A Year In, The Wii U Is Still Not A Must-Own

A Year In, The Wii U Is Still Not a Must-Own

Slowly improving but not yet great, the Wii U is still not a must-own console. Consider this the one-year-later update to my review of a console that I thought I'd be telling you was mandatory by now.

The good news for people interested in getting a Wii U — or for people who already have one — is that Nintendo is slowly but surely adding quality, exclusive games to the Wii U's line-up.

  • Pikmin 3 is as good a Pikmin game as Nintendo has ever made and as a good a real-time-strategy game as you can find on consoles.
  • Super Mario 3D World is an extremely fun Mario game and the best Mario in two years (for better or worse, that covers four releases).
  • Wii Party U is full of good mini-games that'd sell well on their own on a mobile device.
  • Lego City Undercover is one of the best games made in the long-running Lego series and a sort of Lego take on Grand Theft Auto, to boot.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is a gorgeous remake of a fine Zelda game.
  • Ubisoft's ZombiU is a fantastic, creepy first-person survival game.

And yet... at the one year mark, the Wii U doesn't feel like it's hit its stride. It only has one must-play game (3D World). The future of third-party support for the machine is so unclear that it's hard to size up whether the Wii U still has a chance of being a good system for playing multiplatform games or if it's going to wind up being more of a Nintendo-only machine.

Limits to the Wii U's hardware are also cropping up, and they're not the limits I and maybe others were expecting to be factors. The machine's limited horsepower make it likely that the Wii U will be able to run plenty more Xbox 360 and PS3-level games and few, if any, games targeted for Xbox One and PS4. That's not the problem.

It's the console's GamePad — its centrepiece controller with a screen of its own — that is appearing more and more to be deficient. The trouble is that Nintendo's concept for the console isn't as well supported by the hardware as it could be. I've been playing the Wii U for a year and have recognised that Nintendo was wise to give console gamers a way to play games on an alternate screen when there's no TV around. The Kyoto giant, however, appears to have been unwise to present this option through a controller that runs out of power in a few hours, at most.

A Year In, The Wii U Is Still Not a Must-Own

Further, the console feels like it's meant to be portable, and while I did demonstrate the machine's portability in one memorable photo this year, that doesn't quite cut it. The Wii U feels, increasingly, like a half-step before Nintendo can make a portable machine that can output console-quality graphics when plugged into a TV without needing to be plugged into a wall. In other words, it feels like a prelude to whatever handheld succeeds the Nintendo 3DS XL. It therefore feels like it could be the last machine Nintendo needs to make before it can entertain the idea of converging its handheld and console lines into one.

Regardless of what the Wii U could lead to, it's what it is that makes it either a must-own or a still-ok-to-not-have. Had the exclusive Sonic Lost World been great rather than skippable, maybe it'd have been a must-own. Had its Virtual Console library matched the one on Wii instead of starting over...had its operating system been upgraded to eradicate, rather than simply diminish, the several-second delays between performing basic functions... this all adds up to the same call I gave the console last year when I answered the question of whether you have to have a Wii U: Not yet.

A Year In, The Wii U Is Still Not a Must-Own

Third-party support has been better than expected, especially compared to the early uptake for the original Wii. It's not great, though, and seems to be fading. In one year, Wii U owners have gotten to play two Assassin's Creeds, two Call of Dutys, an excellent Rayman game and an improved version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Support for multiplatform games is, however, already diminishing in predictable fashion. The frequently Nintendo-skittish EA has pulled Wii U support for now and Wii U editions of games such as Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin's Creed IV omit entire modes or DLC available in versions on other consoles.

Kid-friendly games, chief among them Warner's Lego franchise, appear to be a lock long-term for Wii U, and why not? The system has plenty of juice to run those games. Third-party exclusive Wii U games made for the ground-up for Wii U, such as Ubisoft's terrific day-one ZombiU, increasingly feel like a thing of the past.

It shouldn't have to matter that the Wii U didn't run several of this year's best games, including Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V.

Nintendo's in-house development studios can make great games of their own to justify a Nintendo machine as, at worst, a good second console to have. That's the argument Nintendo hasn't yet been able to win in the Wii U's first year, but it's the argument they may — and hopefully will — win in 2014. The Wii U simply needs to achieve a tipping point of great games. Does that happen when Mario Kart 8 hits? Or the next Smash Bros.? Or Yarn Yoshi? Or Project X? Or Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem? All have been shown in some form. All should come out in 2014. Together, they might be enough.

An increase of indie download-only releases in 2014 would help, too. Nintendo seems to be on track for all of that.

A Year In, The Wii U Is Still Not a Must-Own

The best comparison for the Wii U is Nintendo's own 3DS. That system came out in March 2011 and had a rocky first year. Its launch line-up was largely forgettable (advantage: Wii U with the innovative Nintendo Land and charming New Super Mario Bros U). The 3DS didn't get much strong third-party support (advantage: Wii U early on). Nintendo tried to satisfy early adopters over with a port of a classic Zelda game (even). Before the end of its first year it got a great Mario (Super Mario 3D Land) and a new Mario Kart, which, as we compare, begins to show the Wii U attempting to travel a very similar path but slipping behind the 3DS' pace.

Year two of the 3DS saw the Nintendo handheld getting better through firmware updates and an expanding online store that featured bursts of good download-only games. As the machine's second year ended, we got the back-to-back releases of the must-own Fire Emblem Awakening and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.

The 3DS' year three has continued the streak with exceptional releases every month or two, from Animal Crossing: New Leaf to Mario & Luigi Dream Team to Pokémon X & Y to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Despite a Phoenix Wright here and a Shin Megami Tensei there, the 3DS is largely a Nintendo machine and few 3DS owners are likely upset because of that.

If Nintendo can manage the Wii U as well as it has the 3DS, considered by some to be the best gaming machine on the market right now, the Wii U will be essential within 12 months.

A Year In, The Wii U Is Still Not a Must-Own

Anyone who has a Wii U can take comfort that there are good games to play on it. If you're considering getting a Wii U, you could do worse. But the Wii U doesn't feel like a must-have system to me. The device is too flawed to compensate for a line-up insufficiently stuffed with great games. As with the PS4 and Xbox One, I'd advise fence-sitters to wait.

You don't need a Wii U yet. Hopefully in 2014, you will. Nintendo's new(ish) console is almost there.

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.


Comments

    The 3DS however ...

      also took a while to kick off if I recall.
      Same with the DS...

    I think given the coming (and announced) titles, the wii U is going to have to dip below $250 for the 32 gb model for me to pull the trigger. In fact, it'd only become a sure thing for me once it dips below $200. I don't necessarily think what Nintendo is asking is unreasonable, its just that I tend to think that buying a console is an investment, and I don't think I'm going to get $300 return on it. I certainly didn't on my wii.

      I think you must have missed a lot of good games if that is the case.

        I played plenty of titles (probably 30+). I only thought that maybe four were worth while (the Galaxy titles, DKC: Returns and Metroid: Other M). There were a lot of titles that I thought were good for a wii title, but didn't stand up to same-genre options available on other platforms i.e. Xenoblade.

        There was also a lot of titles that I swear Nintendo had already released five or six times before (Mariokart, New Super Mario Brothers, etc). I gave them a go, but its hard for me to muster up much enthusiasm for Nintendo IP's anymore. I've even grown disinterested in Zelda, which I never thought I'd say.

          In addendum to this: I have a pile of shame of around 250 titles. I am seriously time poor. Its not enough for a game to be merely good any more, it has to be exceptional. I don't feel like the wii brought on those exceptional experiences (outside the aforementioned titles).

            Keep in mind the Wii U is a whole different beast to the Wii. Motion controls are gone which for me were what made potentially great Wii games pretty underwhelming. Playing New Super Luigi Bros on the Wii U really brought back a lot of the enthusiasm I had for Nintendo games pre-Wii. At the very least it's a good universal remote.

              Its more the once bitten, twice shy thing. I just don't have faith in the Nintendo brand anymore. That said, I'm open minded, but I need a 'budget' cost of entry at this point.

                Fair enough. I just hate seeing it compared to the Wii. It's very frustrating being a pre-Wii Nintendo fan and knowing that pretty much everything people like me didn't like about the Wii is gone. It's like Nintendo aren't even trying to get the message across that it's a giant DS not a Wii.

                  To be honest, my Nintendo issues started well before the wii. I went through simialr issues with the NS4 and Gamecube. Sure, both machines probably had 10 really good titles, but that also meant that, at the time, there was only one game to play in a given six month period!

                  @thom Yeah. The N64 was their last mainstream hit and that ran really dry. What was there was good but it was frustrating looking at games that weren't scheduled to be released for another year and a half (which would then be delayed another dozen times).
                  Even back then they were just awful at advertising their products and appealing to people who weren't already Nintendo fans. The only time they've ever had any success with marketing was with the Wii, and in retrospect that seems like it started as an accident and only grew because everyone came to them desperate to show the product off on TV.

                  I was really happy with my N64, and I loved my GameCube, but now I'm used to the 360 it's pretty clear that even though I love the Wii U it's never going to be my main console.

      I have to agree with this, When i saw some retailers slashing down to $250 to dump stock I still couldn't pick it up, Under $200 and a few games worth playing And i'd maybe bother (But the bundle would have to be minimum 32gb with Nintendo land and possibly something else too). But it seem less and less likely that will ever happen.

      Of the games listed in the article Only Pikmin is worth playing, lego games bore me shitless, Hah another mario no thanks, Zombie U is a borderline average game, Im not getting a party game for solo play and I already played and beat wind waker multiple times and have no desire to do so again.

      I bought it when it was on a clearance sale at Dick Smith. Probably the most worthwhile gaming purchase i've made of the year. I've still got a list of games that I want to buy on it, but don't have the time to yet. Clearing my current games first.

        Yeah - like I said. I'll get one at the right price point. I'm not so much put off by the wii U, as I'm wary after the lack of support on the wii.

    Xenoblade.

    pokemon and some quality Jrpg's and watch the console explode in popularity.

    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID
    METROID

    etc etc etc

    Might I just say that I have put a lot of hours into my Wii U thanks to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.

    That game alone was enough to validate my purchase, let alone what is to come as well as Pikman 3. Wii U is definitely my go to next gen console because it satisfies what I want out of the industry - good game design as a first priority.

      Totally agree. I had some fun with my Wii U but started to question if it was a good idea to have bought one, and then MH3U came out. Sunk about 200 hours into that game before I realised it...

    I bought a Wii U at launch and am having a blast. I owe a lot to this from the fact that I never owned a Wii so I've been using some of the back catalogue, and I have people at my place pretty often and Nintendo know how to do local multiplayer games better than anyone.
    Oh, and really enjoyed Lego City and WW HD looks so amazing it's a pleasure to play again.

      I think that's a big thing for me too. I never owned a Wii and the Wii U has given me the opportunity to play all the games I missed.

      Also Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter is by far the largest reason I love my Wii U. It is a good console though.

    I picked up the 8gb for my kids during the Dick Smith clearout a few months back, around $160 or so.

    So far have around 10 games, plus a handful of Wii titles (mostly hunting the must-haves). The kids love the little screen, and I do too. Did most of New Super Mario Bros Wii U via the handheld while the wife watched The Voice.

    The kids love Disney infinity and Skylanders: Giants, plus Lego Marvel Superheroes.

    At the price, I personally love it, and was worried I'd need to drop some unwanted hours into it to "justify" the purchase. We find ourselves using it almost everyday, for various lengths of time and degrees of difficulty.

    In summary, it's a great family console. Not worth the common RRP though, not by a long-shot.

    Look at all the people who bought 3DS's and 2DS for Pokemon X/Y. You would assume that the majority of people who were/are ever going to buy a 2DS/3DS have now got one. They are sold. I think if they just made 'Pokemon Z' exclusive to WiiU (use the handheld for the itemfinder, backpack, pokedex etc). Not only would you be fulfilling the wants of the millions of Pokemon game playing fans, but, you would see a huge take up of the console.

    Do that and drop the price of the 32GB to $200? I will pick one up at lunch. Might even get that new Mario with it.

    Project X is the game that will make me buy the Wii U (assuming it's a proper single-player RPG like Xenoblade was and not some crappy Monster Hunter clone or something).

    The system has a few games you'd probably buy if you owned the system - basically everything listed - but very little that would compel someone to buy one that hadn't already been convinced.

    I just hope that by the time it's done, the Wii U has actually sold enough consoles that they'll bother going to the expense of localizing it. Things are only going to get harder for Nintendo now that they have to compete against Xbox One and PS4 in addition to the previous generation of consoles.

    I feel like they got the Wii U around the wrong way. It should have been a next-gen portable system with a small box you could plug into a TV to play your games wirelessly on instead. Basically the Vita TV, if the Vita TV could stream stuff off another Vita instead of just remote play off a PS4.

    Have to admit, this article raises some great points. We are already seeing people at Airports playing Wii U, and Nintendo has sort of marketed the system as portable device with the inclusion of off-screen play.

    It's getting to a point where there'll be a merge between Nintendo consoles and handhelds. The current graphics streamed on the Wii U GamePad are what I expect to see on Nintendo's next handheld.

    Last edited 26/11/13 6:09 pm

      I think it really is about time we got a 1080p handheld.

      Just so long as you also expect to see the same battery life as seen on the gamepad :P

    Right now, the 3DS is a must have console. I called doom after it bombed on released, I admit, but 2 years later it's got one gaming's best libraries and it's growing and growing!! Pokemon, Fire Emblem, Kid Icarus, Zelda: ALBW, Resident Evil (actaully good!), it's got something for everyone!

    Will it play MGS5? Pass...

    Last edited 26/11/13 4:46 pm

    'X' from Monolith Soft is probably the only WiiU title that makes me a little wet. I'd possibly consider buying a 2nd hand console for that game.

    Got an xbox one last friday. Spent the weekend playing wiiu. Go figure...

    Was an XBox360 a "must own" console? Mine was great for gathering a thick layer of dust. What a silly thing the Internet is...

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