The dust has settled and the smoke has cleared.
Nintendo has drawn first blood in the war among the big three console manufacturers and unleashed the Wii U on the American masses, easily selling through the limited stock available on November 18.
The rest of the world will be able to purchase the system in the upcoming weeks, assuming they preordered in plenty of time.
Immediately selling over 400,000 systems is no small feat and Nintendo should be lauded for once again releasing the hot new thing that everyone needs to have. The question is, how did the Wii U stack up compared to the last few generations of Nintendo hardware? I’m sure a lot of us remember the utter madness that ensued when the original Wii came out.
We’re going to look at several aspects of releasing a system and seeing how Nintendo has either learned from previous mistakes or made them again.
Obviously, not everyone who wants the hot new gadget is going to get their greedy mitts on it. There are a lot of factors in determining the pecking order for new video game hardware, and in the year 2012, the number one thing you had to do to get a Wii U was preorder it. Standing in line days ahead of time at a store was not going to do it anymore; your money needed to be handed over long before Gamestop or anyone else had the actual systems in hand.
In years past, some lucky people would have been able to snag a new system by braving the elements and being at a store’s opening in time to buy one of the few remaining systems that had not already been spoken for by another’s deposit. The Wii U has already sold more than 400,000 units, but it took months for the Nintendo 64 to generate those kinds of numbers. The N64 was also at a supreme disadvantage thanks to Sony launching the Playstation a full year before Nintendo could regain any ground they had lost. Furthermore, the N64 was considered lagging behind the times for not embracing the idea of games on discs as opposed to cartridges. 16 years later, Nintendo is now innovating with the Wii U Gamepad. Chalk one up in the lesson learned category.
The original Wii was entirely another story. Nintendo got some of the biggest press in the history of the company when everyone from infants to retirement communities were hopping on board the bandwagon of motion control gaming. I have memories of local news stories covering people who had never played a video game in their entire lives suddenly becoming enamored with Wii Sports, the pack-in title that showed everyone the potential of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
Incredibly, once the system itself became more widely available, extra remotes were nearly impossible to find and helped to sell copies of Wii Play, which was available as a bundle with a remote for only $10 more than the cost of the game itself. All told, despite the limited availability of the Wii, it still went a hell of a lot better than the Playstation 3’s launch, where midnight openings of stores saw empty queue lines go to waste thanks to a bad lineup of games and ridiculous initial hardware cost.
Speaking of games, let’s talk about the whole point of buying a new system.
From the day of the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, Mario has always been associated with the launch of a new Nintendo system. The NES got Super Mario Bros., the SNES came out alongside Super Mario World and the Nintendo 64 appropriately had Super Mario 64. It was strange not seeing Mario in his own game when the GameCube was released in 2001 and even stranger to see neither of the brothers in any form when the Wii came out, perhaps adding to the criticism at the time of Nintendo forgetting about their core fans.
All is right with the Wii U, however, and New Super Mario Bros. U has been released on the same day as the system. The reviews look to be on par with the recent 2D entries in the New Super Mario series, although we will have to wait and see if the sheer perfection of Super Mario Galaxy 2 can be replicated when the next 3D Mario game is unveiled. Even if you aren’t a hardcore gamer and were dropped into today’s world not knowing what Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto is, you could pick up a Gamepad or Pro Controller and feel right at home with New Super Mario Bros. U.
Fortunately, Mario is not the only game available for the fledgling system. If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, go back to the launch of the N64. If you were buying a Nintendo system and were not a fan of Mario (all two of you), your other option was Pilotwings 64. That’s it. It’s absolutely crazy to think, but Nintendo released a new system with two games to play. This was long before the days when systems doubled as entertainment centers that could also stream music, movies and had built-in web browsers. At the time, you were paying $200 to play Mario in 3D.
The Wii U actually has one of the strongest lineups at launch you are going to find. This is thanks in part due to the fact that several of them are ports of existing games for the Xbox 360 and PS3 that have been fine-tuned for the Wii U and the features of the Gamepad. Gone are the days of the Gamecube and Wii being openly laughed at and mocked as “kiddie systems.” Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Ninja Gaiden 3, Mass Effect 3 and ZombiU are all available on day one alongside Mario, Just Dance 4 and a few family compilations.
The only thing Nintendo has working against it (and this has bitten them in the ass before) is that they were the first to put out the newest generation of systems along with a brand new concept in the Gamepad. Sony and Microsoft could be toiling away on their versions of tablets as controllers, ready to once again steal Nintendo’s thunder as was done before with the N64’s Rumble Pak and Wii’s innovative motion control.
What Nintendo needs to do is not worry about direct competition from the other two. This worked out perfectly for them with the Wii and despite some missteps along the way, the Wii remains the bestselling console of this generation which is winding to a close. Even if Sony and Microsoft outperform the Wii U in terms of sheer firepower from the hardware, it’s going to be interesting to see where third parties want to allocate their exclusives this time. Furthermore, Nintendo launched a brand new system at a maximum price of $349. You can bet that same amount that the next systems from Sony and Microsoft will be much more.
Now, if I could just find one of the damned Wii U systems around here, I would be in good shape.