The Wii U was brought out by Nintendo in late 2012 as their next generation console, and a replacement for the Wii. It had some great features and software also; however, some poor decisions meant that not many people realised this, and so never got to fully experience its potential.

First, Some Background

I have owned my Wii U for about 7 years or so for now, and can fully say that I love the system, and am tempted to list it among one of my all time favourites.

The system though is effectively the love child of a Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo Switch, incorporating several features and functionalities from both consoles. It features the motion control of the Wii (and can use Wii remotes and play Wii games), and also to some extent the portability of the Nintendo Switch. Heck you could divide the game pad into 3 sections and you effectively have two Joycons and the main Switch screen. Interesting side note: have you ever noticed that the Wii Nunchuk looks very similar to the middle ‘handle’ of a Nintendo 64 controller?

The Nintendo Wii U and Gamepad

The console came with a separate game pad which allowed some portability on the console, and while like a DS in regards of having that and a touch screen, could link up with the main console to either apply additional features to a game being played on a TV (think how the Game Boy Advance provided the Chao Garden to Sonic Adventure 2 or as the Tingle Tuner for The Wind Waker). Incidentally the Gamepad allowed for touchscreen functionality for the Wii U remaster of The Wind Waker on the map and inventory screens.

It had other features: motion steering of an Arwing in StarFox Zero (didn’t have to use it), allowed five players to play some games when other players used Wii remotes (such as on Nintendoland) and also as evidenced on Nintendoland allowed players to act in secret by having their actions hidden away from the TV (e.g. to hide or run away).

The coolest feature though was that it took away TV dependence to play console games. Although not usable with every game, you could also play your game on the gamepad while someone else used the TV for something else. Have the console run and you can play on the gamepad while someone else watched sports on the TV for example. The fact it would aid dispute resolution in this regard is a big plus.

Software

The Wii U had a relatively small physical game set in the end, reaching about 165 releases in Europe by the time the Switch released on 3 March 2017 (about 40 a year across all publishers). This also gave the Wii U a lifetime of being the primary Nintendo home console of just over 4 years (seems pretty small compared to some consoles…)

Despite this short lifetime and arguable lacking of games, there were some amazing titles released on the system, several of which have seen releases on the Nintendo Switch, potentially to bring them to more players (and I imagine make Nintendo more money.)

Games which first saw light of day on the Wii U includes Splatoon, Mario Maker, Hyrule Warriors and Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. The last two also got Switch re-releases and 3DS versions, but also Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Pokken Tournament and Super Mario 3D World saw re-releases too. When you also add in Breath of the Wild, remasters of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, Sonic Lost World, Bayonetta 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles X, you start to get an idea that although the physical game catalogue was small, there sure were a number of high quality games.

The Legend of Zelda – one of the last, but definitely best, releases on the system
What Went Wrong?

Despite all the exciting features and some quality software, the Wii U sits among the Nintendo catalogue as a flop. It sold poorly (selling 13.56 million units worldwide by 2017 according to Forbes). For reference, as of October 2019, the Switch had sold 15 million units in North America alone, just 2 and a half years after release (Forbes).

But what caused the system to sell poorly? Unfortunately there are several reasons, and some come down to poor decision making by Nintendo themselves.

1) The Name

The start of many a confused person was caused by this. Of course the name Wii U is very similar to the Wii, and this led people to think the Wii U was an add on to the Wii rather than a new console.

Of course some names are similar but are clearly a new console: PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 etc. But to many people Wii U didn’t feel like an obvious progression from Wii leading many to not buying it unaware it was a new console.

2) The marketing

Nintendo themselves admitted that they messed up in this regard as this article from The Guardian notes. Their introduction of the system didn’t do enough to show it was a separate console.

They emphasised on the gamepad which led to the believe that it was an accessory/add-on to the Wii. However cool that would have been, it was a new separate system and focusing on this rather than the system itself was to be honest Nintendo shooting themselves in the foot.

The front of the Wii U
3) Support for the System

Additionally, as I think it’s safe to show from the overall volume of games there wasn’t much third party support. I think if EA only put one version of FIFA on there that it’s saying a lot (and even then it was a launch title!)

Of course there are also other reasons such as the technology which was nowhere near competing with that of the upcoming PS4 and Xbox One which came out a year or so later. The previous Guardian article also notes that game developers found developing the system difficult, this would of course discourage developers from making games for it and thus a lack of available titles.

Conclusion

All this sadly hurt the system a lot. It didn’t get the recognition or demonstration to the market it deserved as deep down it is a fun machine to own with some great titles on it. Saying this, it can be argued that a lot of the system’s failings are down to Nintendo themselves.

But one thing to remember is this: without it we may not have the success that is the Nintendo Switch we have today. However, despite that, so many people have missed out on a gem of a console and misunderstand what it’s truly about.

On a personal note, I would highly recommend checking out the console if you don’t have one 👍

Do you have a Wii U or have you played one? What do you think? Underrated or expensive mistake? Would you try one if offered the opportunity? Let me know in the comments or on my social media using the links at the top.

Thank you for reading 😊