With the Wii U launching this holiday season, and only a few months leading up to it for news to be revealed, there are some huge flaws already visible in Nintendo’s marketing strategy. We still don’t know the price, there is very little consumer attention outside of gaming circles, and the console does not live up to ‘next-gen’ expectations. The Wii U only has two things to rely on—its loyal fanbase, and the hope that its dual-screen gimmick will be as successful for consoles as it was for the Nintendo DS. All of these point to one sad fact: the Wii U probably won’t make it.
To begin with, everyone has always expected Nintendo to publish games for children. While I do enjoy my own sessions of Pokémon and Legend of Zelda, we have to be honest: those games were designed with kids in mind. This isn’t detrimental, and it does show that Nintendo has one steady audience to cater to, but it does mean something for its next console: it has to be kid-proof. One of my biggest gaming regrets involves my old, original Nintendo DS. I handed it to my three-year-old nephew, thinking it would be alright as long as I watched—and he still found a way to scratch the screen. I can only imagine handing the Wii U’s controller to a kid and seeing how fast that expensive hardware breaks. Mike Read, a Crytek producer, also has this opinion: and even goes as far as saying that the controller is a novelty at this point.
Well, that’s all good and well, perhaps it wasn’t made for kids. Nintendo is attempting to move away from a younger audience and focus more on the hardcore crowd—which is evident in the classic controller that the Wii U will have as a peripheral. But even with an older crowd in mind, two screens may still be a terrible design choice. Anyone who’s tried to read or write while watching TV knows that it’s difficult to split your attention between two things, unless one of them is less pressing. Making sure there is a careful balance of each screen and alerting gamers when to look down at the controller is all up to the developer’s talent—but surely Nintendo could have found a better way to incorporate touch controls than a large screen in the middle of a bulky controller.
Even taking all of this into account, the console itself has very bad specs compared to current consoles—which means it will be quickly outclassed by Sony and Microsoft’s next entries. While it is a huge leap up from the Wii’s capabilities, it’s still a step behind its competitors. Its mysterious price also raises some flags: exactly how expensive does it have to be for Crytek to call it a novelty, and Nintendo to keep it a secret for so long? If it was a competitive price, wouldn’t they be eager to reveal it? With components that cost roughly $180, it has a huge ‘reasonable’ price range—but anything over $250 might offset sales, especially with two new handhelds on the market that have an arguably larger game library.
Ultimately, Nintendo has pulled off this kind of trick before, and turned a gimmick into something which attracted casual gamers to the scene and popularized gaming as a hobby. The company has been around a long time and probably has a few more tricks up their sleeve before holiday season launch—but in the case that they don’t, or the information that they reveal is disappointing, I can only see the Wii U on the shelf of its hardcore fanbase. And after the 3DS price drop just a few months after release, even that is up in the air.