Nov. 18, 2016 is a huge day for Nintendo. It will be the release of their most pre-ordered game of all time, Pokemon Sun and Moon. As those titles look to break records for the company, Nov. 18 marks four years since the launch of the Wii U. This four-year anniversary will be a sombre one since the Big N has just announced the end to Wii U production.
Once Nintendo pulled back the veil on the Switch, it was a matter of time before they pulled the plug on the Wii U. While a great console in its own right, the Wii U remains their biggest failure outside of the Virtual Boy. As of this past July, the system passed 12 million units sold worldwide, a respectable yet disappointing number when compared to the sales of either the PS4 and XB1.
Starting with poor sales out of the gate, the Wii U never recovered like the 3DS did after an underwhelming launch. Many have debated over what was the main cause of the Wii U’s diminishing returns, from the console’s name to the lack of third-party support. You can’t boil down the Wii U’s failure to one main cause — it was a litany of poor decisions and bad circumstances. Product confusion, horrible marketing campaigns, poor network infrastructure, an insufficient amount of storage, and the broken promise of third-party support are just a few examples.
For everything Nintendo did wrong with the Wii U, there was enough great content and ideas released for the system to justify the $300 price tag. Personally, the Wii U is one of my favourite consoles. While it did bring Nintendo into the HD era, the Wii U introduced gamers to off-TV play, a simple yet revolutionary idea that is now the crux of the Nintendo Switch. The ability to use the tablet-like gamepad as a separate screen to play games while your family members use the TV to watch the news or the latest episode of The Walking Dead was ingenious. Yes, the gamepad was not the portable console that people initially thought, but it was the first step, the prototype per se, to the next big revolution in gaming.
Much like the introduction of a second screen with the DS which opened up the gates for creative ways to use two screens in tandem, the screen on the gamepad gave that same creativity to a console. Sadly, Nintendo was the only company to ever take advantage of those features. Their experiments in asynchronous multiplayer found in the likes of Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U opened up a brand new avenue of gameplay potential that has been pretty much dormant since.
Although it consisted of mostly Nintendo titles, what really put the Wii U over the top was its library of games. From Super Mario 3-D World ‘s perfect mix of 2-D and 3-D Mario mechanics, to Bayonetta 2’s sheer insanity, to Splatoon’s fresh take on online shooters, the Wii U’s library rank among Nintendo’s finest. Despite the little-to-no third-party support, there were some great titles not made by the house Mario built such as Shovel Knight, Rayman Legends, Guacamelee!, and Darksiders II.
The Wii U may be a sour point in Nintendo’s history, but it doesn’t deserve to be forgotten as a failure of a console. I feel in five to 10 years the Wii U will be fondly remembered for what it did right rather than what it did wrong — much like the GameCube is today.
As production on the Wii U finally wraps up, I salute the great minds that brought it into existence, the developers that stuck with the Wii U despite its lacklustre sales, and everybody who put down their hard-earned cash to support the system. It might be the end of one era, but it’s only the beginning for Nintendo.