WGTC Huddle: The Wii U Conundrum

WGTC Draft WGTC Huddle: The Wii U Conundrum

WGTC Huddle is a recurring feature on We Got This Covered, where editors discuss news, gaming trends, hot titles, and what they had for breakfast. This week, WGTC editors Griffin Vacheron and Michael Briers are joined by staff writer Christian Law to take a look at the so-far problematic Wii U. How dire is Nintendo’s situation? What can possibly be done? Read on to find out.

Michael Briers:
Hey guys! Is this working for everyone?

Griffin Vacheron:
Woo! Looks good from here.

Michael:
By the way, I’m currently hooked up to some pretty temperamental Wi-Fi, so if I drop out for a minute or two, pay no mind.

Griffin:
Ah, ok that’s fine.

Christian Law:
I’ve got pretty awful Wi-Fi too, so I’m on my phone at the moment.

Griffin:
Hey! Cool, you’re here. I would like to kick off with a quote.

Christian:
Sounds like a plan!

Griffin:
It’s from the legendary analyst, Michael Pachter. Ahem: “People are trying to invite Nintendo to their party, but instead Nintendo is going to invite the other people to Nintendo’s party.”

Utter brilliance. I don’t think he’s even trying anymore!

Michael:
Ouch! Real cool way to set the tone, by starting off with an analyst quote.

Christian:
Nothing wrong with a little credibility.

Griffin:
Oh, totally. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve already started and this stuff will be in the post. So meta!

But anyways. Michael, want to start with some opening thoughts? Let’s hear your take, and some facts if you want to drop set-up knowledge.

Michael:
Sure!

Christian:
Drop the mic on ‘em, Michael

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The Situation

gaming satoru iwata 1 WGTC Huddle: The Wii U Conundrum

Michael:
Okay. To set the scene, Nintendo recently adjusted its sales forecast for the Wii U and 3DS from 9 million to 2.8 million and 18 million down to 13.5 million units, respectively. To make matters worse, this means that the company is headed for its third consecutive annual loss (even after the year of Luigi, for crying out loud!) So yeah, things are pretty bleak right now. Satoru Iwata has announced that he will take on a 50% pay cut, with other members of the board sharing the responsibility via like-minded salary reductions.

In truth, not many people expected the Wii U to meet its original target of 9 million units shipped by March, 2014, but the console is currently stuck in a paradox where there aren’t enough games to play, and developers are apprehensive about getting on board because of the meagre install base.

So, how can the company turn things around?

Griffin:
Uh oh… I wonder if Michael’s bad Wi-fi happened.

Oh, there you are!

Christian:
I can talk about the disappointing launch lineup. I’m fond of analyzing disasters (because I’m sick in the head).

Griffin:
I really do feel bad for Luigi. Put in charge for one year, and it was just kind of a flop.

Michael:
Mamma Mia! Poor guy.

Christian:
Not for a lack of good games, though.

Griffin:
Wait, Christian – did you say you have a Wii U? I only just got my own, and despite the poor sales, I’m actually quite enjoying it.

Christian:
I don’t have one, actually! I’m a broke college kid so I’m waiting for more price reductions. But I’ve had every major Nintendo console until now.

Michael:
I’m with Christian on that one, although I used to have a 3DS and Wii until quite recently.

Christian:
Call me an outside observer, if you will.

Griffin:
It actually seems to have more good games at this stage than Gamecube did, which is odd because that’s the comparison people seem to be drawing in terms of how the system’s life may pan out.

Michael:
It’s definitely in the same niche as the GameCube.

Christian:
My 3DS has caused me to skip more classes than I care to admit.

Griffin:
Same! Well, when I was in school that is. Though I think you make an important point about 3DS.

Christian:
I think it’s just that the launch titles were almost all exclusively remakes of old games. It’s true that the GameCube didn’t get love until well after release. Back then I made fun of it, but now I play it more than my 360!

Michael:
I mean, you could draw comparisons with the 3DS to an extent too. It had a really bumpy launch.

Griffin:
For me, one of the huge problems with Wii U isn’t that it’s not a good system, because I think it is. Handhelds have just gotten so much better. Sometime last year, I was playing Fire Emblem Awakening (my game of the year), and for the first time ever while playing a handheld, I felt a particular emotion. That emotion was: “There’s nothing a console could do to improve this.”

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3DSXL WGTC Huddle: The Wii U Conundrum

Christian:
Good point, Fire Emblem is fantastic. And while the launch was weak, the launch window gave us some of their best titles.

Griffin:
Great graphics, fantastic gameplay and story, and the best CGI I’ve seen in a game. I’ve been starting to feel like, what can the Wii U really offer that my 3DS can’t? Aside from specific games, of course, but that’s just arbitrary and at Nintendo’s discretion. Mario 3D World could work on 3DS, it just wasn’t made for 3DS.

Michael:
Yeah, definitely. I want to get a 3DS again purely for Fire Emblem, but the Wii U failed to make the tablet functionality into a big selling point, whereas the Wii struck a chord with accessible motion controls.

Griffin:
Yes, definitely. Right. And it’s actually very surprising that Nintendo hasn’t capitalized on the tablet. I mean, they were gung-ho on motion with Wii the whole time. So, why not do the same here?

Christian:
Have you guys ever watched Zero Punctuation? He made a good point regarding the tablet. It takes a very defeatist standpoint for games.

Michael:
I guess the tablet has to compete in such a diverse market with iPads and nine kinds of android devices, too. And yeah, actually – I catch his reviews the odd time.

Griffin:
I have watched ZP before – what point does he make about the GamePad?

Christian:
He points out how they’re trying to make console gaming serious and innovative, but then someone comes along and boots you off the TV, so you slink into the corner with your hour left of battery life.

Griffin:
Good old Yahtzee, that crazy bastard. Just crouching with dark circles under your eyes, playing Mario in the corner.

Christian:
It’s supposed to innovate consoles, but instead it solves a problem that doesn’t exist.

Exactly, take your tablet to the prayer closet.

Michael:
Fair point.

Griffin:
Also, if motion didn’t get its true flagship and proof of concept until the end of the Wii’s life with Skyward Sword (in terms of a more hardcore game), that doesn’t bode well for a truly great GamePad game. In the short-term, Nintendo Land did not validate the GamePad in the way that Wii Sports justified the Wiimote. That said, Nintendo Land did have some super fun GamePad concepts that I think are underrated. It could be because it wasn’t bundled at first. Well, not with the basic set; I suppose it was bundled with the Deluxe, but still.

Christian:
The GamePad offers some cool innovations. But the fact that it’s just a gimmick doesn’t bode well. As of now, it just feels like a tacked on peripheral, kind of like a Kinect (just not utterly awful in every way yet).

Michael:
Yeah, absolutely. Even considering that 3D World — a game built exclusively for the console — failed to inject some life into sales figures reflects that.

Nintendo, go home!

Griffin:
Right. And even for, say, a new Zelda – what could they possibly be scheming? Some people (including myself) felt motion Zelda should be the new standard, so I don’t see them shoehorning in the tablet gimmick just because it’s there.

And yeah, perhaps it’s not Kinect awful, but it’s definitely a question mark.

Shall we transition into what they ought to try doing to improve?

Michael:
Sounds good!

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The Action Plan

Wii U Sports Pitching WGTC Huddle: The Wii U Conundrum

Griffin:
Christian, you go first this time.

Christian:
Ok, I’ll try my hardest.

Anyone have a good segue?

Griffin:
Segue: “speaking of hardest, turning around the Wii U will be Nintendo’s hardest challenge…”

*Excitedly pats self on back*

Michael:
*Tips hat*

Griffin:
*Chest bump*

Christian:
I think improvement will ultimately come with time. As of now, they’ve put themselves in a corner with the GamePad concept (I don’t know why I always stick the Big N in the corner). All they can do is stop re-releasing old games with added gimmicks and start aiming to make a game for the hardcore crowd that actually utilizes the tablet in a unique way. They didn’t come out with a Twilight Princess caliber launch game to draw in us nerds.

Your segue deserves awards!

Griffin:
Right. And as little as TP was revamped from GameCube, it doesn’t matter. It was a huge draw at launch. As goofy as the Wii port seemed at the time, it really was a smart move.

Love TP, by the way. 2004 E3 reveal = best thing ever and tears of joy.

Michael:
To play devil’s advocate, Nintendo’s new strategy with the GamePad doesn’t necessarily mean that games should be built around that as a feature. I mean, Wii titles such as Super Mario Galaxy barely implemented motion controls and instead focused on fine-tuning the gameplay, and it really benefited from it (in my eyes, at least). That said, it’d be a bold move to completely toss it out the window, but maybe they could create a new SKU that doesn’t include the GamePad. A 2DS-like package, of sorts.

Griffin:
Very true, and good point. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted goofy motion controls shoehorned into Galaxy.

I guess the difference is, the Wiimote wasn’t adding (as far as I know) a huge manufacturing cost to the Wii. Without the GamePad, on the other hand, the Wii U would be very cheap.

As for the 2DS-like idea – exactly! It’s a possibility. It would be very bold, though.

Christian:
Good point, most great 3DS games hardly rely on 3D, even if they utilize it. They still need to work on innovating, though. Trotting out the same few franchises won’t keep them afloat with fans for long.

Michael:
I admire Nintendo’s resilience, but sometimes that bleeds into a resistance to try new things.

Griffin:
Do you guys think Wii U sans GamePad is feasible?

Christian:
Maybe. It’s too late to take it back now, but I think it’s possible for Nintendo to use the updated hardware to churn out some new classics.

Michael:
It’s still a pretty solid controller. Personally, I’ve only played it a few times and looking from the TV to the GamePad can be so jarring that it almost takes me out of the game.

Christian:
It reminds me of those games on the Xbox One that try to integrate tablet computers.

I think that’s a thing, right? It’s the Nintendo 2DS of the Wii U.

Michael:
It would even reduce the price if it were to be taken out. Companies make their largest profits through software sales, but better margins on Wii U would certainly help. Right now, the attachment rate is pretty low.

Griffin:
Well put. I think it’s a pretty good idea – the price would be very competitive without the GamePad. I mean, definitely impulse territory as consoles are concerned. They could do $200!

Christian:
Definitely. The 2DS was what convinced me to get a 3DS in the first place. It shows confidence to sell your console sans gimmick, based on the quality of the games alone. At least, that’s how I see it.

Michael:
The 2DS showed that Nintendo are willing to acknowledge when a gimmick isn’t really catching on or isn’t absolutely necessary.

Griffin:
Yeah, I think they’re on to something with these cheaper versions. Nintendo faithful who can afford it will get the initial version, with the current feature or gimmick. Everyone else can grab the bare-bones version. It gives you choice. I may think 3D is a rad idea, so I’d get the 3DS, not the 2DS. I may think tablets are dumb, so I’d get the Wii U minus the GamePad, and so forth.

Griffin:
As for a name – the Wii Mii? Eh, I tried.

Christian:
Hmmmmm. How about The Wii 2: Electric Boogaloo?

Griffin:
PITCH THAT SHIT!

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The Wrap-Up

super mario bros art wii u 672x400 WGTC Huddle: The Wii U Conundrum

Griffin:
Well, to close, how about we all summarize A) what we think N should do, and B) what we think they’ll actually do.

I’ll go first this time.

I think Nintendo has two options. The first is to weather the storm. They have $11 billion in the bank, and if they keep 3DS/2DS strong, the Wii U will eventually come back as a sleeper hit so long as good software is continually released. This feels like the Ps3 and Vita approach, though, and isn’t particularly Nintendo-like, despite what GameCube did.

The other option, I think, is the Wii U sans GamePad. Like Christian said, it would be the 2DS of Wii U, and would definitely be impulse territory. $200 to play 3D World, Mario Kart (coming soon), the new Zelda when it arrives, and the small-yet-solid back library of Wii U games is pretty compelling as well. What I don’t think they need to do is put their games on smartphones. Not because it would be damn terrible, as everyone seems to say, but because Wii U is the problem, not 3DS. Heck, 3DS is the cash cow! Nintendo games on phones would cannibalize 3DS, not help Wii U.

In terms of what they will actually do…. I’m inclined to believe they will weather the storm. Unlike with 2DS, I think they might be too stubborn to actually ditch the GamePad. We’ll see, though. Shooting for sleeper hit over the next 4/5 years is probably their play, if I had to guess. Also, given the comparison of Wii U to GameCube as opposed to Wii, Nintendo should consider refreshing Metroid, F-Zero, Starfox, etc. But that may be wishful thinking.

Anyways, I actually gotta run guys – just got a text from my brother that he needs to be picked up from school. I’ll still watch the thread on my phone though. Wanna each post your closing thoughts as I just did, then wrap it up?

Michael, sorry if my huge post assassinated your Wi-Fi.

Michael:
Oh wait, it recovered!

Griffin
Nice! Check out what I said above and toss in some closing comments, if you feel so inclined.

Christian
I’ll do mine in a bit, I had to run out the door too.

Michael:
Ok – it seems to me that the writing is on the wall. Nintendo needs to act, but that doesn’t mean it has to make a drastic shake-up in the next few weeks. As Griffin pointed out, the company has $11 billion in the bank as of now, and its market value is larger than Activision and EA combined.

The Wii U lite without the GamePad is absolutely an option. If it were to be bundled close to a big release — just like how the 2DS took advantage of Pokemon X/Y — then it has a firm chance. Nintendo just needs to fine tune its marketing. I’ve had confused friends ask me whether 3DS games will play on the 2DS and vice versa. Admittedly, the Wii U wasn’t exactly a killer moniker from the get-go, but without a rebranding (The Wii U 2: Electric Boogaloo, of course), the sans GamePad approach could create a consumer friendly, low-price SKU that could jack up that install base.

No doubt, Nintendo has some of the most recognised and esteemed IP in the industry, but that doesn’t excuse it for using nostalgia as a crutch. Looking to the long-term, if it were to balance innovation with reviving older franchises such as Metroid, then the third-party support will come with time.

Taking off my rose-tinted glasses, though, the 3DS is the flagship piece of hardware for Nintendo right now. Aside from Mario Kart, Donkey Kong and Bayonetta 2, the first six months of 2014 leaves a lot to be desired for the Wii U in terms of software. Even still, the Big N proved it could do it before when the 3DS tumbled out of the gate, so there’s no stopping it repeating the formula — only this time, you have to imagine it’ll be a more difficult turnaround.

Christian:
I think that Nintendo should focus on either validating the existence of the tablet with the Wii U by creating more unique and genuinely good games that integrate the feature well. If they can’t do that, then they should avoid relying on the gimmick to sell games and instead work on quality software regardless of the tablet. Some of the best games on the Wii hardly use motion controls, and their most memorable titles took advantage of leaps forward in capabilities rather than relying on gimmicks.

I think the idea of a Wii U sans tablet is an interesting one to pursue, but whether or not they will remains to be seen. I honestly have no idea what the big N will do moving forwards, though. I like to think they’d learn from past experiences and continue to make great games regardless of gimmicks, but ultimately I think they’ll rely on the 3DS and it’s strong presence while trying to reinforce how awesome the Wii U is in their mind.

Nintendo is never too proud to pat itself on the back, but hopefully they’ll knock it off long enough to make the Wii U something hardcore gamers want.

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  • Mrteapot

    That is the most long winded article I’ve ever read….wondering when it was going to get too a point