Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Underrated Underdog Console: Wii U

So the Wii U has been out in the U.S. since November 18, 2012. It's barely even three years old yet and people are tossing it aside like it's not worth making games's gotten to the point where even Nintendo has started to convince themselves that the console is a sinking ship and that everyone should move on to the next project, codenamed: NX.

Developing software for the Wii U is a Catch-22 situation: Publishers and developers seem to think that they will not make much profit on the fledgling console, but by not developing for the system at all, Nintendo will never truly grow outside of their first party franchises.

What irritates and frustrates me the most is that these companies are often providing "half-assed" games when they do decide to contribute to the Wii U library because on the competing platforms (PC, XBOX 360/XBOX ONE and PS3/PS4, respectively) the games have all of their original features intact. As such, players that pick up a copy of the game for the Wii U are not getting the full value of what they initially paid for.

Warner Bros. for instance, did not include an online multiplayer mode for Batman Arkham Origins, while Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist has an online multiplayer mode, but no local split screen co-op.

Granted, this isn't the first instance of companies applying this "laissez-faire" (or "do-nothing") type of approach to Nintendo's platform. However, this practice has become far worse due to the sheer number of companies hopping on this informal policy bandwagon.

Treyarch, (and by the transitive property, Activision) in my opinion, is one of the worst offenders of this nonchalant apathy towards Nintendo and is guilty of making false promises on more than one occasion. This was evident during the Wii era with Call of Duty: Black Ops lack of DLC (although, that console's limitations were clearly evident) and with Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Wii U now. It took Treyarch two years after the game was released to develop the Nuketown 2025 map, which was long overdue. Call of Duty: Ghosts by Infinity Ward in comparison managed to finally get the Freefall map several months after the other consoles received it.

Ubisoft proved that DLC was possible on Nintendo's latest hardware by offering transactions for Assassin's Creed III. Sources reported however, that these options would not be available for the latest installment of the franchise, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

On a much more positive note, Ubisoft creative director Jonathan Morin had briefly discussed his latest title, Watch_Dogs, stating in an interview with CVG (ComputerAndVideoGames) that it is "...a beautiful game on Wii U and it's cool to play it just on the GamePad". In addition a comparison between that version and the other on PS3 and XBOX 360 was made of Morin and he claimed that "On the Wii U, you can play on the GamePad screen. There are no new features or anything like that - it's the same game, but we're optimizing the controls for the beast that is the Wii U GamePad".

So there is some hope for the Wii U considering that a few (if not many) games will have all of the bells and whistles that the other platforms come with naturally. (You can read the conversation in its entirety here.)

That's not to say that all of the blame is on the third-party developers. Au contraire! Nintendo has not exactly done an optimal job of generating public awareness of what the Wii U actually is, or what it is capable of either. Initially, many folks believed it to be an add-on to the existing Wii console (perhaps due to the name). Thus, perhaps folks viewed it as an unnecessary peripheral rather than an entirely new home console.

The sad thing is that most companies are advertising that their games will be on "next-gen" consoles, but they deliberately exclude the Wii U. As such, it's fallen into this abstract, unknown, unspoken category.

How can Nintendo get back on top? I would suggest just belting out as many games as possible. There has been a positive shift since Mario Kart 8 was released and even moreso with Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Hopefully, with the sales of the Amiibo figures, profits gained from those sales can apply to some of Nintendo's major financial losses.

How this information will affect other publisher and developer opinions remains to be determined, but it does not bode well in this economic climate. On one last positive note, Nintendo's latest intellectual property, Splatoon for the Wii U is doing quite well as a third person shooter. It's a game where characters known as "Inklings"— beings that can transform between humanoid and squid-like forms, hide or swim through colored ink sprayed on surfaces using gun or brush-based weaponry. The object of the game is not to score points via kills, but through covering territory with the most amount of ink. It's a game that has become quite popular despite the sluggish sales of the home consoles themselves.

We as gamers need to be patient and keep watching to ensure that Nintendo gets its fair share of publicity and we need to stop treating it like the third political party in an election. The more competition between the three major competing companies, the lower the prices will be for the consumer.