Some bet on Wii U failure, others see golden opportunity

The legendary maker of Pong and founder of Atari, Nolan K. Bushnell, is baffled by the Nintendo Wii U according to an article by the New York Times. When asked about the potential of the console’s success he states, “I don’t think it’s going to be a big success.”

He isn’t the only one spouting pessimism on Nintendo’s latest console, but having sold 400,000 Wii U in the first week, it’s hard to argue that the gaming system isn’t off to a solid start. What’s more, Bushnell and other industry veterans are predicting the overall deterioration of gaming consoles in general, pointing to mobile gaming as a key contender for the casual gamer. This is why, they argue, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony are all moving to make their systems fully integrated home entertainment/media experiences rather than gaming consoles.

I’m not convinced. We’re on the brink of the next generation of consoles, and while Nintendo hasn’t exactly kicked down the door and demand complete gaming domination, there is clearly innovation in console tech. Furthermore, we’re at least a full generation of devices away from the web and various technologies converging to the point of console obsoletion. And even so, consumers will still want an all-in-one media solution.

That’ll take a good 5 to 7 years. In that time, you can guarantee that Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony are all looking at the same data and projections, attempting to accomplish a number of things:

  • Innovate within the gaming space to remain ahead of the curve
  • Expand beyond the gaming space to protect/insure against gaming uncertainty

Whether the Wii U is an evolutionary move or a revolutionary move remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Nintendo has more than one iron in the fire. Today they even proved that the Wii U isn’t their only holiday play by officially announcing the Wii Mini in Canada. How many other opportunities and extensions of the Nintendo brand could they be testing?

If there’s cause for concern, it’s also cause for excitement: Nintendo is perhaps least prepared to take on the mobile territory. Microsoft, makers of XBOX, also own one of the top 3 mobile platforms in Windows Phone. Sony, while having been largely unsuccessful with their Sony Xperia Play phone based on Playstation, have a boatload of experience in the mobile space. Nintendo, meanwhile , has done next to nothing when it comes to mobile beyond their own portable gaming units.

But what if they did? What if Nintendo partnered to bring their 1st party titles to a variety of mobile operating systems? What if they partnered to create a Nintendo phone? It’s fun to think about the future, but we’re right here, right now, and right in front of us we’ve got the Wii U.

The pendulum swings both ways. The first game I reviewed was ZombiU and I absolutely loved it for not only embracing a diamond in the rough genre, but also for leveraging the Gamepad to enrich that experience. The second game I reviewed was Madden 2013, a horrible rendition of the popular game that was put to shame by rusty Gamepad usage and poor graphics.

Make no mistake: the potential is there, but Nintendo can’t do all the work on their own. Like any platform, it’s all about developers, developers, developers. If Nintendo can rally the troops to create intriguing games based on the Wii U’s unique Gamepad+TV proposition, the sky is the limit, and the Wii U will be a stepping stone for something much bigger. But if Nintendo fails to capitalize on their “next gen” headstart, we could look back on the Wii U as one of Nintendo’s last attempts at originality. Fortunately for us, I think Nintendo already has some surprises up their sleeves in the next 2-3 years ahead.

What do you think? In 1, 2, or 5 years from now, what will we be saying about the Wii U? How about Nintendo as a whole?

[Nintendo phone image courtesy of]