The market’s collective response to the Wii U was "huh?”
Nintendo had a huge hit on their hands with the Wii - the console, which launched in 2006, was popular even with non-gamers and sold over 100 million units. But shortly thereafter, high-definition TVs became the standard, and the Wii just couldn’t keep up with the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, which had sold fewer consoles but were selling more games.
Nintendo finally released their follow-up in late 2012, the Wii U. And aside from the initial rush to buy the console from die-hard Nintendo fans, the market’s collective response to the console was “…huh?”
Part of the confusion was certainly the name. “Wii U” doesn’t sound so much like a new system as it does an add-on for the old system. And an add-on for $300? Not many people would be interested in that.
The system, though, had some interesting quirks and features. It was much the same size as the original Wii, but the main controller had a 6-inch touchscreen flanked by traditional controller buttons. Unlike the later Nintendo Switch, the Wii U’s gamepad didn’t have any of the game hardware inside. Instead, it streamed the image from the console, so you had to stay near the console to keep playing. The screen was intended more as a secondary display for health bars or inventory management.
The games on the system were of Nintendo’s usual quality, with many great titles like Mariokart 8 and Super Mario 3D World. Almost all of the best games on the console have been re-released on the Switch, so thankfully, they won’t languish on a console nobody owns.
The Wii U wasn’t Nintendo’s worst console launch (I’m one of the two or three people that got a Virtual Boy, too), but by almost any measure, it was a disappointing follow-up to one of the most influential consoles of all time.