It just came out Yesterday that the latest Nintendo system is going away. It had been rumored for a long time, but yesterday, as I am writing this, was the day that Nintendo finally came out and announced that the NX would be coming out this time next year and that the Wii U would soon stop production (there are rumors that they already have and are depending on the surplus that already exists to fill an almost non existent demand). I know that it was easily the least popular major console in memory, and probably had the fewest games, but I would like to voice the opinion that the system was not as bad as many irate customers are making it out to be.
The biggest complaint that I keep hearing, other than Zelda, which we will get to in a moment, is that the system never really had any games on it. I will agree that the system never had the number of games for it that I would have liked. You had to hunt for something to play where the other consoles were overrunning with new content. I will also agree that for gamers that only like certain types of games, there was not the most variety on the console. With all of that being said, I would rank the U as better than either of the other two next generation consoles in this category and further say that the system was one of the better systems that Nintendo has every put out. I know that there are not even a lot of Nintendo fans saying what I am saying and I completely understand why they feel cheated, but the simple fact is that there are more truly great games for this system, even if it went away tomorrow, than most systems get during much longer life cycles.
Nintendo, during the NES, SNES, and N64 eras, did not play well with other developers. For the first two, they were easily the biggest company and figured that they could make whatever demands that they wanted to. In many ways, this was a very good thing as one of the requirements was that developers create a completely unique game for their system so you don’t get what you get today, where 3rd party developers make one game that is on all platforms. I would say that most of the games that come out today are like this and it makes almost every console completely the same. Other than a few games, there really was no reason to have either a 360 or a PS3 and there is exactly no reason, other than maybe Halo 5 at this point to have one next gen over the other. They are completely the same and were designed to be completely the same. But the N64 lost the the PS One and so when it was time for the Gamecube to come out, Nintendo started to mend some fences with the companies that had been on bad terms with and started to have most of the same games the other systems had, plus some of their own great games. As much as I feel Nintendo had the best system that generation, they were in dead last and many thought the Wii would be their coffin.
This was of course not the case. Everyone still remembers how amazing it was to play Wii Sports for the first time and the idea of motion controls captured people’s imaginations of what would be possible with games. Also thanks to the PS2 being the most successful console in history, it still had many games still being made for it that could be easily ported to the Wii. The Wii was also cheaper than what was coming out and because they didn’t have to deal with their games being in HD, were able to create more games for cheaper and ultimately what people care about is great games. The Wii became successful enough that it was able to generate more niche games and games for adults. The Wii was the most successful machine that printed money until it simply wasn’t.
Nintendo had forgotten the lesson of making sure that there games were quality, a holdover from the shovelwear that had doomed Atari, and flooded the Wii market with 3rd Party games that barely functioned. Nintendo wasn’t really making many of their own games, and 3rd parties could no longer port games from other platforms, so the Wii never got installments of games that were on the competition. The drop off in profits meant that Nintendo rushed out a console that would be capable of playing the HD Games the competitors did and with its own little gimmick to replace the motion sensors.
I will be the first to tell you that the hardware that is the Wii U is flawed. I really think they could have made a much better system if they had followed their original development cycle and put the thing through more testing. I still have a hard time appreciating why there are just so many controllers that are compatible with this system and more is not better. The fact that so many games can require so many different types of controllers isn’t so much an asset to customers as much as it is a liability that they might be required to spend fifty bucks to go out and get a new controller with their game, and heaven help them if they were planning on playing multiplayer. The system in many ways was very confused by what it wanted to be.
Once the system crashed, not very long after it came out, pretty much all third party support went away. Nintendo didn’t have many games ready to go outside of launch, and were starting to have some of the same schedule problems that their rivals were in creating games that the Wii took advantage of. This meant that after launch there was more than a year before any good games came out and this pretty much killed the system. The system would never attract 3rd parties back into the fold and even if the system were able to catch back on, the other systems would soon get next gen treatments that would be far superior to the Wii U, making the little system incapable of receiving ports of the new games, much like the Wii before it was. Nintendo kept making systems that were a generation behind and eventually gamers got tired of it. That was pretty much the story that every developer has said regarding the flop that was the Wii U.
Here is the thing though, the games did eventually come. There weren’t a ton, but the games that Nintendo did come out with were all pretty great games. Super Mario 3D World is the best Mario game to come out in 25 years. I know that a Mario game might not light the world on fire with sales, but there are not any games from PS4 or XBOX ONE that are great. Maybe Fallout 4, which I will go on the record as saying that it wasn’t as good as New Vegas was. I don’t care about how pretty a game is, and I would take 3D World over Fallout 4 any day of the week. With that out of the way, the the aforementioned Halo 5, there is not one great game on the new systems. There have been a lot of empty promises but not one game that I have really enjoyed playing. Wii U has dozens. They were able to Make the Best Donkey Kong game ever, Mario Maker is simply amazing, the first good Star Fox Game since the Super Nintendo, a true sequel to Yoshi’s Island that may be the cutest game that has ever been made, and Xenoblade which is the best traditional RPG since Final Fantasy X. Zombie U is the best survival horror game ever made.
The other thing the U is excellent at doing is making good games great. I purposefully waited to get Mass Effect 3 when I heard that it was coming out for the Wii U and while I still feel that the ending was bad, the game experience was better than the first two because the touch screen really was able to open up the game and allow you to control your squad. I know that the biggest thing missing from this system is shooters, but I can only imagine what could have been possible if more developers or Nintendo were more able and willing to explore this with shooters. I can only imagine what online multiplayer would have looked like if the screen was fully utilized. Ninja Gaiden 3 was completely reworked for this system and was drastically improved to the point where it could have been a system seller if people hadn’t already written it off. Rayman Legends was designed for and plays better on the Wii U, but most people didn’t bother because it released on other systems so no reason to buy a another system. Bayonetta was the most fun hack and slash game I have played in a long time. Resident Evil Revelations was the best Canon game the series has had since the Gamecube days, and would have been a great exclusive until everyone else realized it was the best canon game the series had in ten years.
There are other games in other cute genres that I have been told are amazing. Pikman comes to mind, but it simply is not my kind of game. Due to sales, there simply was not as much variety and if it isn’t your kind of game you are just never going to appreciate it and I get that. I also know that sex and violence sell games and the Wii U didn’t have that, but I am willing to bet that the NX isn’t going to have that either. What any system is going to need is games. Every fan of Nintendo should know that Nintendo is going to be working hard to ensure that there are plenty of games ready when the NX comes out, which probably means that there will be almost no new games that come out for the U until the new Zelda game comes out.
It is an especially sore subject for the people who bought a Wii U only for the Zelda game that has been promised to them since the system launched. To them, they didn’t see anything good on the system and they would have been better off waiting on the NX and benefitting from the upgrades that system is able to offer the game’s graphics. I would at this point like to point out that it shouldn’t matter what another system has or does not have. This game was designed for the Wii U and I am willing to bet that it will be better when played on the Wii U. I think the same could be said of Twilight Princess on the Gamecube. With that said, I completely understand that Nintendo wants a system seller out front and that customers that didn’t want to buy the Wii U because of lack of games might be reassured by having a Zelda game out the gate. Nintendo can’t afford to fail again after all.
At the end of the day, Nintendo does well because it makes the best games. Of every generation, out of the top ten games, four or five of those games will be Nintendo exclusives. The reason that the Wii U didn’t sell well is because Nintendo failed to put the resources into the system to create the games. There are enough 3rd party companies that have gone under that Nintendo could have bought up and put them to work on more Nintendo exclusives, but instead they sat on their surplus and are trying to wade out a storm that doesn’t seem to be ending any time in the near future.
As the system dies, I can’t help but think what could have been. I imagine a world where Nintendo scooped up Capcom and Sega so we could see decent Megaman and Sonic games again. Capcom had one of the best engines for the old systems that would have paid for itself if it was able to get more games out for cheaper. I imagine what would have happened if Nintendo had bought out much of THQ’s properties. What I would really like to have seen is Nintendo buy out Ubisoft so that more Rayman and also Tom Clancy. The Tom Clancy games have gone largely out of fashion in light of Call of Duty and Battlefield, but could you imagine if Ghost Recon went back to being more slow and deliberate, where you had to use the second screen. Imagine that not all players would be given the same information and that it would be up to leaders to disseminate orders. The Wii U could have been a well rounded alternative that might have forced the competition to further divide the remaining developers and actually be different for a change.