The State Of The Wii U In 2016

Illustration by Sam Woolley The Wii U spent 2016 on life support, relying on a slow trickle of exclusives to keep owners from pulling the plug completely. As Nintendo prepares to release the Switch in March, the Wii U readies its dying breath.

This is part of our 2016 "State of" series, a look at how the major consoles, VR platforms, and PC are doing this year.

Nintendo has made a point of saying that the Switch is not a replacement for the Wii U, but it sure feels like the company is trying to keep its four-year-old console alive just long enough for something better to come along. It's as if Nintendo is pulling a Weekend at Bernie's with the Wii U, sporadic big game releases briefly animating the console's corpse long enough to maintain the illusion of life until March.

The Hardware

Production is ending in Japan. Nintendo hasn't given the Wii U a major price cut since launch, and $US300 ($411) for a console that's obviously on its last legs isn't very compelling.

The Software

The more the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 operating systems change, the more the Wii U stays the same. The last update for the Wii U system software was Version 5.5.1 U, released on January 11, 2016. It provided updates to system stability and minor updates to usability. Hooray!

The Network And Services

The Miiverse community continues to be a source of amusement for Nintendo fans, but that's equal parts Wii U and 3DS and will likely continue with the Switch.

The only significant changes to the services offered on the Wii U in 2016 was the discontinuation of the Google Maps powered Wii Street U and the addition of the Rhapsody music service.

The Games

Major Wii U game releases were few and far between in 2016. Including Wayforward's Shantae: Half-Genie Hero in late December, the Wii U saw less than 20 retail releases in 2016, with the bulk of this year's new games made up of downloadable indie fare released via the eShop.

While the usual third-party, multi-platform. family-friendly games continued to appear on the Wii U throughout the year, Nintendo consoles tend to be driven by first-party exclusives, and there just wasn't a lot of driving being done in 2016.

The first Nintendo-published game for the Wii U in 2016, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, didn't arrive until March 4 in North America. It was followed by the Namco Bandai-developed Pokémon fighter, Pokken Tournament. It's an enjoyable fighting game in desperate need of an update adding the new characters introduced in the arcade version, an update Nintendo currently has no plans to pursue.

In April Nintendo released one of the most disappointing sequels in company history, Star Fox Zero. The game, plagued by tricky experimental controls and an overall unfinished feel, was far from the hit it should have been for the console. Its quirky, barely-related companion game, Star Fox Guard, was much more enjoyable, but overshadowed by the failure of its co-release.

June saw the release of one of the best role-playing games on the Wii U, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. Despite heavy edits between its Japanese and Western releases to pare down risque content, the crossover between Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei and Nintendo's Fire Emblem series was a shining light in a relatively dark year.

Nintendo ended its 2016 Wii U publishing year with the October 7 release of Paper Mario: Colour Splash, a quirky game that fans of the series weren't too keen on.

Earlier this year, Nintendo released data on the number of physical games released on each of its consoles to date. As of June of this year, the North American Wii U had 39 first-party and 118 third-party games, the lowest of any Nintendo platform to date (except the Virtual Boy). Since then, only five games have been added to the tally. It's pretty clear the direction the Wii U is heading.

The Future

Two weeks after the release of Paper Mario: Colour Splash, Nintendo officially unveiled the Switch. The debut trailer for the console featured many games made popular on the Wii U, like Splatoon and Mario Kart 8. It definitely feels like the Wii U is being replaced.

Also featured prominently was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Just as Twilight Princess was released for the dying Game Cube and the newly-launched Wii, Breath of the Wild straddles two generations of Nintendo hardware. Considering the state of the Wii U in 2016, Breath of the Wild is likely to be the four-year-old console's last gasp.


    Also add in the Yooka-Laylee has had its Wii U version cancelled. I'm waiting to hear the same has happened for Bloodstained.

    I expected depressing and that's what I got.

    Not disappointed.

    Tokyo Mirage Sessions was pretty awesome though... I really should finish that...

    Even through Nintendo's quietest patches, we have always been able to rely on the first-party stuff being A-grade fantastic. The classics. This year, with Star Fox and Paper Mario, Nintendo has proven us wrong. It's a dark, dark time to be a fan of the big N when that's all they've got to offer...

      SF0 was great, I don't know what all the complainers are talking about :P

      Hard choice between that and Fed Force for GOTY.

    I actually enjoyed the Wii U a lot this year. I reckon Color Splash was underrated; or at least there's plenty to enjoy in that game if you figure out how to work the combat system effectively.

    I was ok with the Star Fox control system, but I thought the levels needed a lot more work.

    Tokyo Mirage Sessions and Pokken Tournament were both really enjoyable retail games. I agree that it's disappointing that the other fighters didn't appear (maybe a Switch release will have them?)

    On the indie front, I enjoyed Severed and Steamworld Heist.

    So with all those and a healthy backlog (Xenoblade!) my Wii U got plenty of use in 2016.

    This console was a complete waste of money for me. I spent more time playing classic Wii games that I skipped as a result of not owning a Wii than I ever did playing Wii U games.

    Won't be getting a Switch I can guarantee that.

      Why is that? The Switch has a much different premise. Look at all the third party support confirmed.

        I wont get a switch either because Nintendo are reckless and don't seem to care about leaving their customer base stranded at sea without a lifeboat... Switch is just another lost cause before it even starts. Nintendo lacks commitment and never learns from their mistakes. I (like many) won't be paying for their stupidity anymore.

    Man I have so many games (6?) that I haven't even touched on the WiiU...MY back log is real.

    I'm just waiting for that eventual price cut next year so I can finally play Xenoblade Chronicles X, Bayonetta 2 and a few other games.

    For what I got out of it, the Wii U wasn't worth the price tag. However, Paint Splash was a fun game regardless of veterans of the series expect. I'm glad that the system is ramping up a homebrew community though.

    Fingers crossed that the Switch turns out better!

    The Wii U is a perfect console for kids. It is the only console for kids really. With Mario, Yoshi, Kirby, Splatoon and the staples it really is the only option for my kids. What do they have on Xbox One or PS4 that kids will enjoy? They are turning consoles into machines for teens and adults. Nintendo has yet to disappoint me with their offerings.

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