No one else likes it, basically.
Illustration by Rebecca Hendin
You know how summers go in Britain. It'll be skin-peelingly scorching for, like, a day, perhaps two, and then it'll piss it down for a week and you'll be all: "Sigh, I wish I'd spent some money on a new games console rather than all that barbecue food going bad in the kitchen."
So, don't get caught out! Get gaming, today! And if you like buying expensive burgers from trucks and mashing them into your luxurious facial hair, I've just the thing.
Yes, there are options out there, from the high-powered PC builds that jerks on the internet show off about ("PC MASTER RACE, BRAH" dudes truly are the geek-jocks supreme of gaming culture), to the off-the-shelf new consoles that make updated versions of old games look super pretty but really don't do anything fresh, just yet. And there are specialist handhelds with pointless touchpads and migraine-manifesting 3D, and you can download all sorts of time-wasting apps for your smartphone and tablet, to muck about with when you're not tindering or snapchatting or whatever folks that don't just use their phone to call people do with such things.
But if you're too cool for any of these, the Wii U is for you. No debate. The facts just add up. It's the hipster's toy of 2014.
It's Nintendo. Nintendo Is Really Old. You Love Really Old Things.
Don't deny it. With your fourth-hand Blue Note LPs that you'll never play because the only hi-fi you own is a gramaphone MP3 player, you are into stuff with dirt and grime and history. Nintendo is 125 years old this September – the company was founded on the 23rd of September, 1889, and originally manufactured playing cards. Pretty dusty.
Even the Wii U is older than its immediate rivals, Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's now-Kinect-free Xbox One – the console came out in late 2012, while the higher-powered competition waited another year. (Unless you're Japanese, in which case you can't buy an Xbox One until September.)
So while the Wii U might seem shiny and new, it's actually just the latest product from a company of such creaking joints and brittle bones that it makes the best of Buddy Holly sound like a night out at Boxed.
It's So Retro It's Gone Beyond Mere Nostalgia and Trades Exclusively in Franchise Reboots, Pretty Much.
The line-up of forthcoming Wii U games revealed at this year's E3 read a lot like the roster for the original Game Boy or Super Nintendo – consoles that effectively died out in the mid-90s.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is set for a 2015 release, starring a pink blob that's been a Nintendo mainstay since said rotund protagonist's Dream Land for the Game Boy in 1992. Also due next year is Yoshi's Woolly World, starring Mario's dinosaur sidekick in a leading role – a sidekick who debuted in 1990's Super Mario World for the SNES. And then there's the Zelda series. Perhaps the biggest noise of all Nintendo's E3 reveals was for the Wii U Zelda game. The first entry in the series was a Famicom hit in 1986.
And in 1986, you weren't even born.
The promise of an open-world Zelda – Skyrim, with more Ganon action and green caps – is undoubtedly exciting. But while other companies look to bring new IPs to prominence – witness the success of The Last Of Us for Sony, and Microsoft's Titanfall – Nintendo's enthusiasm for archaic characters seems perverse in an entertainment industry defined by technological progress. But, as we've established, you love old shit. So.
It Has a Native Controller That's So Stupid Developers Are Just Leaving It the Hell Alone.
The Wii U's idea, quite clearly is to combine the power of a console with the practical, tactile accessibility of a tablet. But the reality is that it just doesn't work.
The GamePad's touchscreen is a great way to play Virtual Console downloads like Dr Kawashima's Brain Training, as it comes with a stylus, and some first-party games rely on its functionality to get the most from them: Pikmin 3 even puts the Pad in the game, encouraging you to use your own in sync with its diminutive spacemen.
But third-party studios are unlikely to make the effort to place worthwhile GamePad functionality into just a single version of their multi-platform releases. The forthcoming Bayonetta 2 by Platinum Games isn't making the most use of the Pad's second-screen options, simply allowing for off-telly play while the wife watches Orange Is the New Black – and that's a Wii U exclusive, too. Which says a lot about the ballache of developing for the GamePad.
And Mario Kart 8, the recent saviour of the Wii U's fortunes – or not, as we'll see below – doesn't need the GamePad screen. It's just as easily to play on a standard Pro Controller set-up, the GamePad screen reduced to a map you never look at or a horn that's also mapped to the left trigger button, anyway. Which is totally pointless.
The GamePad screen is low-res, its battery life awful, the technology easily hacked, and using it as a traditional controller just feels awkward – its size isn't conducive to long sessions. But perhaps, as a family friendly company, that was Nintendo's plan all along: to produce a controller that encourages the player to put it down after 30 minutes and submerge their aching palms in ice water.
It's So Non-Conformist That a Whole Bunch of Games Are Never Going to Get Made for It.
Watch Dogs was a big deal earlier this year (although readers of VICE's Profiles Issue may have noticed that I didn't think too much of it). Ubisoft's mega-budget, Chicago-set hacker adventure – aka GTA-with-5G – came out for all major platforms, and yet one version is yet to earn a release.
Windows, this-and-last-gen PlayStations and both current Xboxes – bases, covered. But the Wii U port of Watch Dogs remains nowhere to be seen. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told Polygon that the game is coming before the year is out, but said that the company would not be bringing some of its other big-hitters – Assassin's Creed Unity, certainly – to Nintendo's console. He also confirmed that Ubisoft has a brand-new Wii U game ready to go, but are waiting for the system's sales to pick up before announcing any more details.
"We need the (Wii U) sales to increase so it becomes more mass market," says Guillemot. And if sales don't increase? What of this unspecified Wii U game? "It could never come out." Blunt.
At least Ubisoft are considering putting their products onto the Wii U. Electronic Arts aren't touching it for the next entry in their best-selling FIFA series – FIFA 15 will launch in September for just about every hulking box and fragile handheld under the sun, but will skip the Wii U. It's not a power issue, as the Wii U can churn out sounds and visions as crisp as the PS3, even though it's some way behind the PS4 and Xbox One. So it must be a user-base problem for EA – there simply aren't enough Wii Us out there, in homes, being played regularly.
Which is why you'll love one. Because, basically...
Nobody Else Has One, Which Makes You Special
Mario Kart 8 gave the Wii U's sales a kick in the cheeks – almost three million copies of said game shifted in a single month – but the console's still got Nintendo in the hole. The company made a $92 million operating loss in Quarter Two of 2014.
A general shortage of hit games for the Wii U is the root of this sorry situation, and while Nintendo will hope that its 2015 line-up of Kirby and Yoshi and that Link lad sparks greater interest in the system, it's really only preaching to the converted with such a roster. The Mature-rated Bayonetta 2 isn't going to be a big-seller like the all-ages Mario Kart 8 – the first game, which was available on both the popular 360 and PS3 platforms, didn't do two million copies – and the collaborative Hyrule Warriors, a mash-up of Zelda characters and Dynasty Warriors gameplay, feels more clique contender than commercial champion right now.
There's Super Smash Bros to come, of course, which may or may not make a discernible difference. But just how much more weight can Mario take before Nintendo's really stumbling about like the class clown, disrupting its peers as they try to focus in on making new Uncharteds and Tomb Raiders and Halos and all that bang-bang, grizzly death stuff that sells by the battleship-load? Commentators have said that the Wii U is "more or less dead in the water" – so how long until it sinks, never to be seen again?
I bet you can't wait. Always dredging up decayed culture for contemporary reappropriation. I can see it now: 2018, the year of the Wii U revival, in Pog form. Or whatever the trend-twisters are playing at when you're not making up ridiculous music genres, growing beards or eating goddamn delicious burgers.
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