Don’t Underestimate The Power of The WiiU
Nintendo has a well-earned reputation for baffling gamers with their approach to console gaming. While on the one hand they maintain a portfolio of classic games, refreshing them every few years, Nintendo also has a habit of frustrating us with their left-field ideas. The WiiU, for example, left many heads red-raw from befuddled scratching as the announcement was made at the last E3. Is it a controller, or a console? Who are they aiming this thing towards? How will this fit into the console market of the early 2010s? Well, whatever the answers may be, there’s one thing I would like to argue: don’t write it off just yet.
Think of the Children
I don’t have children. That’s mainly because I describe parenthood as “like having a dog that slowly learns to talk,” so child services would most likely confiscate it. But I do have young relatives, and you may (like me) have noted the recent habit of younglings to ‘borrow’ their parent’s smartphones to play games. What seems like an innocent fascination with shiny gadgets actually reveals a truth about the immediate future of home gaming. That truth is that there now exists an army of young people who’s earliest experience of gaming is with iPhones and iPads, as well as the DS and the like.
This in turn means that we are now faced with a generation of gamers who have been weaned from the teat of touch-screen; from the areola of the app store. So while the dustbin-lid controller of the WiiU may seem alien to the 90s gamers among us, it will slip into the hands of children like a well lubricated… well… you get the idea.
When each of us were first handed a controller, and let loose behind, say, the wheel of a rally car on Colin McRae, or set off saving the solar system in Starfox, at this point we had one thing in common. I’m talking about the ‘noob-lean’. If this word was in the dictionary, then it would no doubt be defined thusly:
“Noob-lean (ver) A physical bodily lean to the side, often accompanied by anxious controller tilting, often seen in inexperienced gamers who have not learned to disconnect movement in a game from movement in real life.”
This embarrassing blast from the past serves to teach us an important lesson about the WiiU. Unlike the gamers of the last decades, the gamers of the 10′s have never had the ‘noob-lean’ drummed out of them – in fact they have had this odd behaviour encouraged in the WiiU, and the smartphone games they have played. Remember, part of the definition of Noob-lean was “…who have not learned to disconnect movement in a game from movement in real life.” Well imagine a whole new generation of gamers who never have.
Now imagine that you were working within Nintendo’s marketing team, and wanted to grab that set of gamers and gently ease them up to the next level of high-def, high-octane, next-gen fun? Well, you’d probably pitch the WiiU.
Timing is everything
One of the seemingly odd things about the WiiU’s release is the timing. Granted, the other two key players are likely limping up to make similar announcements of their own, and granted, first consoles to market generally take a larger chunk of the sales share for the rest of the generation. However the WiiU is, in terms of power, slightly above the PS3. Emphasis on the word ‘slightly’.
Does this mean that the WiiU will be instantly relegated to being a ‘previous gen’ console as soon as the 720/PS4 are announced? Possibly. However there is another way of looking at it. Go back to that set of wide-eyed young gamers that Nintendo are likely gunning for. What would give Nintendo an edge in getting those kids to buy a WiiU? The price. And if the tech inside the WiiU isn’t too high up the gadget richter-scale, parents will not quake when their kids demand one, as the price should be lower than its next-gen competitors.
In my opinion the WiiU will admittedly have limited appeal to the (urgh, I’ll say it) hard-core audience, but the limit will only be one of time; however long it takes Sony or Microsoft to release their respective next-gen offerings. But for these reasons it really would not surprise me if despite this, yet again, Nintendo end up laughing all the way to the bank.