Wii U: apology or affirmation?

In my mind, the Nintendo Wii failed in many regards as a home console, both from my self-aggrandizing games-are-art-and-motion-controls-suck perspective, but so too from a business standpoint. Will the release of the upcoming Wii U home console, the equally nonsensically named successor to the Wii, keep haters like myself from hating?

I think not. The release of the Wii U is admittedly still a long way away but it bears too many resemblances to the Wii for me to think Nintendo will change many minds.

The Wii was an outlier among the seventh generation of home consoles. Whilst Sony and Microsoft were flexing and comparing the powerful graphics, Blu-ray and HD-DVD compatibility respectively, high-definition gaming capabilities, and processing power of their Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 to each other, Nintendo decided to eschew the arms race through more purely innovative means.

The Wii’s main selling point (or roundabout way to spell “gimmick”) was its motion controller and peripherals. Nintendo didn’t just want to make games prettier “” they wanted to change how people played them.

The nobility of this goal beside, I would posit that Nintendo’s console was in many ways a failure. The motion controls are not always adequately responsive nor accurate enough (with many games requiring Wii MotionPlus, an added peripheral to increase controller accuracy), and are seldom used to profound effect in game design. The system’s online functionality is also woefully limited in comparison to its competition. Most importantly though, Nintendo made some stellar first-party titles for the Wii, many third-party developers jumped ship due to the unnecessary motion controls and its limited computing power.

All Nintendo did with the Wii was corner itself into the casual market and alienate core gamers, which include your Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Gears of War gamers, among others. In many respects, the Wii U seems to be a partial response to this. For the first time, a Nintendo console will be able to render games in full 1080p HD and be able to hang with””if not surpass””the computing power of the Current Xbox 360 and PS3. Online functionality is also slated to be improved, though in what way I’m not sure.

There are still issues on the horizon, though. The controller is, again, goofy looking and abnormal. It looks like an iPad with buttons on the periphery, and supports motion control; however, though it resembles a tablet computer, it actually just streams video from the Wii U itself and doesn’t support multi-touch controls. The controller features two thumb pads, similar to that on the 3DS, and only one Wii U controller can be used with the console at a time “” both of these being mind-blowingly strange decisions. While the system will be compatible with Wii controllers and 3DS systems, it seems odd and problematic to design anything this way.

The Wii U still has some time in development, and hopefully we’ll see Nintendo use this as an opportunity to make good on many of the squandered possibilities of the Wii.