The Wii U launches on Nov. 18 in the States with launches in Europe and Japan later on Nov. 30. Plenty of people have criticized the system for a multitude of reasons, even on Gaming Illustrated–we are a site divided on the Wii U. The question with the first “Next-Gen” console is how it will do when Nintendo releases it to the public. Can Nintendo expect to fall on its face with this launch or can it have an amazing launch with systems selling out this holiday season? Will the Wii U be a huge success and have the long-term staying power of the Wii?
Here are five reasons why the Wii U will succeed:
1. Mario and Other Nintendo Franchises
In addition to Mario, Nintendo has a deep stable of beloved franchises and characters to choose from that are exclusive only to them. The system will inevitably have several The Legend of Zelda games and Kirby games. Likely, the company will make newer Metroid games, Donkey Kong Countries, Animal Crossings and more. The Nintendo franchises end up being the main lifeblood of any Nintendo console and that will not likely change with the Wii U. The issue remains, however, with these titles as it does for Mario games, what can Nintendo do to push the boundaries that have already been done with these games in the past? Knowing Nintendo, the new Wii U technology should allow them room to innovate.
2. Huge Amount of Launch Window Titles
Nintendo has announced the launch window for Wii U titles from the console’s release on Nov. 18 to March of 2013. In that time, over 50 titles are expected to be released for the system. While the initial Nov. 18 launch is admittedly port-heavy featuring current titles from the prior generation, many will feature extra content and act as enhanced or special editions of the game. All of these ports are a quick way to give the Wii U a bigger library at launch and allows Nintendo loyalists to play games previously only available on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. It is an easy way to give Wii U users games to play during the holiday season. Even with the port-heavy launch lineup, Zombi U will release alongside the North American release of the Wii U and gives the launch an extra boost. The real story begins in 2013 when several intriguing and worthwhile titles should come out for the system. During the launch window, titles such as Rayman Legends (the sequel to the slept-on and amazing Rayman Origins will be exclusive to the Wii U), Lego City Undercover (a fascinating title that puts players in control of an undercover cop who catches criminals in Lego City, the game is most commonly referred to as LEGO GTA and it will be interesting to see how the sandbox style gameplay will translate to the LEGO template), The Wonderful 101 (Platinum Games puts players in control of numerous super heroes to fight off an alien invasion, a premise which sounds like it has plenty of promise), and Pikmin 3 (it has been a long time since Pikmin 2 for the GameCube, but there is still something charming and engrossing about the Pikmin series that makes it worth revisiting). Finally, there is the news that the sequel to hardcore action game Bayonetta will be a Wii U exclusive in 2013. If Nintendo can secure more games in the vein of Bayonetta 2, it can possibly draw the “hardcore” audience back with the Wii U.
3. The Wii U’s GamePad
The GamePad features NFC (Near Field Communication), which will allow it to utilize specialized items (such as figurines [likely for the Wii U Skylanders title] and cards [probably similar to the AR cards for the 3DS]). Not only is the GamePad’s NFC designed for that, but it can transfer content from designated devices to the system for use in-game. The NFC will also allow users to set supported credit cards at the top of the GamePad and wirelessly pay for Nintendo Network transactions. NFC is one of several fascinating features that the GamePad offers the potential Wii U buyer.
Another interesting feature is the support of video chatting on the Wii U thanks to the front facing camera on the GamePad. While the use of a video chat at system launch will likely be relegated to simple Skype or analogous services only, there might be potential down the line to support in-game video chat, which would make online gaming more personable. Whether it’s feasible or wanted, the possibility is still intriguing.
The most touted feature of the GamePad outside of the actual touch screen is that the screen can be used even if a television is unavailable. Wii U owners can stream directly to the GamePad and play their games when they are not able to use a television–making the Wii U double as a console and a portable device. There is a comfort knowing that if gamers actually want to take the console experience with them anywhere (that has a power outlet) they can. Those are the most striking of the GamePad’s features, but by no means all of them. If developers take advantage of all the things that GamePad is capable of, then much like Nintendo’s previous system, the Wii U can carve out a successful audience in the console market.
4. Improved Online Services
Nintendo is finally getting with the times and has decided to better support and implement online service with the Wii U. The Nintendo Network will function similar to Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Nintendo’s 3DS system already features the Nintendo Network and it functions fine, but due to the limited screen space and other drawbacks of a handheld, the eShop is hard to navigate. Those problems should be ameliorated by the use of a television and a console. In addition, Nintendo can implement feedback from the 3DS to make the Wii U’s version of the Nintendo Network better. Even better, the Wii U’s hard drive and ability to do firmware updates should allow Nintendo to tinker with the Network after the launch. Despite these reservations, the fact that Wii U users will no longer be slaves to friend codes (though they will still be supported in some manner) can open up the online experience and make it easier for Wii U players to connect with other people across the globe.
There is also the MiiVerse for anyone who wants to create a Mii of themselves to interact with other gamers in a social setting on the Wii U. The MiiVerse allows gamers to chat by text and video and opens up gamer interaction. Eventually, the MiiVerse will be accessible on other devices including the 3DS, but that will happen after the launch.
Some may say that moving toward DLC and possible game updates might be a step backwards. However, it does help Nintendo court more third-party developers to work with their system now that those developers can port games across the multiple systems and support the different versions more easily. The Wii U’s Nintendo Network is a move in the right direction because it gives gamers the ability to more easily connect with other players and friends; also, it allows for a smoother support of games in the long-term past their release date. It is about time that Nintendo decided to borrow from the competition to help improve their console.
5.Massive Backwards Compatibility Support
Smartly, the Wii U will be backwards compatible with the vast majority of the Wii software and hardware. Nintendo has stated that all Wii discs will work on the Wii U. However, as with any instance of backwards compatibility, there may be a few discs that do not work, but it is a small probability. The Wii U will support the Wii Balance Board, Wii Remote Plus, the Wii nunchuck, and the Classic Controller. In addition, data from the Wii (including save data), WiiWare titles, and Virtual Console titles can be transferred to the Wii U via an SD card. Unlike the Wii, though, the Wii U will not be able to play GameCube games, but eventually certain GameCube titles will be available on the Virtual Console. While the PS3 has slowly moved away from backwards compatibility with each redesign of its console and the Xbox 360 featured terrible backwards compatibility from its launch, Nintendo is making sure that loyal fans will be able to play older discs on the Wii U without having to pay for the title again as a download.
The issue of any console is not the launch, well not really. A console’s success is based on what happens long-term and how consistent software support remains throughout. Therefore, while the launch window of support for the Wii U is impressive, it is vital for the Wii U’s success to maintain that support throughout the console’s life cycle. The main problem for a console launch is that long-term support and developer support is based on the success of the launch. It is a Catch-22; the launch does not indicate the potential of the console, but it does ensure that that potential is utilized by drawing developer support to the console. Nintendo does not have much to worry about though; it has a solid system in the Wii U and launching in the holiday season guarantees that the console will be sold out until 2013.
Feeling less positive about what lies in store for the Wii U? Tune in tomorrow to Gaming Illustrated where we outline five reasons for why the Wii U could be potentially doomed.