As a Wii U owner it's difficult to not feel a little hard done by. Despite Nintendo's shoddy marketing of the system pre-launch, those who had done their own research into it were prepared for something great. It was native 1080p, for starters, which already had us salivating at the prospect of seeing Mario triple-jumping through the Mushroom Kingdom in crisp, HD graphics. The touchscreen GamePad promised to add a whole new dimension to games, more so than the original Wii's frivolous motion-controller. Even the launch line-up, which had come under much scrutiny from detractors of the new console, sounded a great deal better than most others we've experienced over the years.
Then the Wii U was released. Its sales, unsurprisingly given the aforementioned poor marketing of it, were disappointing by original Wii standards. But those who bought it were impressed by the new technology. The GamePad genuinely felt like the future. You could pause a game of Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed to quickly show your girlfriend a YouTube video of a cat sitting in a box. You could change the TV channel with it, and turn the volume up or down, and if need be you could even turn your whole TV off and just sit there, in silence, not doing anything at all.
The success of the original Wii was in no small part due to word of mouth. "I've got the new Nintendo console," you informed your friend, "it lets you play tennis without having to go outside and use your arm muscles." However, the appeal behind the Wii U isn't so easy to explain. "I've got the new Nintendo console," you inform your friend, "it lets you play home console games on a touchscreen."
"Like an iPad?" Your friend inquires.
"No, because you can play them on your TV, too." You reply.
"So what's the point of playing the games on the touchscreen, then?"
"Well, if you want to watch a documentary about cane toads but also want to keep playing Mario, then you can do both at the same time."
"But what if you have no interest in cane toads?"
"Then you can watch something else."
But the real problem with the Wii U's tentative first steps into the supposed next generation of home consoles was its games. Initially, it seemed that the Wii U had a great launch line-up, with New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU, Nintendo Land, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Pikmin 3, and Rayman Legends all looking set to blow our socks off. But then some of the these titles were changed to elusive launch "window" releases, intended to hit shelves between the console's launch and March 31st, 2013. What we were left with was good, but nothing that could convince the otherwise ambivalent consumer to go out and buy the Wii U at its current price point. Nintendo Land failed to take off in the way Wii Sports did. New Super Mario Bros. U was just Mario wearing better make-up. ZombiU, the "adult" game that was intended to lure in the mature audience, received mixed reviews.
But console launches are always a little underwhelming. The Xbox 360 launched with the King Kong movie tie-in game and Call of Duty 2 as its biggest sells, while the PlayStation 3 launched with a bag of magic beans and a note reading "IOU". The Wii U still had a few games tucked into its launch window to draw in those who were reluctant to pick it up on their launch day, right?
Pikmin 3 was delayed a month following the Wii U's launch to "April - June 2013". Aliens: Colonial Marines, a multiplatform title which Nintendo repeatedly informed us they had the best version of, has turned out to be a huge disappointment. Scribblenauts Unlimited has been delayed in Europe, though no reason or further release date has been given. But most infuriatingly of all, Rayman Legends' release date has been shifted from March 1st all the way back to September. Originally intended to be a Wii U exclusive, it will now appear on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and, although it is ready to be released for the Wii U, it has been delayed in order for all three consoles to release it simultaneously.
"But it's OK, though, because Nintendo will release a new 3D Mario, Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. game and then everything will be fine", you tell your friend.
"When are they coming out?" Your friend inquires.
"I don't know." You reply.
In the last Nintendo Direct presentation, Nintendo Global President and Professional Enthusiastic Human Being Satoru Iwata acknowledged the Wii U's almost non-existent software line-up. He then revealed Nintendo would be announcing a new 3D Mario, Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. at E3. He then showed us some screenshots from a HD re-release of Wind Waker they have planned. With Sony looking likely to announce the PlayStation 4 in a presentation on February 20th, Nintendo needs to give us something now, not in mid-June, that will convince us to pick up the Wii U.
With Iwata recently informing investors that the console is already being sold at a loss and therefore Nintendo will not drop its price, and with the Wii U's specs having been revealed to be far inferior to even the reported entry-level specs of Sony and Microsoft's next home consoles, Nintendo needs to grab the market's attention before the inevitable hype surrounding the Xbox 720 and PS4 begins. As Nintendo remains shaky on giving us information on any of their most highly anticipated future releases aside from Iwata's promise that they're all definitely being developed, and with just six (yes, six) boxed games with confirmed release dates set to come out within the first half of the year, Nintendo is setting themselves up for an unnecessary uphill battle when their next-gen competitors finally come out to play.
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.