It’s no secret that the Wii U, successor to one of the biggest and most accessible gaming systems at the time, failed pretty darn hard. Reaching a total 13.6 million units sold in five years, that’s drastically less than its competitors, with the Xbox One reaching around 30 million midway last year, and PS4 reaching 63.3 million – The Nintendo Switch, however? Well… The Switch has sold, in less than a year, 10 million units, putting the 13.6-over-five-years figures of the Wii U to absolute shame… Saying this however, it’s clear to see that, without the Wii U, it would’ve been unlikely for us to even ever had the Nintendo Switch in our hands today… In this article, I aim to look at why the Wii U failed, what its sacrifice provided the Nintendo Switch, and why the Switch has been, quite literally, flying out of stockrooms and off of shelves.
The “Wii U” Name & Confusing Branding
Being named after one of Nintendo’s biggest and most well-known games consoles of all time has worked before in the past – Obvious examples include the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), indicating an evolution of sorts between the two games consoles – The same applied to the Nintendo Gameboy, Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance, all outlining the jumps in technology and improvements with the naming convention – Then we get the Nintendo Wii, and… The Wii U… It shows no significant improvement looking at it from a name-based perspective; let me ask you a question – What does the U in Wii U actually mean?
- Wii Ultimate?
- Wii Unlimited?
- Wii Unified?
- Wii Unit?
- Wii Unique?
- Wii Ultra?
The answer is…
NONE OF THE ABOVE.
The U in Wii U actually stands for “You” as in “Wii You”, apparently meant to make the console more personal for its users, focusing more on what “You” as a consumer and supporter of Nintendo would want in a system… And we all saw how that went. This confusing branding direction gave many of the casual adopters of the Wii absolutely no idea what the Wii U was all about – Was it an expansion for the original console? Was it an updated piece of hardware? Was it a new service? Nobody knew, and by that time, nobody in the casual market cared.
A Lack of Third Party Support
Another downside to the Wii U was the inherent lack of third party support, and the lacklustre ports that flooded the Wii U’s library – Discounting Nintendo-developed titles and console staples, the Wii U’s major third party releases started off strong with titles such as Bayonetta 2, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs, however… That was about it – After the first wave of third party titles, newer and newer third party titles were either just shoddy ports, badly developed titles, or only a handful of actually decent indie games, like Shovel Knight; interest simply died down, and, as the Wii U began to rely more and more on first party developed titles, the system’s selling potential sunk alongside it.
This is an issue that’s thankfully been somewhat remedied with the Nintendo Switch, with third party releases (Both digital and physical) being ramped up to far higher scales than the Wii U – Titles like Skyrim, Dark Souls Remastered and Snipperclips have (Or will be) improved the third party scene, with over 130 titles on the Switch’s eShop in under a year, the second year of the Switch’s third party support will definitely have to be on-par, if not better, in order to avoid the same failings as the Wii U.
The “Slablet” and a Lack of Portability
Another issue with the Wii U that gets slung around quite a bit is the thick and bulky “Slablet” controller; lacking in comfort, form factor and portability, you’d be lucky to move rooms without the tablet disconnecting and having to reconnect – Battery life too was another limiting factor, with the tablet controller only lasting around 3-5 hours, similar to that of the Switch.
Considering the jump from the Wii, with its somewhat comfortable controller and Nunchucks, the Wii U’s hefty and hulking gamepad was, at least in my opinion, a setback – It took a console that was all about getting up and moving around and… Put it on the couch with no hands free… Nintendo seem to have learned seriously from this misstep, however, with the development of the Joycons, however they should’ve known straight from the start that the first thing you do when developing a successor to a hugely popular brand is to not compromise on the original brand’s ideology. Again, this was seen with the Gameboy with no drastic leaps in functionality, only hardware, and the same again in the NES to SNES era.
So what does the Switch owe to the Wii U’s death?
Well, a lot honestly – Through the failure of the Wii U, we got a far more ergonomic console than anything Nintendo has ever produced, with equivalent battery life to boot with absolutely no portability issues – It took the best parts of the Wii U, cannibalised it into its own design, and built upon it with far greater mobility, finesse and understanding, whilst also re-appealing to the casual market by releasing innovative and staple first party titles, whilst brining out new and old third party titles that fans and newcomers would gladly purchase – I mean really, come on, who really predicted friggin’ Dark Souls coming to a Nintendo console? Only a company that’s learned their mistakes can pull off feats such as what Nintendo have done with the Nintendo Switch, and, without the sacrifice of the Wii U, it’s likely we would’ve never gotten to this point in the first place.
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