Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why the Wii U is Struggling

I'm not gonna give you sales percentages, figures, or any of that, but I will say this. The Wii U is not doing well. To put things in perspective, it should be noted that in the last few months the Wii has been outselling the Wii U. That's not remotely good. So what's the problem with the Wii U? Why is it doing so poorly? To answer that question we first have to look at how Nintendo handled their new console launch.

It's a Wii U ... no, wait ... that's the controller.
Is this a Wii controller? I'm so confused.

Now, I'm not an idiot. I knew what the Wii U was immediately when I saw it. This is a new console that utilizes a second screen controller. To the hardcore gamer this is obvious information. The problem with that is that they marketed the new console in a way that would be most easily understood by the people who were the least interested in buying it in the first place. The gaming landscape has changed, so let's be honest with ourselves. Hardcore gamers are not in Nintendo's camp anymore. The casual market is the market that Nintendo has committed themselves to. The Wii set a precedent that Nintendo was the family friendly console, the console that focused on gimmicks and family friendly entertainment. 

A vast majority of people had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the Wii U was. People thought it was a Wii peripheral, some thought it was a handheld, and some even thought it might have been a Wii slim. The marketing was unclear and now they're paying the price, but is that they only thing they messed up on? No, Sir. 

This is a next generation system. The Wii U is not.

In the last generation, Nintendo made a console that was vastly inferior to it's competitors in terms of versatility, processing power, and graphical capability, but it made up for it by being the cheapest console on the market, having a simple but unique twist on motion controls, and being 100% backwards compatible. The Wii U did none of this. The Wii U is fairly expensive, the control design is essentially just a tablet with an analog/button layout, and it's backwards compatible for Wii games only. That's not so bad. I can play Super Smash Brothers Brawl and ... um ... Oh.

On top of the fact that the new console offers none of the benefits of it's predecessor, it was also kind enough to maintain all of the same detriments. It's a vastly inferior console to it's competitors. The PS4 and Xbox One have 8 gigabytes of RAM in total to utilize and optimize the UI and performance. These systems are capable of doing things not even possible on this generation of hardware and games like Watch Dogs and Destiny are fine examples. The Wii U has two gigs of RAM total to utilize the UI and performance. 

To put this in perspective, understand that the Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3 all had the same amount of RAM available: 512 MB. The reason the Nintendo Wii was much less powerful that it's competitors was because of how that memory was allocated. In the next generation, not only is the Wii U left in the dust when it comes to power and memory, it's RAM is 43% slower than the Xbox 360's. 
This is the Xbox One. It's as powerful as 8 Wii U consoles

The problem with the Wii U is this: It's already the weak link. 

We live in a society in which technology advances drastically every single day. When your technology is out of date in today's world, you've already fallen too far behind. The Wii U has one gigabyte of RAM to utilize for games. That's almost two Xbox 360s. Power is important. We don't need to change the way we play games. We don't need fancy tablets to take the place of our controllers. We want hardware that's strong enough to facilitate the ambitions of the developers. The Wii U doesn't have that. 

The PS4 and Xbox One allow for independent game development, persistent online worlds, and enhancements to the way we operate our systems and play our games. The key word there is "enhancements." What Nintendo has been trying to do is change the way we play games, not make our games play better. That's the fundamental issue with the Nintendo brand as of late. "We've got a tablet for a controller. You like normal controllers? Well, we sell that separately, but most of our games are specific to the touch screen controller, so I guess you'll have to deal with it."

Xbox 360 (LEFT) Xbox One (RIGHT)

Microsoft did the exact opposite. They took the controller that worked and enhanced it. They fine tuned the way the triggers and bumpers worked, they integrated the battery pack, they tightened the dead zones on the sticks, and they redesigned the D-PAD. They took what was already good and made it better. You want to use motion/voice controls with Kinect? No? Well, you don't have to, but if ever you want to try it out, it's always available to you.

Nintendo loves to abandon ideas and I con't understand why? There's nothing wrong with innovation, in fact it's the life blood of the industry. It keeps things fresh and it keeps things moving, but we've already reached our destination. If you keep moving, you're just missing your stop. It's not our controllers that need innovating, it's our architectures. We need to be able to make games deeper, bigger, better. 

I hope the Wii U doesn't end up like the Dreamcast, but it's certainly not looking good. 

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