When It Comes To The Wii U's Online Store, Nintendo Is Dropping The Ball

When you log into the Wii U's eShop today, here is what you'll see on the front page: New Super Mario Bros. U, Batman: Arkham City, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition. In other words: the same launch games you saw a month and a half ago. When the Wii U came out.

Where are all the cheap new indies? Where are all the re-packaged classics? Where are all the titles I've never heard of but get the urge to impulse-buy because they look that damn cool?

Where are all of the new games?

Over the past six weeks or so, I've grown quite fond of Nintendo's newest system. The controller is slick and comfortable, games like Nintendo Land and Zombi U are a blast, and I love that I can play Mario while watching TV. I can't wait to see what game designers -- particularly the ones who make RPGs -- wind up doing with the GamePad.

But Nintendo is dropping the ball when it comes to their online store. In the month and a half since Wii U launched -- a time period that Nintendo could have used to show the world that they're serious about becoming a digital powerhouse -- the eShop has seen very few new releases. While indie developers seem excited about the system's possibilities, and Nintendo seems to be doing a good job of supporting them, the only real digital games we've seen so far are the ones that came out when the Wii U launched. Back in November. There are some cool-looking digital games on the horizon, like Toki Tori 2 and The Cave, but the past six weeks have been disappointing.

Granted, this is a console in infancy. It's unreasonable to expect the Wii U to be at full strength after only six weeks. But this sort of delay, this sort of lag on kicking the eShop into gear shows that Nintendo didn't launch prepared to prove the Wii U can actually compete with the likes of PSN and Steam. We are expected to just cross our fingers and hope that yes, we'll be able to access a large library of indies and digital gems... one day.

This sort of delay, this sort of lag on kicking the eShop into gear shows that Nintendo didn't launch prepared to prove the Wii U can actually compete with the likes of PSN and Steam.

And what of the Wii U's Virtual Console? Nintendo's other two big systems, the Wii and 3DS, both have libraries of old games from classic systems that you can purchase and download. When the Wii came out back in 2006, you could take it home and immediately buy The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros. on NES. New games came out every week after launch. Not all of them were great, but they were there.

You can access the Wii's Virtual Console on your Wii U -- if you transfer over all of your files, and you're willing to dig through nested menus. But you can't play any of those games on your GamePad controller, nor can you buy GameCube games, which Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told me he'd love to see on the Wii U's VC. The Wii U will get its own version of the Virtual Console, but Nintendo has been strangely quiet about the specifics. What games will it come with? What platforms will it support? Will it link to our other systems' Virtual Consoles?

Yesterday, I asked the Mario makers what the deal is.

"We do not have any specifics to share at this time," a Nintendo of America rep told me in an e-mail. "However, we are moving ahead with development of Virtual Console for Wii U, and we plan to make it so you can play it on the Wii U GamePad alone."

Excellent news. Off-TV gameplay is the best reason to get a Wii U, and the thought of playing games like Wind Waker or Skies of Arcadia on my GamePad is already making me drool, even if Nintendo does make me pay something like $US10 per game for the privilege.

But right now, all we have is promises. Assurances from Nintendo that, yes, the Virtual Console will come eventually. The eShop might be filled up eventually. The online store could be a digital powerhouse... eventually.

Should we get our hopes up? Nintendo's digital prowess has improved astronomically over the years, and they're releasing new content every week on the 3DS and even the Wii, but so far, they've failed to bring new games to the machine that could use them most.

If Nintendo expects to compete not only with traditional console-makers like Sony and Microsoft, but with Apple, Valve, and all of the other big competitors that want a bite of the living room pie, step one is turning the eShop into the type of store that rivals Steam and iTunes when it comes to getting cheap, high-quality games. The type of store I can log into, browse for a few minutes, and immediately find an indie or five that I've gotta play this second.

That hasn't happened. Sure, there are some great small games available on the eShop right now -- Little Inferno and Trine 2 are well worth your time -- but the only new releases since November have been games like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Nothing against Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. It's just that Wii U owners are looking for a bit more.

So it's time for Nintendo to turn "eventually" into now. It's time for them to launch the Wii U Virtual Console, beef up the eShop, and start delivering weekly dose of new experiences to play on their sharp new system. We're waiting.


    Yup. Nintendo would be making a mint if they released some SNES/N64/Gamecube games on the eShop and made them compatible with the gamepad. My wallet would be much lighter.

      How much times can you buy the same games? Nintendo shouldn't do this crap. At least give HD remakes not just straight ports.

        I won't buy a game that I already own again. But there are plenty of other games I'd love to pick up, but don't want to pay GameTraders/eBay prices.

    I don't understand why they're coming out so staggered. Is it because it's actually difficult to port them over? Somehow I don't think that's the answer.

    Ha, dude - are you surprised? You couldn't see that Nintendo wasn't prepared just by the Day 1 Patch? Or the delayed TVii feature in the U.S. & parts of Europe - only to release a hugely imperfect beta App? Or the fact the ratio of Ports to 1st Party titles is so lopsided? Or that the big games keep getting launch dates pushed back?

    Nintendo has managed to disappoint at every turn. There's not one thing Nintendo has exceeded on with the new system. And yet I have to listen to idiots defend it blindly.

    Not surprisingly Nintendo is badly missing Wii U hardware & software sales projections. The 5.5 million consoles they projected is shaping up to be closer to 4 - and the whoppingly ridiculous 4.36 attach-rate is just missing by an embarrassing number. Yeah that's a projection of 24 million software sales for Wii U by March 31st. As of Dec. 29th - 5 million globally. Good luck getting 20 million more during the 3 slowest months for gaming.

      Look out, we got a badass over here!

      I have 5 retail games plus one downloaded one. So I am on schedule.

      So in other words, you just hate Nintendo and hate anyone who owns the system and loves what they have achieved with it because you cant take a couple of hours to try it for yourself?

      Ive personally already got 3 retail games and 1 eShop game. Not to mention, since I got the Wii U I went back and grabbed 2 Wii titles I missed and picked up a couple of Wii eShop games I also missed.

      And seriously? Day 1 patch? Hrmm my choice, wait a few more months, get the system update out and then package the console and sell it, or sell it early and offer a day 1 patch. I admit as everyone would - Nintendo was after the Xmas cash grab/sales. But it worked in my favour, I got the console sooner and I have had a blast with it.

      Then again didn't the Xbox have a day 1 update too? Lord knows my brothers new 360 had to be updated on xmas day for 40 mins. What about the red ring of death issues? the PS3 update woes? Oh sorry were just bitching about Nintendo aren't we.

    Gosh! By the time Zelda and Metroid arrive I might be able to buy a reasonably polished product!

    This is why I waited.

      Have you actually played it? Its freaking extremely polished, its an awesome system to use and play. The problem as I see it is the eShop is split into 2. The Wii eShop and Wii U eShop. Had they managed the Wii shop/mode slightly different the eShop would feel vastly open and huge.

      I recommend you try the console for a few hours, once you do you wont look back. Just need the games to roll in now.

        +1 to this. I did buy ZombiU and Scribblenauts but only clocked about 1hr of gameplay into each. While they're both awesome in their own ways, Scribblenauts is much better on PC and ZombiU doesn't really intrigue me all that much. That being said though, the console itself is fantastic in my eyes and once SSBU, Pikmin 3 and Zelda come out, this thing will have all my spare time pumped into it

    I love the system so far. (even though mine just red lighted) But agree with the article.

    I think nintendo should amalgamate the 3ds and wii u shops. I especially hate having 2 balances.

    Would be even better if you could buy VC games that would work on both (like sony have just done)

    Heck I'd even like to be able to stream one of my 3ds screens to the tv through the wii u (but thats asking for alot)

    Worse case just a few more games soooon.

    One would've thought Nintendo would really be pushing the Virtual Console stuff right now. This is the best time for them to do it as there isn't a great deal of competition for new game releases. I for one would be much more inclined to play some classic games on there whille waiting for new Wii U titles.

    Seriously, this is a disaster. The last 6 years have been real shithouse. Get rid of Iwata, restrict Miyamotos influence over the direction of the company (all the guy did was create a few platformer games - he's not a bloody God!) and get some real people in to re-structure the company. it's run by a bunch of old folks who are living 15 years in the past.

    Why would you want to restrict Miyamoto? He's created some of the most famous and successful video game franchises of all time! He is truly a god in the video game industry (That's not just my fanboy talking). Now, you talk about how Nintendo keeps releasing the same old games, there is a reason for that... Nearly all the Nintendo fans that I know ENJOY the old games. There's something magical about playing the same game that you did when you were a little kid.

    Meanwhile in the Aus/NZ eShop, we don't have Batman: Arkham City, Ninja Gaiden 3, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition or Trine 2.

    What's particularly frustrating is that while Trine 2 failed to get a rating in Australia (which prevented it from being in the store on launch day), it's now been over 5 weeks since the game was rated and Nintendo apparently just haven't got around to releasing it in the eShop. At any given time there are comments in the Miiverse from frustrated Aus/NZ gamers asking when it will be released - all of them are ignored by Nintendo, of course.

    The Wii U eShop is basically tumble-weeds. Funky Barn and Rise of the Guardians is the only new content added in 6 weeks (excluding the Rayman demo). The fact that they haven't made it a priority to have new content ready over the Christmas / holiday period suggests that Nintendo have a very feeble understanding of what their customers want from a console.

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