NOTE: This console has many redeeming qualities. This article will focus primarily on what caused it to flop.
The Wii U is a home video game console developed by Nintendo, and the successor to the Wii. Released in November 2012 and discontinuted in January 2017, it was the first eighth-generation video game console and competed with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Why It Flopped
- Poor marketing: Advertisements were fairly uncommon and made the Wii U seem like an add-on rather than a new system, Ads also focused too much on younger kids and families.
- It lacked third party support due to its poorly designed hardware that made it difficult to program for. When the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were released, developers fled the Wii U en masse in favor of them. Some poor hardware designs include:
- The PowerPC-based CPU was essentially just three Wii CPUs overclocked and thrown together onto the same chip. According to some developers, the CPU has less than half the power of the Xbox 360 and PS3.
- It only has 2 GB of shared system and graphics RAM, meanwhile neither of its competitors had less than 8 GB of RAM.
- Internal storage space is very small on standard models with only 8 GB (with only about 4.5GB of that actually available to the user) while deluxe models have 32 GB. Either option severely limits digital downloads of games. The only way to expand storage was via an external USB.
- Just like its predecessor, the Wii U lacks an Ethernet port, forcing you to get an adapter if you want to use Ethernet.
- Like its predecessor, it uses a proprietary disk format and cannot play DVDs or Blu-Rays.
- While Nintendo gave it a large amount of first-party support, many of their IPs were completely ignored: most of the first party games were either Mario games or Mario spinoffs. There wasn't even a new Zelda game until after the Switch had been released.
- The GamePad, the Wii U's main focus, was often underutilized or poorly implemented: even Nintendo's own first party games didn't use it much except for Off-TV play. The GamePad's battery life is terrible, which further reduced the useablity of Off-TV play, as did the fairly short WiFi range.
- The four face buttons on the right side of the Gamepad are awkwardly placed.
- Likewise third party developers often didn't know how to implement the GamePad into games not specifically designed with the Wii U in mind.
- Only one player can use the GamePad during multiplayer games, as the system cannot connect to multiple GamePads, despite Nintendo promising it could use two.
- As a result of the above, Nintendo did not sell GamePads separately for over three years, and even then only in Japan. If the GamePad breaks, the player will have to buy an entire new console.
- Some games don't use the GamePad and instead use Wiimotes which don't come included with the Wii U, some even need a MotionPlus add-on.
- While the Pro Controller is often available for players that don't like the GamePad, some games had mandatory GamePad use.
- Despite that the system was clearly struggling, Nintendo kept the price at $300 for its entire lifespan, same goes for many first party games by Nintendo, which are still with their launch price even today.
- The friends list is limited to 100 friends.
- While it certainly did not have as much shovelware as the Wii did, Nintendo exercised very little quality control over indie developer content: games like Meme Run and The Stonecutter ended up on the Wii U as a result.
- Despite being a commercial failure, the Wii U did have enough redeeming qualities to be in Awesome Games Wikia, see here.
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The console was well received by reviewers, though developers were distinctly more skeptical of the system due to its weak hardware, and struggled to find non-gimmicky ways to use its various unique features. Only 13.56 million units were sold as of March 31, 2017, lower than Nintendo's previously lowest selling home console, the GameCube. It should be noted that this is only the lowest-selling because Nintendo claimed the Virtual Boy was a portable system: the Wii U at least outsold that.
The Wii U's failure, much like the failure of the Gamecube before it, caused many to become concerned about Nintendo's future as a hardware manufacturer, wondering if Nintendo had finally "done a Sega." Many were quite critical when their next console, the Switch, was announced, wondering if it would turn out to be a similarly gimmicky piece of hardware that would struggle to find a place.
The Nintendo Switch's initial success seems to be repairing the damage done by the Wii U for now though, with many saying Nintendo learned their lesson from the Wii U. Several of the Wii U's ideas have been implemented for the Switch and done better.
Some of the Wii U's games have even been ported to the Switch, including Mario Kart 8 and Pokkén Tournament.