The Wii U: What's In A Name?

Nothing is certain in life except death, taxes and the fact that Nintendo is doomed.

Nintendo is perennially doomed. It was doomed when the N64 launched and doomed during the GameCube years. It was doomed when it announced the DS and doomed when the 3DS had a mediocre first year. It was doomed when Ocarina of Time was delayed. Doomed when people didn't like Mario Sunshine; doomed when it announced Wii Fit. Doomed. Always doomed. According to some folks it was doomed at the peak of the Wii's powers, when Nintendo literally couldn't make enough units to satisfy demand. Doomed I tells you.

So when I say that Nintendo's current situation with the Wii U is bad, I won't blame you for taking it with a grain of salt. But yeah -- things aren't great.

Yesterday we posted the above picture; JB Hi-Fi felt the need to explain to its consumers the difference between the Wii and the Wii U. That sign didn't go up by accident. I'm guessing it went up in response to a barrage of mistakes made by parents, made by consumers. Angry folks wondering why NintendoLand didn't work on their Wii. It may seem silly to us, but it's no laughing matter.

Choosing a name for its latest console must have presented Nintendo with a serious conundrum. Do they abandon the hard work and marketing done in the last six years, or preserve the power of newly built-up brand?

History has shown that Nintendo will typically go with the latter. It's served them well in the past.

The Famicom became the Super Famicom. The Game Boy became the Game Boy Color and, later, the Game Boy Advance. The DS became the 3DS. It's in Nintendo genetics to cling to the brands that built them. When it came time to name its new console, it must have felt like a no-brainer. Something Wii or Wii Something.

They went with Wii Something, that 'something' being a 'U'. Hindsight is 20/20, but that was clearly a mistake.

'Super', 'Advance', 'colour', '3D' -- all previous additions to Nintendo's established brand names suggested an upgrade of some kind. 'U' means nothing. In normal circumstances that would be fine, but when you're trying to sell a console that looks similar (in terms of design) and also uses the precise same controller as the previous console (GamePad notwithstanding) you can't expect a mainstream audience to instantly understand that this is a product worth buying. Names can be meaningless, that's fine -- the word 'Wii' was completely meaningless really -- but when a name confuse its target market, then you've got issues.

And the name Wii U is confusing. It doesn't sound like it's a new console. It sounds like an upgrade that isn't essential. When you combine that with a relatively new mobile phone culture that upgrades and sells similar products in increasingly shorter timespans, you can't blame mainstream consumers for thinking that the Wii U was a product they could safely skip. It must have felt like an iPad 2 or an iPhone 4S -- the one you don't need unless you have money to burn; early adopters. Suckers with too much cash.

And now Nintendo is in a strange situation. They have a message but no real means to communicate it. Mainstream media isn't interested, the gimmick isn't there. Nintendo isn't as cash rich as it once was, so its spending less on marketing. Once upon a time you couldn't escape Nintendo's savvy advertising, now it's nowhere to be seen.

Of course Nintendo isn't doomed. Nintendo will do what it has always done: retreat into the turtle shell of its stubbornly resistant handheld business and plan for the next disruptive move. And maybe, just maybe, it'll learn from mistakes made in the past.


Comments

    As soon as I read doomed, this is all I could think of..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoWtHqmITOM

      I thought of this:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_49iNqxOnH4

        Funny i thought both of your links where going to be this:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdJZhdi_-Tc

        And I thought of this one:

        http://youtu.be/gdJZhdi_-Tc

        I thought of this:

        http://youtu.be/9EH1G4EwljM

          Totally expected at least one of those links to be this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjNBzyLqDPM

            And I expected at least one of them to be this
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQyGjMe31yA&feature=youtube_gdata_player
            Though your link also came to mind!

            Finally, someone got it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLH8F2xDU90

    they should have just called it the Wii 2

    not the fancyest name but its simple and to the point

      I imagine, as Mark said, they'll pull back and develop something more next gen... that'll be what gets called the Wii-2.

        so in other words that would be admitting the wii u was useless....or not really next gen

        J Maaaaaac, thats silly. WiiU is obviously next gen, its part of the next generation of consoles. i.e. next gen. Its here to stay. Stop saying silly things. Also I dont recall Mark saying that.

      yeah i always thought they should have named it the Wii 2 and the two 'ii' could be 2 people holding hands of something xD

      But then you wouldn't know that Wii U is an accredited university. It...is a university, right?

      Could be worse. They could have gone in the direction of your idea but instead: W II

      agreed. most people are easily confused with these sorts of things so they really should've chosen a name that would show people its a new console. Adding a U means nothing to most people.

    A name can mean everything, if they went with Wii 2, then I honestly don't believe they would be in 'as much' trouble as they are now. There is still an issue with the amount of games the system is getting, but Nintendo didn't do enough to brand the console as something new.

    Sony and PlayStation is simple, the next version has always carried a higher number. MS and XBox will have an interesting time, going from 360 back to One, but at least the public are aware of the new console (even if it was due to mainly negative press).

    I guess there is some onus on the consumer should be doing at least some research into what the Wii U is, but Nintendo should be trying to market it as something we need also. The problem is that some think the Wii U is a Gamepad addon and Nintendo boxed themselves into a corner with the branding they've used.

    Wii Sports
    Wii Sports Resort
    Wii Play
    Wii Party
    Wii Fit
    Wii Fit Plus
    Wii Music
    Wii Chess

    Then you have other things like...
    Wii Channel
    Wii Remote
    etc...

    So then Nintendo comes up with "Wii U", the first thing anyone would likely think after all this time, is that it's something for the Wii. Plain and simple.

      I agree completely with your post, but would like to point out something:

      MS and XBox will have an interesting time, going from 360 back to One, but at least the public are aware of the new console (even if it was due to mainly negative press).

      I was having a discussion with a journo friend about this, and he suggested that the reason this move is ok is because Microsoft are no longer selling the original XBox. It sounds stupid, but the only thing people have to choose between is an XBox360 and an XBoxOne, and it would be easy to see the difference. (Edit: As opposed to choosing between the XBox and XBoxOne - see how that could be confusing?)

      The problem with Nintendo and Wii/WiiU is that both consoles are able to be bought at the same time. If they had Wii, then Wii 2 no problem. If they had Wii and Super Wii (cue all manner of stupid comments) it would be fine. But the addition of their extra name bit on the end rather than the start AND everything you've highlighted in your post AND the fact that both sit side by side, able to be bought new on the selves of your local game shop has lead to this mess.

      Last edited 09/08/13 1:32 pm

        Mother - What do you want for Christmas Timmy?
        Timmy - A SUPER WII

        haha, Going on your theory, the next Xbox after the one will be called a ThreeSixty?

    I'm suprised they didn't call it Wii New

      They should have called it Wii On, to celebrate its online features. What kid wouldn't be excited to play Wii On Mario?

    The main problem was that the majority of people who bought the Wii were non-gamers and, like you say, used to technology names like an iPhone 4S and knowing that one iOS game will work largely the same on one iPhone to the next. Nintendo have treated their current (well, previous) consumer base as gamers needing no education or handholding and the consumers sometimes suffer as a result. All this can do is damage Nintendo's reputation further.

    It might sound all doom and gloom for Nintendo atm, certainly the 3DS is doing great, but even with the 3DS there might have been the same problem with people differentiating between the DS and 3DS, but they're doing themselves no favours with the whole 'we're Nintendo, you will buy from us because we're Nintendo' mindset

      When I brought a 3DS home and told my wife I'd got it she asked why because I already had a DS. It took longer than I expected to explain to her what it was and why I needed it. I thought it was a pretty simple concept. Maybe she was not receptive because she was blinded by rage, I don't know.

        Yeah, wives often don't understand men's needs... I've gotta work out how I'm going to pay off the launch day PS4 I've ordered without creating a ruckus.

          a ruckus? lol.
          i'm in the exact same situation. i was thinking about it the other day. do i siphon off money each week, or do i just bite the bullet come launch day and cop a flogging. it's all well and good right now, because it's only cost $50 (the pre-order).

            I've gone the siphoning route, and going to put it on the work credit card to avoid floggings. Luckily the PS4 will sit under the PS3 in the cabinet, which is usually covered by a drape, so it will hopefully pass unnoticed ;-)

    About time someone noticed this. Nintendo has always been at the top of bottom of their field and always find ways to crawl back or bide their time. Their lifetime warranty systems and parts availability have always been a strong point in their business I have respected. Even when they played less of a part in my life as I moved out of childhood, they were there for my nieces and nephews and will most likely be there for their children and mine.

    A little known fact is Nintendo Australia faced a shutdown between the 64 and Wii and survived on Pokemon cards alone. They are no strangers to hard times and the current trend of industry bias being lumped on them.

      "A little known fact is Nintendo Australia faced a shutdown between the 64 and Wii and survived on Pokemon cards alone." sorry but when I read this I just thought of Nintendo employees trying to exchange pokemon cards for groceries >.<

      On topic: I believe the whole console needs a revamped slim model (actual console itself doesn't really need to be slimmed) and name changed to Nintendo U (NU)

    Someone in another comment thread suggested that "Nintendo U" would have been a better name. I concur with this opinion.

      It doesn't even have to be an official name change.

      Alter the logo so that the Wii is small and the U is large and visible, then nickname it the U.

    the potential for lots of R Kelly jokes.
    /juvenile

    Last edited 09/08/13 1:40 pm

    When I heard the name, myself and many others thought of: http://youtu.be/0JElywbkSbY

    "I’m guessing it went up in response to a barrage of mistakes made by parents, made by consumers. Angry folks wondering why NintendoLand didn’t work on their Wii. It may seem silly to us, but it’s no laughing matter."

    Could have just asked them...

      and this is what happens...
      http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/08/jb-hi-fi-perfectly-illustrates-one-of-nintendos-biggest-problems/comment-page-1/#comment-1759017

      it shouldn't be up to store employees to educate every person that walks in.

    Only problem with this whole article is that it fails to note that the Wii U sold more consoles then the PS3 and Xbox360 did in the same time frames from launch, consoles always do pick up
    The big problem is lack of games but hopefully that will be remedied soon

      So then the question is - why are all these third parties so happy to throw their chips in behinds MS/Sony if the prospects are worse?

    Just because the Wii U may be doomed, that doesn't mean Nintendo as a company are doomed. They've still got a very successful handheld console, lots of cash in the bank, and a strong (if slightly stale) collection of IP that they can always fall back on if their hardware business does fall through.

    First paragraph: Nothing is certain in life except death, taxes and the fact that Nintendo is doomed.

    Last paragraph: Of course Nintendo isn’t doomed.

    The Famicom became the Super Famicom. The Game Boy became the Game Boy Color and, later, the Game Boy Advance. The DS became the 3DS. It’s in Nintendo genetics to cling to the brands that built them. When it came time to name its new console, it must have felt like a no-brainer. Something Wii or Wii Something.

    I do want to point out though that Nintendo also have a history of coming up with new names. Nintendo 64. Gamecube. Wii. They clearly aren't afraid to come up with new names, particularly for their home consoles, and to be honest I expected this trend to continue before they announced the Wii U. I was expecting a new name completely.

    Although looking back and considering its overall compatibility with the original Wii (ie, it supports WiiMotes and can play Wii games) it's understandable that they might have wanted to stick with the Wii brand somehow. But "Wii U" is not a name I would have come up with.

    Last edited 09/08/13 2:57 pm

      The Wii also had great backwards compatibility (i.e. it supports Gamecube games and controllers), albeit to a slightly lesser extent than the WiiU, but they (quite sensibly imo) still managed to come up with a new name for it.

    It's a dumb name. I think everyone realised that except Nintendo. It also doesn't help that to the untrained eye, the console looks identical to the previous one. Say what you will about the Cube, but that machine looked awesome. You could never look at that & mistake it for another console.

    I still don't get this argument:

    It’s in Nintendo genetics to cling to the brands that built them.

    The other successful consoles have done the same.

    Xbox > Xbox 360 > Xbox One
    PlayStation > PlayStation 2 > PlayStation 3 > PlayStation 4

    Many companies stick to successful brands. It's what they do. Nintendo should have just called it the Wii 2 and be done with it.

    Also the controller is totally different to the Wii controller. i.e. the GamePad is quite different to the WiiMote.

    Unfortunately the console itself does look way too similar to the Wii. Still, it's Nintendo. They'll be around for years to come!

    Last edited 09/08/13 3:39 pm

      U in maths means 'union'. Wii Union. Wiiunion. Oh god, I only just realised this right now.

    Nicely put Mr Serrels. I love the frame of reference with the doomed bit. Freakin Nintendo maaan, so doomed. They should, like, grow up and make mature next gen games etc etc. Sony and Microsoft should make more kid friendly, simple, but addictively fun games like Nintendo, said noone ever

    This whole confusing games with the other system thing doesn't just happen with the Wii U.

    I've seen parents get into full blown arguments concerning why a 3DS game won't work on a DS.
    "They're the same thing, aren't they!? Why do I have to buy a new thing just for this one game?!"
    I've heard people when asked if they have a Xbox 360 classic or slim, they just reply with "Oh I got a 360".
    I've had parents ask me if you can get Mario games on a PS3 and get the angry "Why not?!" when explained why that isn't possible.

    So it isn't just happening with the Wii U...

    The Wii U is NOT blue.... its black or white just like the Wii.

    EDIT: Totally mincing words here, but the Wii/Wii U dont really have cases....or did I miss out on something?

    EDIT 2: NES => SNES => Nintendo 64, => Gamecube => Wii => N-Box

    Last edited 10/08/13 5:27 pm

      It's talking about the game cases. Wii have white game cases whereas the Wii U game cases are a light blue.

    Wii meant 'We', including everyone. U was meant to mean 'you'. A console for you. WiiU negates itself and means nothing. Get some pride and respect back Nintendo and just admit you were wrong.....Fat chance that will happen. I worked for a Japanese company and they NEVER admitted when they made a mistake.

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