Nintendo's Wii U Gamble

Nintendo outed the Wii U to gamers around the world last year at E3. This year we expect to see more of the games that will be accompanying the launch of the WiiU this fall and a better picture of the ecosystem that Nintendo looks to surround their new console with.

The Wii U looks to be a safe move by Nintendo. Take the successful formula that propelled the sales of the Nintendo Wii, upgrade the hardware, include the same motion controls, include backwards compatibility, and then add a new controller aimed at more hard-core gamers. This on the surface looks like a good move for Nintendo who, as of late, has been struggling to move as many Wii consoles into consumer’s hands. Overall it looks like Nintendo has listened to some of the vocal complaints against it and has plotted out a strategy to include gamers who are looking for a hard-core experience.

Nintendo still has a lot to follow through on though. With no real laid out online strategy, no content deals and almost no exclusive titles beyond what Nintendo creates in-house, the Wii U doesn’t present a compelling reason to add it to the home entertainment centers around the world other than it’s new and for a short while, will probably boast more powerful graphics output than the Xbox 360 or PS3 currently do and will enable some new game play features with the new controller.

The first problem is that one can only use one of the new controllers with the Wii U, and while Nintendo has said they may be rethinking this, how did they not see the obvious multi-player potential of at least two screens in people’s hands? Two people playing Madden and choosing their plays on their own screen while running them on the big screen is the first and most obvious example of this, it makes sense and many would be willing to pay for a second controller to do this. Secondly, Nintendo makes the best use of their own hardware and Nintendo only. Because Nintendo has gone the solo route on motion gaming and made the entire experience of using the console revolve around that, developers have to drastically alter the code for their game to get them to run on the current Wii hardware, this could also be the case for the Wii U.

Clearly Nintendo isn’t looking to create a media empire, or even a graphical empire with the Wii U, but wants to give people to the option to experience gameplay in a new and exciting way. Will that be enough? Microsoft is closely tying the Xbox 360 with Windows Phone and Windows 8, Sony is making sure the PSP Vita and Playstation 3 work together, but more than Nintendo, these consoles can do more than game. For most consumers, if they are going to spend $300-400 on new hardware for their living room, they are going to want to get the most for their money and right now that’s not Nintendo. Hopefully Nintendo still has more to show when it comes to the Wii U and the role it will play with the 3DS and other services they plan to provide through the console itself. I expect E3 this year to be a very exciting time for gamers.