lineup was excellent and I’m just sick and tired of all of the bullshit “Nintendo is doomed” or “Wii U sucks” going around on the internet, it’s gotten to the point where sites like IGN are taking advantage of it for clicks by reposting “EA developer says Wii U sucks” instead of mentioning articles that are actually interesting. As per usual Nintendo will succeed in making the most memorable games whether it’s the new 3D Mario, the new Zelda, Smash Bros, or Monolith Soft’s “X” and then the Wii U will be just fine. I’m happy that I got it on Day 1, the same way I got my 3DS Day 1

    • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.pappas Anthony Pappas

      Hey, any press is good press.

      • http://www.facebook.com/davidixonlive David Dixon

        Not when it is all negative.

        • Ray

          Somehow that doesn’t seem to work when “bad guys” get negative press. Eg. EA gets tons of bad press, but come every new FIFA, Madden or whatever developer they buy up to ruin their franchises, the proof is in the sales. EA dominates. But with Nintendo now, people seem to have this idea that they’re the good guy. So when Nintendo does something that seems to be “betraying the fans” or being a greedy corporation, then people get personally hurt.

          Consider the entire issue of DLC. Everything I want in my game is more or less given to me in my 60 dollar purchase. For a Sony or Microsoft game, I pay that 60 dollars, then perhaps a rate to play online depending on the service, then 5 to 20 dollars more on DLC map, outfits, weapons, characters. So these other two can exploit the system this way, and people grumble but ultimately still fork up the cash. They are not the bad guys. Let Nintendo only start doing this, and it’ll be an apocalypse. It’s because, as aforementioned, Nintendo is seen as the good guy.

          So any negative press besmirching the name of a good guy, people reconsider, they lose trust, they feel hurt and confused. Whereas if a typical “bad guy” gets negative press, people go, “Oh well whatever, we expected that from you anyway.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

      Hear, hear! I’m loving my Wii U, I think it’s the most awesome console yet by Nintendo. And the GamePad does indeed bring a whole new aspect to gaming, Nintendo Land is great fun with a couple of friends over. Also, people don’t always seem to realise that gamers have different needs. I for one, am not a big fan of realistic looking games, and I also do not like games that are focussed around shooting people. I do not like blood and gore in games, or over the top violence (if anything, it’s these sort of games (GTA especially) that I find childish, not Nintendo’s games).
      Zelda, Mario, Pikmin Pokémon, Kirby, Starfox etc. are the soul reason I play games, and Nintendo’s going to let me do so in sweet HD with an awesome controller, on a console without too much hassle. So for me, and I’d say a whole lot of others, the Wii U is a great console.

      • Gaseous Snake

        I wholeheartedly agree with you. Personally, I spend all day looking at realistic things in life, so when I play games, I want to see something unrealistic and imaginative. On the few instances I played an FPS (Metroid Primes being the exception), they felt clunky and one-dimentional. The Wii U is for me!

        • MusubiKazesaru

          well that’s why the Metroid Prime Trilogy is considered a “First Person Adventure”

      • zdog

        ” it’s these sort of games (GTA especially) that I find childish, not Nintendo’s games”

        That is the truest thing I’ve heard all day. I keep hitting your up vote arrow but it won’t go any farther.

  • http://www.facebook.com/austin.palmer33125 Austin Palmer

    I’ve said it before and will say it again: The Wii U will be just like the 3DS. Bad launch with very few games. People say it’s doomed. Goes on to become a huge hit when more games come out!

    • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.pappas Anthony Pappas

      I remember the N64′s launch–Mario 64 or Pilot Wings. Then again, one of those games was Mario 64….

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vask8219 Andy Vasquez

    im just waiting for the software to build before considering the purchase, finances are too tight for me to take a plunge and let it collect dust while waiting around for good stuff too come out. Ive learned my lesson with the PS3 already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobby.bottino Bobby Bottino

    Honestly, I feel that the Wii U is the best system that I’ve ever owned. It just needs more games.

  • Zeta

    lol look at all this damage control. Nintoddlers can’t accept the fact that the peeU is nintendo’s last console in this shitfest. Once the 720 and the ps4 launch, nintendo will be forgotten in the eyes of gamers, and finally a new golden age of gaming will follow. No gimmicks, no motion control bullshit, just pure gaming as it was meant to be. I’ll miss nintendo though, and hopefully they’ll be wise enough to go 3rd party so we can keep enjoying their games on superior hardware. This will be beneficial to everyone and I can’t wait to see majora’s mask on the vita as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

      If you had used a little less puns in there, you might actually have been able to get people’s attention. This trolling is a bit meager. 5/10.

      • Zeta

        Hey man at least I tried :D

        • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

          It’s the thought that counts.

    • zdog

      No gimmicks? Harry Potter book of spells much?

    • Nevan Lowe

      As soon as Nintendo leaves, the gaming industry will crumble. Microsoft and Sony will try to keep it from collapsing, but it will be a lost cause, as more and more gamers stop gaming. Eventually Microsoft or Sony will fall, and then the other won’t be able to take it. Without Nintendo, it’ll take a lot to keep the gaming industry from falling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heroatheart Victor Julius Godlewski III

    go ahead and bash nintendo but it wasn’t Microsoft who brought video games to ameirca and who has been keeping them here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jan.compaf Jan Compaf

    lol at this damage control “article”

    people are sick and tired to play mario/zelda for the last 30 years

    and btw nintonto doesnt participate at E3 , are u living under a rock?

    • Regol

      They have said that they’ll just not host a big conference like every year, but they’re not skipping it completely. They’re supposed to be having a Nintendo Direct talking about Mario Kart, 3D Mario, Zelda U, Smash and more just before the E3 and that they’ll have playable demos during the event.

      And who’s sick of what? O_o

      • Ben Bustin

        Idk either.
        To be honest, I don’t think people will ever be sick of Mario or Zelda.
        Same with how Microsoft has Halo and PlayStation has.. well idk what they have. Lol.
        What people are getting sick of are those games that get released as often as a new iPhone. Or that have no developed quality other than graphics. (Cod) Also developers who feel they want to change the aspects of the game industry, likely due to the fact that no one likes then any more. Yes, EA. Sad..

    • http://www.facebook.com/keith.radecsky Keith Radecsky

      Beg to differ. I’m sick of all the COD’s and it’s clones along with GTA’s and clones. As old as the Mario’s and Zelda’s are they still feel fresh compared to what’s out now. Example Injustice, good game but just a mortal combat clone. Bio shock, awesome but its just a FPS. Dead island is a great game but doesn’t get respect because it doesn’t compare to black ops which BTW is a clone of COD. What do I know I still play my dreamcast.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jugglaj91 Joe Onley Jr

        did you call black ops a CoD clone? 0/10

        • Nevan Lowe

          Yes he did. The don’t change anything, so it doesn’t count as a sequel.

    • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

      At least the other troll in this article put some effort into his little fanfiction. Yours is lacking in content, originality and grammar. 1/10.

    • Nevan Lowe

      Who, exactly, is sick and tired for playing Mario and Zelda?

      And they are just not hosting giant conference.

  • Ben Bustin

    I’m convinced sales with rocket when Nintendo announces the next SSB or TLoZ. I know those two games alone have convinced others to buy the Wii, or previous Nintendo console. (in one case, a friend of mine bought a Wii on Brawl’s release date, just to play the game). Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Kart really made the Wii fun for single player/multiplayer (first party) game play. Similar games would make the line up exciting, easing anticipation for the next Zelda and Smash Bro’s. ..Then Brawl came out and everyone set their ps3/xbox360 away.

    Tldr. I want to see what Nintendo has to offer before I buy a Wii U. Instead of buying one now, when there is likely to be no game I want to buy/play, I’ll wait till later when a favorable game is released and the possibility of a price drop is at hand. I’m sure others are doing the same…

  • David Roberts

    I agree with this article 100%

  • Andrés

    you know how they can sell millions of Wii U´s just with a single game….Pokemon online, sorta like sandbox games, openworld, online battles, great graphics, COMMON nintendo im not the only one that wants this.
    Get game freak to step out of its comfort zone

  • Daniel WhatThe Heck

    Reminds me of the Dreamcast. Not a great console, not a terrible console. Just released at a bad time.

  • Paladinrja

    This should’ve been an article. For an opinion piece its the most balanced an educated exposition on the Nintendo Wii U, that I’ve seen since just prior to its launch 7 mths ago. Well done Mr. Plant

  • keenan

    Wii U has over 88 games.. thats more games than ANY console has had in a years time