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It’s not unreasonable to say that Nintendo hit a nasty rough patch back in 2011. To start things off, their gangbusters-selling Wii was in the middle of a gaming drought. With most of their focus on their upcoming Wii U console, there wasn’t much that the company released for their home platform.

To make matters worse, their new handheld at the time was selling at a tepid pace. Coming off the heels of the second best-selling gaming device of all time, the 3DS was selling abysmally slow by comparison. It was so bad that a mere 8 months following the launch, Nintendo took a hit to their pride and slashed the price of the 3DS by a whopping $80, from $250 to $170. To mitigate the backlash that would follow, Nintendo implemented the Ambassador program for early adopters. This gave early adopters 10 free NES Virtual Console titles and 10 GBA Virtual Console titles as compensation, though it did little to quell the immediate rage of fans.

Or you can just announce a new model to quell said rage.

However, time heals all wounds, and the 3DS started to pick up steam. Before the Ambassador Program took effect, though, Nintendo had sprung a surprise during E3: the reveal of a new console. The Wii U promised a new level of immersion for players due to its innovative “new controller” (later named the Gamepad).

As time went on, more details arose about the Wii U. Nintendo boasted about third party support, showing an impressive amount of third party launch titles for their first HD console. Companies everywhere were singing praises about the console and despite some worries about the hardware’s power; everything seemed to be in working order. So, on November 18th, 2012, the Wii U released to the public. With a full year-long head start against Sony and Microsoft, it was clear that Nintendo was going to recreate the immense success of the Wii.

Wii U

(Via IGN.)

Well, hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Here we are in 2017, and the Wii U is bowing out of the way for its successor, the Nintendo Switch. Time has clearly not been kind to Nintendo’s 8th-gen console, which is in dead last in terms of sales. The PlayStation 4 ran away with the baton within months of its release, while the Xbox One found itself in a cozy second place spot.

There are a number of factors that one could cite for the Wii U’s poor performance. There’s the fact that the Wii U is barely more powerful than the 7th generation PS3 and Xbox 360. This made ports of games from the PS4 and Xbox One difficult, as games would be heavily scaled back for the Wii U. This meant that companies weren’t willing to put the work in for a lesser version of their titles, and thus third party support for the console crumbled after launch.

Wii U Gamepad, A Costly Mistake

Another factor that contributed to the Wii U’s poor sales is arguably the Gamepad. While a neat and innovative idea, not many developers took advantage of it. Instead, for many it simply drove up the console’s price by another hundred dollars. This money could have gone to making the system more powerful, bridging the gap between it and the two other 8th generation consoles. Considering how games like Star Fox Zero turned out, it’s clear that the Gamepad’s controls and second screen do not always bode well.

Starfox Wii U Gamepad

(Via Fansided.)

However, does that mean there’s nothing redeeming about the Wii U? Is this all it is, a black mark on the storied history of Nintendo? Surely there must be something to the console.

I say there is. The Wii U is a deeply flawed console, sure, but it’s not without several merits. For one thing, the Gamepad is absolutely brilliant when used properly. Simple item management is smooth and immediate, with no need to break up the gameplay. Perfect examples of this are both The Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. Two games that focus heavily on switching items and looking at maps, they benefit hugely from having access to these features at all times.

Another title, ZombiU, takes item management and makes it into a tense affair. When searching your inventory, you stop moving and crouch down. You have to manage your inventory while also keeping an eye on the TV for any oncoming threats. For a launch title, ZombiU did a decent job using the Gamepad to enhance the experience.

However, games such as The Wonderful 101 show how you can properly use the Gamepad without just being an inventory screen. To change what weapon you’re using, you draw the shape on the Gamepad in real-time. The size of the drawing affects how big your weapon is and by extension, how much damage it does. With the game built around this mechanic, it works amazingly well to make a great game!

Wii U Wonderful 101

Wii U Games – The Exclusives Were Great

Another big reason that the Wii U deserves some respect is its library of exclusives. While the console got very few titles in relation to its competition, it certainly isn’t for a lack of trying on Nintendo’s part. The games released on the console are rated as some of the best iterations of their franchises, such as Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and most recently The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (though one could argue Breath of the Wild‘s home is more on the Switch).

This Wii U swan song/Switch launch title is already getting rave reviews. In a series that regularly gets reviews around 90, it’s stunning to see a title whose average score is currently the highest-rated game on OpenCritic at 98% and only one point below the legendary Ocarina of Time on Metacritic with a 98%. This is despite Ocarina of Time having only 22 critic reviews on Metacritic. Meanwhile, Breath of the Wild already has 61 published reviews.

This isn’t all about Zelda though. Mario Kart 8 is an excellent entry in the storied racing franchise, garnering a 9.3 from TechRaptor. The Switch version will only make it better with its reworked Battle Mode and portability, but it’s still an excellent title for the troubled console. Bayonetta 2, the game that Nintendo saved from the trash bin after funding for it was rejected by the competition, now has a 91% score on OpenCritic. TechRaptor gave it a 9.4 score, stating that it “sets the new standard for Character-Action games to come.” It also took home our Pick of the Year Award in 2014.

Bayonetta 2 Wii U

The list goes on, but you see my point. The exclusives (and former exclusives like Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8) that the Wii U has are, for the most part, exemplary. Not only that, but Nintendo decided to break into genres they truly aren’t normally known for. Splatoon was Nintendo’s first foray into the competitive multiplayer shooter genre, while Breath of the Wild is their first attempt at a fully open-world experience. Splatoon sold over 4 million copies on an install base of only 12 million and is rated 81% on OpenCritic, putting it in the “Strong” category with a sequel announced for the Switch. As I already stated above, you know how they did with Breath of the Wild.

This extends beyond those, though. Hyrule Warriors showed that Nintendo was willing to put their IP in the hands of another developer for the first-ever Zelda musou title, which was absolutely packed with content.

Hyrule Warriors Screenshot Wii U

A Fond Farewell to the Wii U

So, at the end of the Wii U’s life, how will the world look back on it? While it did eventually turn a profit, there’s no denying that it’s the worst-selling Nintendo console aside from the Virtual Boy. Nintendo knew they had to switch things up (I am so sorry) and thus the Wii U feels like it got axed rather early for a console. However, with the release of Breath of the Wild, it may surprise you that the Wii U has been getting support for over four years. Considering the general length of Nintendo’s consoles living around 5-6 years each, that’s not too bad.

That being said, the industry is going to look back on the Wii U shaking their heads. So many things went wrong with the console and led to its eventual downfall. However, I feel like there will be a certain fondness for the console later on. It still has several exclusives that you can’t play elsewhere and these games range from “pretty good” to “best-in-class.” I want to give the Wii U the recognition I feel it deserves. Because of this, I’m giving shoutouts to some of its best exclusive games:

Wii U Splatoon

Before you say it, Hyrule Warriors Legends and Super Mario Maker for 3DS are still different games. They’re missing content from their Wii U ancestors. Other than that, this list is some of the best gaming you can do in the 8th generation. It’s a range of genres. It doesn’t even count games that you can find on other Nintendo consoles. These include Breath of the Wild, Yoshi’s Woolly World, and Mario Kart 8.

Hopefully, Nintendo ports these games to the Switch or another Nintendo platform to bolster their library. If not, then I hope people will look back on the Wii U and realize that while it has severe problems, it’s still got a number of worthwhile titles. Maybe with time these titles will get the love and attention they rightly deserve. Despite all its shortcomings, Nintendo put their all into the console. Time for the curtains to close.

And with that, we say our final goodbyes to the Wii U. Rest in peace, and may the Switch put Nintendo back into the limelight for the future.

Breath of the Wild Wii U

Connor Foss

Staff Writer

I'm a writer here at TechRaptor and can also do translation work between English and Spanish. You can usually find me playing horror games or Zelda!

  • jaygerbomb

    The Wii U had it’s flaws, but I did enjoy my time with the system overall. I think the biggest problem was the lack of compelling use of the gameplay. For me, the Gamepad was at it’s best when it was performing supplementary actions – like gyroscopic aming and such. It was nice having maps and such on screen at a glance as well.

    It *really* needed something like Mario Maker at launch. To me, that was what the gamepad was all about – creating/editing levels with a drag and drop interface. Also, the version of Madden that released on Wii U had the ability to draw up plays, call hot-routes, all that stuff. But it didn’t sell because a) it was November, by that point Madden had been out on other systems for 3 months, b) it lacked several feautures the other versions had and c) it was port of the PS2/Wii versions of the game with polished graphics rather than the 360/PS3 versions.

    Even Nintendo’s first party support was lacking, at least from a name recognition standpoint. We’re just now getting an original Zelda game as the system is on its deathbed, we never got a 3D exploration based Mario in the vein of SM64/Sunshine/Galaxy. No Metroid, No Animal Crossing (amiibo party doesn’t count), no Punch-Out. Hell, not even a Luigi’s Mansion, which would’ve worked well with the gamepad.

    Despite, there are a lot of great first party games on the system, just nothing that was a system seller – DK: Tropical Freeze might be my favorite platformer of all time.

  • Sarusig Musicman

    Honestly, I think the actual biggest mistake Nintendo did with the WiiU was the marketing.
    The name is terrible.
    The timing was bad. Too soon after the Wii, which had had an incredible reach and didn’t feel that old because so many people talked about it (though technologically it did feel freakin’ old, obviously).
    More importantly even, they did not advertise it. Like, at all. This was possibly the quietest launch for a Big 3 console that ever was. It’s not even that no one cared, it’s that no one knew. They got lazy, thought they’d get some traction from the Wii, and failed to realise that while they sold a lot of Wii units, it did not mean that they had acquired millions of passionate new fans. Most of the Wii players were casuals. Casuals don’t look shit up. You have to throw it in their faces.

  • I’ll enjoy my system and library for years to come I’m sure. I just wish they would’ve dumped the Gamepad all together and focused more on the system and games when they were designing it. It became obvious that there wasn’t enough games to justify crippling the system with an unnecessary and expensive controller.

  • It’s the Gamecube all over again. A neat little console that nobody cared about despite having some of the best exclusives of the generation.

    It just re-enforces why Nintendo should leave the hardware market (for home consoles, at least) and focus on software; whether it be their own titles or boosting 3rd-party guys like Platinum. I love their games, but I’m tired of spending hundreds of dollarydoos for a console JUST to play their games and nothing else.

  • Casuals probably wouldn’t have cared about the WiiU even if it had been properly marketed.

    The Wii’s biggest (and arguably only) draw was its gimmick of motion controls. That’s what suckered in I’d estimate roughly 80% of unit sales, and I imagine most of them played it for about a week then chucked it in the cupboard next to their Furbies and Rubik’s Cube (source: every non-gamer I know who owned one).

    The benefits provided by the WiiU Gamepad, meanwhile, would be far more appealing to core gamers who can actually understand the advantages of always having your map or inventory available, but people who only played Wii Sports/Fit aren’t going to give two fucks, because they don’t play any of the real games anyway.

  • Sarusig Musicman

    You’re actually kinda proving my point here. You’re saying that BECAUSE the WiiU wasn’t marketed. That Gamepad with a screen on it, it could have absolutely been marketed as a tablet alternative. It could absolutely have been used as a tabletop party game support. Heck, the most used casual platform nowadays, the smartphone, is not that different from a WiiU gamepad – and if trends keep going the way they are, someday they’ll be just as big too.

    You’re making the incorrect assumption that marketing always focuses on the primary function of the device being marketed. That’s not really the case. It focuses on whatever the marketers think will appeal to the demographics they target. If you think the most marketable feature of the WiiU is its slick design (lol), then you market that. There would have been maaaany ways to market to the WiiFit crowds, using the pad as a diagnosis tool or whatever bullshit they want to come up with.
    But they didn’t event try to market it. To anyone. Not core, not casuals.

  • The roadblock you run into with the comparison to smartphones is the same one I feel the Switch is going to run into: people already have one. Most people who want a tablet already have one, and I think the majority aren’t going to want to spend $300 on another tablet just because it can play Zelda, no matter how well marketed it is.

    Yes, you’re right in saying that a good marketing team can spin anything in a positive light, but the crucial difference with the Wii and the WiiU/Switch is the Wii provided something that was impossible to be found anywhere else.

    There was literally no other experience like the Wii, (as shitty and broken as it was,) at the time, whereas there are already tonnes of alternatives to the WiiU and the Switch (some made by Nintendo, themselves, in the DS/3DS). This also explains why the Kinect/Move were resounding failures and have been pretty much disowned at this point, despite being the same (and in some ways superior) products: the casuals had already seen it. It wasn’t new or unique to them, so they didn’t care.

    So even if your marketing is on point, there are still going to be a ton of people who only see it as another version of something they already have and are content with. Yes, the general consumer is easily led, but they’re also extremely fickle and quickly lose interest.


    Yes, the parallel to the Gamecube seems to be a good one. But I feel like it was even less justified in the Gamecube’s case, because the Gamecube had very little that was obnoxious about it compared to the Wii U: the Wii U Gamepad was an annoying gimmick.

  • I actually felt like the Gamepad was the best gimmick out of all the ones we’ve had forced on us since the Wii. It’s the only one that had actual practical uses that improved gameplay in a way a regular controller couldn’t, with seamless access to map/inventory without obstructing the main screen. The problem was, that was ALL it was really good for, and even then most devs didn’t bother implementing it properly.

    Every other use for it, much like the DS touchscreen gimmicks, was just a needlessly annoying obstruction to regular gameplay, even when it was done well like with Wonderful 101. I doubt there was anyone who wouldn’t have enjoyed that game just as much –if not more– if it was played entirely with a regular controller and you just held down a button longer to form larger weapons.


    The Wii U will be remembered as Nintendo’s Dreamcast – a system that was at best a half-generational leap, with a lot of great first-party exclusives, which was mercilessly curb-stomped by the Sony juggernaut. Nintendo certainly endured a lot of self-inflicted wounds, but releasing their “new” system directly into the massive headwind of the PS4 hype machine, following the longest console generation in history, was probably the biggest.

    That said, I have a feeling that future generations will look back on the Wii U with fondness, and I bet it’ll have a hell of a secondary resale market 20 years from now. I’ll remember it for having the first Yoshi’s Island game that at least MATCHED the quality and freshness of the original.

  • Sarusig Musicman

    I’m not sure already owning a phone/tablet would stop people from getting another one. Considering how fast new models come out and people keep buying the new ones, I’m actually pretty sure a lot of people have several of them. And it can play Zelda.

    Again, I agree that functionally, the WiiU didn’t (is it time to use past tense yet?) have anything new or special about it. For casuals or for gamers. But it could have been sold as such – there would have been a million ways to sell it as “more than a tablet”. As you mention at the end, the general consumer *is* fickle, but there was absolutely ways to try to wow them. They just didn’t even try.

    I think one of the reasons the Kinect failed massively (besides every review being negative on the informed consumer side of things) is that there was also a huge disconnect in the communication. The Xbox line of consoles has always been sold as a “true Halo/CoD bro gamer” experience – but then they went and slapped that casual family marketed toy on top of it. This was simply never going to work. In addition, due to how it was presented, it went head first against the Wii, which didn’t help.

  • I don’t think it will stop everyone, but I think it’s a barrier to purchase that will affect some people in a way that didn’t exist with the Wii. I agree with the reviews I’ve seen saying if you’re currently in the market for a portable gaming tablet the Switch is a good choice, and I think it will shift units based on that appeal, but I don’t think it’s going to do gangbusters like the Wii did because I predict a lot of people are going to stick with what they already have and know (although perhaps a few years down the line they’ll pick one up; as you say people regularly trade up to new models).

    I definitely agree they could have done more with the WiiU (I mean, doing literally ANYTHING would have been more than they actually did,) but I still think the best-case scenario would have been it sold as well as the Gamecube did; a modest success. I think, to the casual market, you’d really struggle to convince them this was something they needed when they already have/had a Wii (especially if they remember how quickly their interest in that device waned).

    One of the Wii’s biggest strengths (similar to the DS) was that it tapped into a completely fresh/naive market that had largely been untouched by the console industry: literally everyone I know wanted to at least try one, and I’m not convinced you could capture that same market a second time as they were, for want of a better word, essentially tricked into buying a Wii on the promise it could do things it never really accomplished. Then again, there are people who buy a new iPhone every time it comes out even though it’s been pretty much functionally the exact same since day one, so what do I know.

    In a way, I think it’s unfair that Nintendo’s performance will now forever be measured against the Wii, when that was a completely unpredictable hit; I very much doubt even Nintendo expected it to be as big as it was, and I’m not sure we’ll see another fad like it in gaming for a long, long time; I’d speculate it won’t happen again until VR really hits its stride and overcomes all the current barriers to entry its experiencing.

  • Sarusig Musicman

    Oh definitely. I don’t doubt for a second that the Switch won’t ever come close to the Wii, unless some killer feature comes in later. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the adoption rate was higher than many suspect. Gaming on mobile has become stronger with time, and there is an increasing demand in actually good games.

    Hmmm. Well I don’t believe that the WiiU could have been a runaway success like the Wii was, no. But beating the Gamecube, yeah, that I would believe. The Gamecube was… well just a console really. It wasn’t bringing anything new to the table, and because the Big 3 was not in place yet, it was competing directly with the PS2 and a bit later, the Xbox (and I suppose Sega was here too). The WiiU on the other hand, was clearly a “Family friendly Nintendo era” product, its goals were clearer, and it was certainly not competing with Sony or Microsoft. In terms of timing and marketability, I really believe the WiiU had much more going for it than the Gamecube did.
    The convincing of the casual in the need to renew their console is an interesting point. If I once again do an analogy with the mobile market, it’s not unreasonable to expect people to upgrade to a superior system after 5 years, heck I’m pretty sure the average Joe changes mobile more often than that. While it would certainly have been a challenge to convince casuals that this was worth it and necessary, I’m not convinced it would not have been possible. After all, gamers – who are very pick consumers – accepted that fact.

    The Wii definitely had a novelty factor which made everyone want to at least try it. But again, it was spun really well by Nintendo. VR is at least, if not even more exciting as a concept than motion gaming – yet it doesn’t seem to be able to capture the interest of people as much (and I just mean the interest, as in “wanting to try it”, I realise that the price tag makes it much harder to access). It makes me come back to my point which is that, in essence, anything could be a feature – it just needs to be presented well.
    We can see right now that Nintendo is doing all they can with the Switch – federating all their communication around that “click” of the controller snapping in place representing the console’s versatility, yet they’re a little clumsy with it because they’re trying to demonstrate half a million features at once.

    Well… measuring Nintendo’s success against the Wii does somewhat seem unfair. Until you remember that the best selling console of all times is the PS2. Which is really a super vanilla console with no tricks. So, I don’t know.
    And I won’t make any speculations about the next fad, because oh boy have we had stupid ones coming out of left field in the past. Remember the freakin’ Tamagotchi?

  • Scruffy, the Janitor

    It’s unfair compare the Dreamcast and Wii U. For starters, the Dreamcast was the first 128 bit console. At the time, that was huge. You had the Saturn and Playstation, which were both 32 bit and the Nintendo 64 (it’s in the name). Had Sega not had the massive flop that was the Saturn, and the minor one of SegaCD, I believe the Dreamcast would have lived due to better financial support.

    In the case of Nintendo, I think we have a much more successful version of the Virtual Boy fiasco. The Wii U was all gimmick. You were right to call it a half generation leap, but when it boils down to everything, it was a mistake at its core with a lot of good titles and padding to soften the blow.

    I want for Nintendo to succeed so bad. Theyre still my favorite of the console folk. Many times I have taken my 3DS to the toilet with me, and spent upwards of an hour on the can because I was too busy playing to wipe (enjoy the mental image). That said, I hope that the Switch is more than just a gimmick like the Wii U was.