Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii U which launched on Nov. 18, is sure to be a big seller. Early adopters and longtime fans of the Nintendo brand are practically guaranteed to buy the new system in bunches.
But don’t let the sales numbers that Nintendo is sure to be bragging about fool you into getting too excited about this console. The Wii U isn’t for everyone, at least not yet. After spending time with the system at E3 in Los Angeles this June and at the Wii U Experience in Denver in September, I’d be hard pressed to recommend buying this system just yet.
It’s always a good idea to wait on jumping into a brand new console, so a company can work the kinks out (remember the Xbox 360 error dubbed the Red Ring of Death?). That's certainly the case here. In fact, the Wii U has a number of issues that should really make a consumer take pause. If you’re considering buying Nintendo’s new console, check out my five reasons why you should hold off before whipping out your credit card.
Lackluster launch lineup. A console is only as good as the games you can play on it. Sadly, what’s available during the Wii U’s launch window (Nov. 18-March 31) is littered with titles that have already been out on other systems (“Mass Effect 3,” “Batman: Arkham City,” etc.); games Xbox 360 and PS3 owners can get at the same time as Wii U owners (“Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” “Assassin’s Creed III,” etc.); and offerings that look like the Wii U version of a Nintendo Wii title (“Super Mario Bros. U”). Not even “ZombiU,” which is the best title I played on the Wii U, is the killer app the system needs. Why?
The touch-screen GamePad controller isn’t properly utilized. During my time with the Wii U, I played several different types of games with the GamePad controller to get a feel for how it worked. Sadly, it was underutilized, often being used for nothing more than an inventory screen in your hands instead of in a pause menu. Finding targets with infrared in “ZombiU” was fine, but when I had to manipulate my supplies or weapons it was cumbersome. I thought the touch-screen would work great on “Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition,” but when using it, my gameplay was actually slower compared to what I could do with a regular controller. Until developers figure out how to use it, the GamePad just isn’t innovative enough for it to be a big selling point.
Save your pennies. The basic 8GB Wii U sells for $299. With so little storage space, chances are you’re going to want to upgrade to the 32GB version, which sells for $350. You can buy an Xbox 360 or PS3 with a much bigger hard drive for a lower price. A 250GB Xbox 360 sells for $250, the same price of the 160GB PlayStation. A large hard drive is necessary because the market for downloadable games and content is constantly growing. Don’t forget about the GamePad either. It’s the reason the Wii U is so expensive to begin with. In Japan, extra controllers will sell for the equivalent of about $172. There's no word yet on when extra controllers can be bought in the U.S. The GamePads aren’t that sturdy, so breaking one and buying a replacement will likely be an expensive proposition.
The Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4. Everyone in the gaming industry knows that Microsoft and Sony are currently working on their next consoles. They could be released as early as 2013 (my money is on 2014) and when they do, they will instantly have an impact on Nintendo’s new console. The Wii U does a good job of catching the Wii brand up to what the Xbox 360 (released in 2005) and PS3 (2006) have been doing for several years. But when the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 come out, they will likely have taken the next step in gaming innovation, leaving Wii U owners with a one- or two-year-old console that may be out of date.
Ain’t bringing sexy back. When the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006, it made headlines because it was innovative. There’s a reason you haven’t been getting that vibe about the Wii U: Many gaming journalists view it as Nintendo catching up to Sony and Microsoft. Several developers are taking a “wait and see” approach with the system (not a good sign). No one I’ve talked to in the industry appears ready for a new console. The Wii U just might fall victim to bad timing.
So now what? Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime has called the Wii U a “Swiss Army Knife,” implying that the console has the ability to satisfy many different types of gamers. And someday, he may be right. Early adopters and Nintendo fans are sure to be happy with their purchase, but for everyone else (especially those who already own a PS3 or Xbox 360), the lack of a strong gaming lineup, several unanswered questions and with the next generation of consoles on the horizon, I’d act like a developer and wait and see where the Wii U is headed before buying it.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.