What’s In a Name: The Wii U
Ever since Nintendo launched their “next generation” console the Wii U – there have been questions.
These questions range from “is it different enough?”, “is this a big step forward for Nintendo?”, “Is this enough to compete with PlayStation, Xbox and PC gaming?” all the way to questions as simple as “What the hell is a Wii U?”.
Unfortunately, it’s that last one which comes up most often.
This is largely because Nintendo, as a company, is a creature of habit. They are the angry old man of the gaming industry, with time-tested ideas and solid franchises that they don’t really want to push too far, sure they can be as innovative as the young console kids of today or those whippersnappers over at Steam when they want to – but they like their innovation in neatly packaged boxes alongside the same thing they have been offering for years; quality, recognizable games with characters we know and love.
And there is nothing wrong with that, when it comes to games anyway. The problems arise when you treat everything you produce as the same – even when it is different.
Which brings us back to the Wii U.
The Wii U launched late last year, not with a bang but with a whisper. Much like Nintendo’s last console, the Wii, it launched with an included game which is great at showing off exactly how the system worked – Nintendo Land. And that was about it.
See, when the Wii launched, there was so much buzz about the systems motion sensing capabilities – it’s seemingly futuristic software that let you play golf or tennis or boxing with real activity – that they didn’t really need games. Even to this day plenty of families own nothing more than a Wii console and Wii Sports – because that’s all you need to have fun with the system. It made gaming a fun family activity, and that was excellent news for Nintendo. Sales were off the chart.
The Wii U on the other hand, had none of this instant appeal. Sure, their new iPad-like controllers are an interesting gimmick – but one that’s hard to pitch in 30 seconds to someone looking to drop 400$ on a brand new console. It lacks the instant recognisability that the Wii had. Which brings me to my main point.
Why, oh why, did they call it the Wii U?
This is a console which was fully designed to be able to take on the “big boys” of console gaming, with hardware and capability which exceeds that of the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Overnight Nintendo has become the big man on campus in terms of tech (at least until Sony and Microsoft announce their new consoles) and yet... they missed their chance to show this off.
Never in history has a console deserved a sequel title more than the Wii U. It would honestly solve so many problems if it was just called “the Wii 2”. I mean, they were one letter off!
Let’s break it down quickly.
If the console is called “The Wii 2” what we take from the name is:
- It’s the sequel to the Nintendo Wii
- It’s probably more powerful and offers more features than the Wii
- It will have sequels to the games I play on my Wii at home
- It’s a fresh new console on the market that maybe my kids/partner/boyfriend/guy across the street might like to hear about
If the console is called “The Wii U” what we take from the name is:
- It has something to do with the Nintendo Wii
- It has the letter U in it for some reason
I mean, honestly, they really have themselves to blame for sluggish sales – and not only because the Wii U has about 5 big games to its name 3-4 months after launch. People simply don’t know what the hell a Wii U is. I’ve sat down with family and watched a Wii U ad come on TV (which are surprisingly rare as it is, another point against Nintendo) and then had them turn to me and ask “so is that an expansion pack for the Wii U? Or a new controller or something?”.
But this is getting pretty doom and gloom. It’s not the end of the (Super Mario) world after all. Nintendo will bounce back. They’ve announced sequels to their bestselling franchises like Zelda, Mario and Super Smash. They have new Pokemon games coming out later this year for the 3DS (which will also drive sales to the 3DS handheld). And Nintendo-lovers will obviously pick up a Wii U eventually, or forever be left behind in the adventures of all their favourite characters.
But in terms of a misname and a missed opportunity? It’s the PlayStation Vita all over again.