After the bombshell unveiling of the new Nintendo Switch console in October, it sounds like Nintendo is finally, mercifully shutting the door on the Wii U. Eurogamer got the scoop that factory production of the failed console will end on Friday, November 4.
Note that when I say “failed console,” that’s not a subjective statement. Final sales for the Wii U will fall below 14 million units, which would put it some 87 million units behind its older brother, the Wii.
That might be a bit unfair, though, as the Wii was an unprecedented success that makes most game consoles look bad by comparison in terms of sales. The Nintendo 64 sold 32 million units, while the GameCube sold 21 million.
The GameCube, by the way, was considered something of a sales dud at the time, so the Wii U did significantly worse than even that. Nintendo did not immediately respond for a request for comment about the Wii U’s demise.
The Wii U launched in 2012, boasting a tablet-like GamePad controller that promised unique two-screen gameplay interactions in HD console games.
It never caught on with consumers. Why did the Wii U do so poorly?
- The awful name of the console led to people not understanding that it was a new device. I had to explain to someone in 2015 that it wasn’t just an add-on for the Wii.
- The marketing was confusing, with trailers failing to communicate what exactly the GamePad controller was for. The Wii’s unique motion controls were much easier to sell to consumers.
- It was significantly less powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One, which both launched a year later. This meant many developers could not bring their PS4 and Xbox One games to Wii U.
- It didn’t launch with any compelling exclusive games, with most of its launch lineup being games that were better on other platforms, like “Mass Effect 3.”
- Nintendo itself rarely ever produced games that made good use of the GamePad’s second screen.
It also suffered from cheap-feeling, toy-like hardware and a painfully slow system menu that required a loading screen to bring up the settings menu. The Wii U, by most reasonable standards, was not a good video game console.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story of the Wii U. I’ve ruffled some feathers for calling it a failure or saying it’s bad, and I want to make one thing clear: I kind of love the Wii U.
It only had a dozen or so exclusive games worth playing, but they were among the best that Nintendo has ever produced. “Splatoon” is an incredibly inventive and fun online shooter, while “Super Mario Maker” was arguably the best video game on any platform in 2015.
“Mario Kart 8” is the best game in that venerable racing series, just as “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U” is for the crossover fighting franchise. “Bayonetta 2” is one of the most enthusiastically absurd action games I’ve ever seen, and it can only be had on Wii U.
While I can’t earnestly recommend the Wii U to anyone right now (some of those games I just mentioned will surely be ported to Switch), it was the best bad console I’ve ever owned. With production ending, it might be worth picking up at a reduced price as a memento to one of the strangest eras in Nintendo’s history.
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