Last week it was reported that Nintendo Wii U weekly sales had declined by a staggering 30%. Not the best way to start off the new year. Analysts suspect that Nintendo will have to prematurely lower their console price in order to stay ahead and keep sales figures up. So, is the Wii U shelf worthy? Will the speculated Xbox 720 and PS4 knock this component out of the ring, or does the Wii U have what it takes to stay in the game?
Wii U Basics
As most of you should know by now, the Wii U comes in two models – the Basic (MSRP $300) and the Deluxe (MSRP $350). If you’re in the market, I recommend grabbing the Deluxe because you get Nintendo Land included in the box, and a larger 32GB flash storage drive plus a few more accessories. Device popularity aside, who doesn’t like more goodies anyway? Besides, the game and the memory are definitely worth the extra fifty bucks alone. All Wii games and controller accessories are compatible with the Wii U, so there’s no need to buy anymore if you’re already a Nintendo fan boy, or girl, with a small Nintendo hardware stash. One thing I really like about this console is its size. It’s almost half the size of the Xbox 360 and PS3. So if you’re considering sticking this guy on your shelf it won’t take up too much space.
The Gamepad was very responsive in my tests and latency issues, at least for me, were not a problem. The battery lasts about three to five hours depending on what you’re playing and it takes about two and a half hours to fully charge. One of the most unique features on the console is the ability to play off-TV games directly on the Gamepad itself. It’s a great feature if you live with roommates, or others that might not care to watch you play the latest and greatest first-person shooter. But this feature alone doesn’t really set the Wii U apart from the competition. Our devices are becoming increasingly interconnected, and while Nintendo had a good idea here, they may have introduced the console and feature a bit too late. Not every game supports Gamepad-only play, so if you’re considering adding this to your shelf, and this is a feature you’re excited about, make sure that the games you’re buying support it. The range of the Gamepad is decent and during my tests it performed well within about 25 feet of the console. Anything outside of this range, or not within line-of-sight, is shoddy at best.
The Gamepad is LARGE. It works well in the hands, but you might find it a bit odd at first if you’re used to gaming on systems like the Xbox 360, or PS3. There’s definitely a learning curve with the Gamepad, but that’s to be expected with any new device. One thing worth mentioning here is Nintendo’s move away from the already proven physical control design that Microsoft and Sony have perfected. I’m not saying that different is always bad, but interface design and ergonomics are extremely important in product development and I see no significant improvements with respect to either one on this device.
User Interface (UI)
The interface is very similar to the 3DS, incorporating the familiar rows of tiled icons representing games and applications. Overall, it isn’t bad. I wouldn’t say Nintendo went above and beyond here, and it certainly isn’t anything revolutionary, but it works. No significant changes and nothing that really makes this console stand out from the rest of the crowd.
As the first Nintendo console to support HD gaming, games look better than ever. Who knew Mario could get any better? Graphics are on par with the Xbox and PS3, but there are a few texture and frame rate deficiencies that serious gamers may notice. Nothing that the casual gamer should be concerned with. So unless you’re a Mario fan like myself, there really isn’t a good reason to grab a Will U at the moment.
At the end of the day it really comes down to the gamer. If you’re a diehard Nintendo fan, then you probably already have the Wii U. It’s about the games after all. Those that aren’t hypnotized by the exclusive console games like ZombiU, Super Mario Bros., or Nintendo Land might not have any interest in picking up Nintendo’s latest console. The features Nintendo brought to market with this device weren’t anything radically new. In my opinion, the only way Nintendo can keep bringing new customers to the platform is through game development. So let’s hope that we see some great titles for 2013! Fingers crossed.