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A Wii-U-Turn On Nintendo

Last week I finally managed to pin down why I was not enamoured with the Wii-U. For the first time ever I would not be pining for a Nintendo console on day one. Though this may in itself save £250 from leaping from my bank account, there’s a part of me that’s disappointed it’s come to this. E3 may have tried to dazzle me with Pikmin 3 and Zombi-U, but why was it not enough?

It’s not because of the lack of quality output on the Wii. I know others have said they felt “stung” by the Wii and its barren release schedule and don’t want a repeat performance with its follow-up. For every month that saw a Skyward Sword or Mario Galaxy there were ample more that saw nothing but shovelware and movie tie-ins. The quality of the first-party offerings were enough for me, though; enough to keep the Wii a fixture under the television. It’s not that.

It’s not because of the potential that within 12 months the Wii-U will once again seem like an outdated device. With as much as Nintendo put into proving that the Wii-U could handle the likes of Mass Effect 3 and Batman Arkham City, they failed to understand that at the same time they were indicating that their hardware had only just caught up to what Microsoft and Sony produced five-years ago. If the Wii-U launched this festive season, owners could probably expect a year worth of parity, pulling in the huge multi-format releases, before once again being outclassed by the rumoured next round of next-gen consoles. At that point would the third-party publishers again forget about it? It’s not that.

It’s not because of the technology. The concept of an extra screen is intriguing – just ask Microsoft about their Smart Glass – and in the hands of Nintendo’s creative minds there is a vast amount of potential. See how Mario 64 came from the analogue stick, Star Fox was brought to life with the FX chip, and Wii Sports brought living rooms to life using the Wiimote; Nintendo do interesting things with interesting tech. It’s not that.

What it is then, is that I own something very similar already.

When I watched the Zombi-U trailers, pored over the Pikmin demo and raised eyebrows at the Nintendo theme park, all I could think is that each one would be perfect for the DS/3DS. Having four Captain Olimars running about, tapping back and flicking Pikmin to do you bidding would be great on the go; sniping zombies as you held the 3DS up and used its orientational knowhow to train you sights; even linking up five handhelds over Wi-Fi to play a Nintendo-themed Pacman.

With each of these thoughts the disappointment grew. With both the DS and the Wii Nintendo seized upon something different; a new and novel way to interact with games. They produced unique experiences that you could not get anywhere else. What I see when I look at the Wii-U is a company playing it safe, combining the dual screens of their handheld with the waggle sticks with the best-selling console of a generation, but at the same time over complicating it all.

Put like that it may be hard to argue with, but with an attitude like that I find it hard to see a repeat of the Wii’s runaway success. Millions of “casual” gamers who bought in won’t care about an upgrade to their Wii Fit machine; the older players who just wanted to keep active with the odd session of Wii Sports bowling are hardly like to reinvest; and the cautious who were brought in by the simplicity of the Wiimote will now have a whole tablet to concern themselves with.

And me? Me, I have my DS, a very fine and hardy dual screen experience. My money’s safe for now.

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