Why the Wii U Feels Painfully Familiar
The Wii U's poor sales, few games , constant delays and lack of effective advertising has sprung onto the gaming community a console we haven't seen since the launch months of the Sega Saturn. Is the Wii U going to become the bane of Nintendo's existence as the Saturn was for Sega? Can Nintendo save the Wii U from the 4 month drought of games? Perhaps with some of my uneducated opinions.
The Wii U is a fantastic concept. Take Nintendo's two top selling consoles of all-time, the DS and the Wii, and fuse them together but also add in more power than any other console on the market, pump out some new additions to first party classics and secure third party support that was non existent on the Wii as well.
Sounds amazing right? Sounds like this would really bring Nintendo back into the forefront of gaming that they missed out on the last 6 years. So why is the Wii U performing so poorly in the marketplace?
Personally, I love the DS and I love the Wii. They both had crafted new fun and inventive ways to play games that no one else was thinking of doing at the time and even today have not come up with something as effective as Nintendo's two star children of the last generation. So when I heard at E3 2011 about Wii U and how it looked like a fusion of these two platforms but in HD, I was on board. I was listening, I was excited to see what was coming.
Then E3 2012 came and Nintendo showed off the goods, showed off the better GamePad and it's capabilities. Showed off the launch lineup, showed off third party developers, showed off as much as they could. It got me excited because as a gamer I could see the potential of such a device and how it could change, once more, how games are played. For the first time in my life, I had decided I wanted to get a Nintendo console during the launch window.
Yet as the months after E3 rolled by precious little was announced or even said about the console. Even a release date was obscure until shortly before the launch of the console in November. I started to get worried.
When November of 2012 rolled around I noticed something different. Games I had been looking forward to on the Wii U were delayed until 2013, and I didn't see any advertising on TV berating me to go out and purchase a Wii U because it is a life changing experience, or whatever they want to say to sell me on it. When the Wii was coming out, Nintendo made sure every man, woman and child in North America knew what was coming, when it was coming, and how it was going to change how we all play games. They hyped it up and it worked as the console was consistently sold out for years. With Wii U, it was only the people I know who pay attention to the gaming industry who knew what it was and could understand it. I still picked up my console during the holiday season, but I was one of the few of the people I know who did, unlike the Wii where almost everyone had or was trying to get one. The News was saying it was selling out though so I wasn't too worried.
Present day, we are seeing a different problem. Games that were meant to stay exclusive or even come in this half of the year have been pushed further back, and we are currently in a rut where we aren't seeing another Wii U game release until March, a four month drought. What just looked like small issues in the start have now branched out to become a nightmare for Nintendo, and Wii U owners.
Looking at all this information, I can't help but be sucked back into June of 1995 when my neighbor had got a new game system for his birthday. The Sega Saturn. Being the Genesis fanboy I was at the time, I was psyched to play anything with Sega stamped on it, but I didn't actually know what a Saturn was. Almost no one did. There weren't any commercials and I didn't get EGM or anything like it back when I was a kid so the Saturn came out of nowhere onto the market. I doubt even today my parents know the Saturn existed at all.
Then my neighbor and I became the worst thing for a gamer to be. Bored. All he had were two launch games, Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA, and for months we never saw a new Saturn game at our local stores. The games didn't come. I know now of course this was due to Sega releasing it, without telling developers, waaay early to try and make it to market before PlayStation, but it did kill the Saturn because of what happened to my friend. He got the game console, and then had nothing to play on it.
The Wii U is remarkably in a similar rut. As gamers who bought it during the launch period we have to wait over a quarter of a year to get a new title to put into our system, and that lack of hardware is killing the demand from the gaming community for Nintendo's product.
Even more of a killer is the advertising that does nothing to highlight the Wii U as something new, better and progressive for Nintendo and gamers. Every ad is completely ambiguous to the fact that the Wii U is a new console that is better. This is especially important as the casual consumer needs to have an awareness that the console exists in order for it to become a necessity for them to bring it into their households in the first place. Nintendo has shown they can do it, as they did it with the Wii, why not the Wii U?
If I were Nintendo, I would take a good look at this Kinect advertisment here:
This ad shows off the desired hardware capabilities Microsoft envisioned(s) for Kinect and how it changed the way you experience games and gameplay in a vartiey of different ways to highlight how obviously new and inventive it is, and the Kinect sold very very well because of it. Nintendo could do this with the Wii U with a very similar advertising campaign showing how the GamePad enhances games, how Netflix works, how Amazon Instant Video automatically pops up the IMDB of whatever you are watching, highlight that Nintendo Network is free, show that it is HD and be sure to mention ONLY ON WII U so that people can finally be aware this console exists and is a contender for your living room.
On the softrware side of advertising, Nintendo is doing a piss poor job here too. I haven't seen a Wii U specific commercial for any game title yet. Granted, there aren't any new games right now, but they could show how the GamePad interacts with what games are available or even show off what games are coming to Wii U soon. We who pay attention to the gaming world saw the Nintendo Direct video on the 23rd of Janurary and we were shown a great deal of games coming to Wii U this year that made me as a Wii U owner have a bit more faith in my investment. Why can't Nintendo showcase this in a advertisement to consumers so they can see that and rush out and get a Wii U with what games are out now while the other arrives, or to order one just to play the one game they see that they consider that must play game that forces them to buy the Wii U.
At least, I think that would help Nintendo get out of this rut they are in. I don't want the Wii U to become the black sheep that ruined Nintendo as the Saturn did for Sega. Having Nintendo as a console manufacturer is a constant for us gamers and I hope they see this and take the advice to heart.