Opinion: The Neglected Wii U
I’m not writing this article to point fingers. I’m not writing this to say that Nintendo has been doing a poor job at managing its public image and its relationships with third-party developers. I’m also not writing this to say that said developers are giving up unfairly on an innovative console that clearly has a lot of untapped potential. I’m merely writing this to bring attention to a sad trend in the industry.
Unfortunately, the Wii U is being neglected. That is the simple truth. It’s desperately trying to claw its way out of a dangerous spiral. It’s all part of a tragic negative feedback loop. For whatever reason–call it a lack of launch titles, poor marketing, or consumers’ still not understanding that the Wii U is different than the Wii–the Wii U had a disappointing launch. Not nearly enough units were sold. This made third-party developers instantly wary, and many became afraid to pledge their support to a console that didn’t have a large install base. In an industry where costs are rapidly increasing, it is hard to blame these developers for not wanting to spend time developing for a system where they doubt they will be able to sufficiently recoup their costs. The natural consequence of this, then, is that consumers notice that their favorite games are not being released on the Wii U. So fewer units get sold, and the cycle continues.
What’s almost more saddening is another recent trend. Games are coming to the Wii U, but they’re coming incomplete. It was just announced that Splinter Cell: Blacklist will lack an offline co-op mode on the Wii U. Before that it was Batman: Arkham Origins, which will also be lacking a multiplayer mode that will be present on the other release consoles. Here’s what Splinter Cell’s producer had to say about the decision:
“In order to ship at the same time as the other consoles, we unfortunately weren’t able to delve into this feature. But we think Nintendo gamers will be really excited to get the game at the same time as other consoles.”
So now Wii U owners are relegated to being expected to be “really excited” to get an unfinished game just because they’re getting it at the same time as other consoles. The condescension is palpable. This is a very marked contrast to what happened earlier this year with Ubisoft’s Rayman Legends. Originally announced as a Wii U exclusive and set to come out in February, the game lost its exclusive status and its release date. Not only did the Wii U lose out on an exclusive, but now Wii U owners have to wait until September for a game that they should have had months ago. Let’s compare that really quickly. Splinter Cell comes out on time at the expense of Wii U functionality while Rayman is delayed for over six months so that other consoles can have the exact same experience with a game that was supposed to be a Wii U exclusive.
Another story from recent news focuses on Ubisoft’s commitment to developing games with second-screen functionality. Sounds like a perfect fit for the Wii U, with its GamePad and ability to communicate with the 3DS, right? Wrong. They’re targeting the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and their interaction with mobile devices. The Wii U can’t even get attention for a concept that it has done so much to pioneer!
Again, the purpose of this article is not to lay blame. But something needs to change. The Wii U is being treated like a second-class console. The Wii U isn’t a bad system. And ultimately, that just makes it even more saddening to see its potential be squandered over and over again. It’s not a crappy piece of hardware, but it’s losing supporters quickly. The Wii U still has a chance to be successful, but our faith needs to be restored. And that needs to happen soon, or else Nintendo is in for a long winter.