So Asda – the british supermarket chain owned by WalMart has officially decided to stop selling the Wii U through its stores. They’ll continue to stock it via their online service but you won’t be able to find the console or any games or accessories in the store. This is a relatively small deal for gamers, Asda rarely had much Wii U stock in to begin with, but it may signify something more; Nintendo have all but lost EAs support and now retailers are losing faith, do they deserve this and what does it spell for the console?
Back when the 3DS came out I queued up in Asda of all places to get one at midnight. The store staff had no idea what it was but by the time midnight rolled around there were ten or so of us there to pick up one of the cheapest deals around for the console. I got a few games with it and made it home to enjoy them thoroughly. Sadly, months down the line, there were still no more games that I wanted. I’d exhausted the launch line-up, even buying and playing games that I had little to no interest in (and being tempted to pick up Nintendogs) just so the console could get some use. Back then finding 3DS games was a nightmare at retail as there were so few released and they were staying so expensive, it seemed to be a premature end for the console. Then a miraculous thing happened, a few better games came out like Mario Kart and Luigi’s Mansion, not to mention Monster Hunter and Animal Crossing, and suddenly the 3DS has resurrected with avengeance. When we went to Rezzed ( a PC games show) earlier this year we were getting 40+ streetpass hits per day, Nintendo had turned things around with a small selection of high quality titles that gave people a reason to buy the console, hopefully you can see what I’m getting at here.
We didn’t get a Wii U at launch, they were expensive and there were few games we wanted; we picked one up a month or two afterwards (read our review here) and were impressed with the console itself. It’s underpowered to be sure and from the get-go it didn’t have the third party support, but then Nintendo consoles rarely do. What it does have is a unique feature, an excellent online community (Miiverse is much better than you’d ever expect by reading about it, the creativity and positivity of the world is outstanding) and the all important Nintendo backing. Unfortunately at the moment there are still no real ‘killer apps’. Monster Hunter is a lot of fun if you like that kind of thing, Zombi U is tense and unique, the Mario games are a lot of fun and the Rayman Legends demo is better than many full games, but even with the recently released Pikmin 3 there’s still no must-have game, no system seller.
Over the last few weeks when people have been round we’ve loaded up NintendoLand, a game I hated the look of originally, just for a few games and we had a lot of fun with it. Silly little features like the forward facing camera and the asynchronous gameplay of the chase games makes for a lot of fun, showing that you can trust Nintendo to put out quality products, even if it is on their own time. This time is what is hindering the Wii U at the moment. It’s clear that the console was released before the software to support it was ready. In the launch year we will have had no 3D Mario, no Mario Kart, no Smash Bros, no Zelda. While many may scoff at Nintendo’s strategy of re-releasing the same franchises every generation, is that any different to Sony and Microsoft? Think about the Halos, the KillZones, the God of Wars. Nintendo’s clear different is that their games are of such a high quality and are so accessible, they’ve become household names. Without those games, Nintendo is just a quirky innovator struggling to find an audience. When a new Mario Kart comes out they’ll be the must-have platform for millions of people around the world because it’s Mario Kart. When the new Smash Bros comes out people will buy a system just for it because it’s Smash Bros (seriously check out this artwork below).
So while Asda have stopped selling the console likely due to low current sales, I’m sure they’ll pick it up again after Christmas. In the next six months we can expect to see Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart and Smash Bros returning and I’ve got no doubts that they will all be excellent games. They may look rough around the edges compared to Xbox One and PS4 games, but the difference will be less noticable than between the SD Wii and the other current-gen consoles. Nintendo have made a mistake waiting so long to release their big hitters, but once they do we’ll wonder why we ever doubted them. Other than being a generation behind, giving their consoles silly names and failing to advertise properly. But other than that we’ll be wondering, just you see.