James Thursfield argues why it is time for gamers to pick up a Wii U
For the record, I am not a Nintendo fan. When the Nintendo Wii dominated console sales in the last generation I was ambivalent and continued playing on my good ol’ Xbox 360. I am a firm believer that Nintendo and its many consoles are too dependent on traditional gaming icons in the form of Mario and Zelda for sales and do not invest heavily enough in new IPs. That being said, it is not without a heavy heart that I believe it is time for last-gen and next-gen owners to jump ship. Not to Sony, not to Microsoft—but to Nintendo’s Wii U.
Nintendo’s Wii U, upon its release in 2012, was not met with overwhelming positivity. In fact, its console sales have since reflected consumer reservations. Its lifetime sales only stand at 9.2 million despite being released a year before other next-generation consoles. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 has presently sold over 18.5 million units. This was partly due to the Wii U game release lineup being underwhelming and its unique selling point being its ambiguous tablet-like controller. The console also only boasted graphics comparable to the last generation.
However, since its release, the Wii U has emerged to become a very appealing console. Its games library has grown in number as well as in quality, and equally, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 titles appear to be in a strange period of transition. A good example of this is with the recently released next-generation title, The Order: 1886. The game has been released to a wave of mixed reviews, with gaming websites such as Gametrailers hailing the game’s Victorian steampunk setting and the game’s truly stunning visuals; whilst other reviewers have queried whether the game is in fact a video game at all or merely an interactive story. When you take into account other games such as Assassins Creed Unity, that was released in a broken state, it appears that next-generation titles on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are yet to hit their stride.
What makes the situation worse for next-gen owners, is that there aren’t enough exciting games on the horizon that are exclusive to next-gen. Even though games such as Halo 5 are exciting because of its E-Sports aspirations and Bloodborne is promising because of its Dark Souls pedigree, there just doesn’t appear to be many upcoming innovative games. Star Wars Battlefront has a great degree of hype surrounding it and games such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and The Division look interesting, but these games will likely be superior on more powerful PC rigs.
Worse still, one becomes pessimistic when looking at the track record of massively over-hyped big budget games on consoles. Watch Dogs has experienced massive controversy for having supposedly graphically homogenised its PC version to match consoles in order to boost sales for the latter. Similarly, Destiny, the most expensive game ever made, has left a sour taste in gamers’ mouths with its repetitive gameplay and pseudo-MMO subscription fees. At the risk of sounding political, what appears to be happening is that as more money is thrown at big budget games—which are expensive partly due to the expectations of higher graphical fidelity—this results in the developers being pressured to create alternate means to generate revenue, which in some cases damages the product.
In contrast, whilst expensive next-generation games have so far been disappointing, the Wii U has some of the best games on any system. Bayonetta 2 has won numerous game of the year awards and the system also boasts an impressive line-up of games which include Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros for Wii U, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Donkey Kong Country, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Zombie U to name but a few. Furthermore, on the horizon is the HD release of Xenoblade Chronicles whose predecessor on the Wii was considered one of the greatest JRPGs of recent memory—an almost extinct genre on the other consoles. And Star Fox and The Legend of Zelda Wii U are also in development. The one downside is that due to the poor sales figures of the Wii U console, third party developers have lost the appeal to develop games for the console.
The difference in video game quality is represented by the fact that the Wii U currently has nine exclusive fully released games that have scored more than 80 per cent on Metacritic. This compares to the PS4’s two (Infamous and The Last of Us) and the Xbox One’s two (Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive). It is also worth noting that the potential for innovation on the Wii U is greater than on the Xbox One and PS4. With its dual screen touch pad, not only can gamers play a console game on the tablet if someone else is using the television, but it also gives opportunities for developers to utilise its gyroscope and sensor for different gameplay experiences.
The Wii U also keeps alive the dying breed of locally co-operative video games. Games such as Mario Party, Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers retain the importance of being able to sit on a sofa with friends and hurl abuse at each other for firing a bullshit Blue Shell in Mario Kart, or K.O.ing each other in Smash. These are experiences I personally value equally as much as a competitive multiplayer or an engaging story. These are experiences being lost on the Xbox One and PS4.
From an economic perspective the console is also cheaper than the alternatives. On Amazon, a Wii U Mario Kart 8 Premium Pack (comes with Mario Kart) costs £240. Compare to the PS4, which with GTA V in a bundle costs £382. There is also the fact that the console is backwards compatible with Wii games and can support traditional Wii controllers. Because of these reasons the Wii U is also clearly the economic console of choice.
I am a gamer that has not been drawn to Nintendo in the past due to my satisfaction with playing games on my alternative system of choice. Ironically, it is advancements in video games as a medium which seem to have driven me towards Nintendo. With graphics becoming increasingly vital for a game’s success and a need to channel players through a very specific set of actions in order to create an immersive experience, the medium is forgetting what it actually is— a video game. Nintendo, despite its flaws, is innovative and committed to creating great games that you can enjoy by yourself and with your friends locally. Given its breadth of content and lower price, I know that, come summer, when I scrape a few hard-earned pennies together, a Wii U will be my new console of choice.