I like all the flack Nintendo got for not releasing a console that played HD games until 2012, which was released 6-7 years after its competitors. There are several things to say regarding this, and likely most of them have been said. To address HD in 2012, I must say I am sorely disappointed at the lack of people using Blu-Ray in 2015. For all the complaints about Nintendo not utilizing HD with their previous console, it’s amazing that at the end of 2011, 91% of households had DVD players, while only 26% had Blu-Ray players (according to research by Centris). I don’t know the stats at the end of 2014, but I am still amazed that anyone with an HD television would still purchase DVDs. Obviously, I won’t chastise you for movies that you bought on DVD that weren’t available on Blu-Ray. But can you really blame Nintendo for waiting to release an HD-capable console when most of us weren’t really showing major entertainment companies that we cared about HD-quality content in the first place?
I hope that the same people who criticize Nintendo for “waiting” are people that had HD TVs and Blu-Ray players in 2006. Of course, nobody would buy a Blu-Ray movie unless they had a Blu-Ray Player. So it starts there; you have to buy a Blu-Ray player to watch Blu-Ray movies. It would follow that you really should own an HD television before you get a Blu-Ray player. But with the accessibility of Blu-Ray players (you can get brand name players for $50, or brand name external Blu-Ray drives for computers for $80), it has never been easier. HDTVs are also relatively inexpensive.
The main point is that if you’re going to complain about Nintendo’s lack of HD games until 2012, you need to step it up by actually showing companies that HD matters to you. That, at the very least, starts with getting an HDTV. So I think Nintendo was perfectly justified to develop the Wii as an SD console. Frankly, most people weren’t even having the SD/HD conversation back then. I think more people were still talking about the switch from fullscreen to widescreen (remember that, youngun’s?) Heck, I didn’t get a widescreen TV until 2010. And Nintendo followed up by releasing more 1080p HD games than PS4 and Xbox One combined in the first year (their games were HD, but only at 720p, not at 1080p).
I think people are simmering down on those conversations, anyways. There are other things about the Wii U that were peculiar. For instance, EA didn’t release any games for the platform in 2014. This is very strange, as Wii U has about as many console units sold as the Xbox One. To say that the Wii U is in a bad state would be absolutely false. I read an interesting article last month that made a good case as to why the Wii U shouldn’t be compared to Sega and its eventual faliure as a player in the console business. Sega doesn’t really have that many exclusive franchises up its sleeve. In fact, Sonic is the only major one that comes to mind. For Nintendo, however, one can easily spout names of huge franchises-Mario, Zelda and Pokemon, to name just a few.
Nintendo won’t ever fully drop off the map the way Sega has. That’s not to say Sega is going anywhere either; I happen to find the Sega’s Sonic All-Stars Racing (or however it’s actually titled) game series a nice companion to the Mario Kart series. However, it is quite amazing to me that Nintendo seems to be losing third-party support again; it feels a little bit like the Gamecube all over again. Obviously, not all major games from PS3 and Xbox 360 made it to the Wii. Most of the time it was for hardware limitations; the Wii really couldn’t compete with the PS3 and Xbox 360 and their hardware enabling good looking games in HD. Even then, EA ported Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to the Wii. The game didn’t look so great, but played relatively well.
The Wii is, in some ways, way worse than the PS3 and Xbox 360. The Wii U is quite a bit closer to PS4 and Xbox One, while it is worse than those slightly newer consoles, in terms of graphics. Nintendo has their Pro controller for the Wii U, which is very similar to the Xbox One controller. EA and other developers really could be developing games for the Wii U and have gamers use the Pro controller to play. It’s amazing to me that third-parties are skipping the Wii U despite that they don’t necessarily have to make their games utilize the GamePad. And if they want to use the GamePad in some manner, they can simply use it for off-screen play. Nobody said that EA has to add super cool GamePad gameplay elements into their games.
I would rather that news articles read “EA releases no Wii U games in 2014 that utilize GamePad features” rather than “EA releases no Wii U games in 2014”. It is very strange to me that EA sees no potential in the Wii U, which I believe now has 8 million units sold worldwide (though with the recent closure of Maxis, I’m not sure what to think of EA anymore). People might make the argument that consumers will not buy EA games on the Wii U because those “hardcore” gamers who buy EA games would buy it on their already-purchased “hardcore” console. Nintendo is probably seen as making kids-friendly consoles. It’s amazing to still hear people tout that when there are games available like Bayonetta 2 for the Wii U, Resident Evil 4 for the Wii and Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube.
Nintendo has really made all genres of games available to gamers. I suppose the question then becomes, what will Nintendo do to win back third-party support? The answer might be something that’s too soon. I would say make a whole new console. If the console’s lifespan is 5-6 years before its successor is released, we could expect Nintendo to release a new console in 2017. That’s still a ways off, and one has to wonder if Nintendo will wait that long. It’s too soon to even announce a new console; Nintendo probably wants to not only milk Wii U owners, but to keep development simple. Nintendo also has a hurdle with the GamePad. Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move were more accessories available for those consoles. Nintendo developed an entire console around the GamePad, rather than have it as a purchasble accessory. So, in some ways, Nintendo has to be diligent to make games that utilize the GamePad.
Nintendo is approaching a critical time to keep up with its console owners’ demands for better content. I’ve reflected on the Wii U in 2014. I hope to be able to look forward to more and more games this year that will make the Wii U the must-own console that Nintendo (and I) desperately want it to be.