January 25, 2013

Promises, Promises: The Next Few Months with Wii U


Anyone who's been gaming for any length of time, especially through the launch of a new system, knows that there are generally some launch hiccups to be overcome. Some launch titles turn into vaporware, while some of the best and brightest find themselves delayed due to wholly unrelated problems at the developer level. But for Wii U, the launch day fervor has turned into a look toward the future, and new Wii U owners don’t like what they're seeing. This drove company president Satoru Iwata to, earlier this week, get out a video effort specifically designed to bolster the patience of the doubting faithful.

Dubbed "Wii U Direct," the first half hour video features Iwata talking about what's coming up for the system in the near future. This is a good thing, as checking on a list of Wii U releases set for the near future reveals a sparse list at best, with only a handful of titles having firm release dates, and most of those release dates are a month or more out. Naturally, this has gamers concerned--why buy a system that has no games?--and gamers' concerns are Nintendo's concerns as well. Not only does Nintendo need a sound user base in place for the games that are coming out, but Nintendo's future as a brand in a three-part console war depends on gamer goodwill, a currency that's rapidly in decline.

Thus, Iwata took to the video circuit to assure gamers that they hadn't just bought a particularly expensive paperweight. One of the things Iwata billed in his video announcement is a set of system upgrades coming to the Wii U this year, one in spring, and another set for summer. One of these fixes involves dialing down the time involved in launching an app or returning to the Wii U Menu, a practice that in some cases can take fully 30 seconds.

Following the spring system update, the Wii U Virtual Console, Nintendo's platform for selling the older games, will make its appearance as well. Iwata's video had a note of bad news for those gamers, though, as it seems those who bought titles on the Wii Virtual Console will need to pay up once again, but will do so at a discount. As a further shot in the chops, Iwata fell on his metaphorical sword regarding game development, apologizing for the fact that January and February would indeed be largely free of new games. He identified several titles coming out by summer, but didn't point out several were supposed to be released by March. Iwata did supply an exciting new point in an Apple-style "one more thing" end to the video, saying that a new game for Wii U was coming from Monolith Soft, who put up Xenoblade Chronicles and thus has RPG fans reasonably excited.

The question is, can Nintendo hold its ground with gamers on a string of promises and a hope for a brighter tomorrow? People buy consoles to play games, and not having games to play means their investment is shot. Still, there was a certain value in Iwata's quiet dignity as he presented the case for a bright Nintendo future, even if that future was at least three months off, and in an environment that's likely about to be crammed full of new games as E3 approaches and other new consoles look to jump in.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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