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Doubters of Nintendo don’t have a great track record. When it launched, the prevailing opinion was that the Wii was doomed to fail. It was too cute, too weird, and the graphics were no good. To date, as far as units sold, Nintendo is the clear victor in the console wars. The same doubt to triumph pattern holds for the Nintendo DS. However, with their first annual loss on the books in thirty years and Wii sales almost dead, they have a lot to prove.
Enter the Wii U. My first reaction when information began to trickle in was a predictable "Huh?" Basically, it’s a buffer Wii with a new controller, which features a built-in touchscreen. The screen in the controller will either augment the gameplay on your TV, or replace the TV when the big kids show up and want to watch C-SPAN. At first, this seems like another brilliant WTF move from Nintendo. I disagree.
The Wii U, at least conceptually, is really not so radical. They just took their two most successful innovations of the past decade: the Wii’s motion control and the DS’s dual touchscreen, and just gluing them together to make the Wii U. This kind of hybrid design leads to products like the iPod touch, which is awesome unless you have an iPhone. Otherwise it’s just heavy.
A further sign the company is scrambling is the release of not one, but two2D Super Mario Bros. games this year. When the Wii was released, fans had to wait three years for New Super Mario Bros. Wii to drop. Some apologists will cite this as signs of positive change, that Nintendo is finally listening to fans. To me, it smells desperate.
Lastly, we come to price. One of the main reasons the Wii outsold the other two consoles, was because it was the cheapest option. It has been confirmed the Wii U will be priced at under $400. Even better, all Wii games and peripherals will be compatible with the Wii U. Unfortunately, the Wii U will include only one of the new controllers, and estimates put an additional controller at around $200. Ouch. For a console with a multiplayer focus, that could be devastating.
So for the time being, I am a Nintendo doubter.
I am probably wrong.