Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wii U

"Wii U is essentially sold out of retail and we are doing our best to continually replenish stock," Fils-Aime said. "Retailers are also doing their best to get the product to store shelves. But as soon as product hits retail, they're selling out immediately."

"Hi, Dad!" Eli 11.3 is calling me from ToysRUs, where he's gone with his mom to get a toy for his niece's birthday party.

"What's up, buddy?"

"Did you say you wanted a Wii U?"

"I did," I said. "I checked at Target yesterday, but they were sold out."

"They have them here," he said.

"Really?" I asked. "The black one?"

"Yes," he said. "They have big stacks of them. Want one?"

"Sure," I said. "Take it out of my allowance."

I didn't actually say that allowance line, but I should have.

And with that, my son became a bad influence on me, instead of the other way around.

I hooked up the Wii U the next morning. Every time I hit a button, it seemed, there was a 10 second delay before the next screen finished loading. It was annoying.

After I successfully set up the wireless connection, the system told me it needed to download a patch.

It took 40 minutes.

Well, at least that's done, I thought. Eli came home and we put in Ninendo Land, the pack-in game that comes with the 32GB unit.

Another patch.

This one took 12 minutes to download and install.


This is unfortunate, because the console has some unique ideas behind it, and once we were actually able to play a game, the experience improved significantly. Sure, the controller is pretty damn big, but it's also comfortable to hold, and having information displayed on its screen is far more interesting than it sounds when you're just reading about it. Actually, having different information on the controller screen than the t.v. screen is downright fascinating at times, because it's an entirely unique way to experience a game (Dreamcast controller experience notwithstanding, although it was very primitive compared to this).

Nintendo Land, while it in no way compares to Wii Sports, is a typical Nintendo experience (I mean that in a good way) in that it has many layers. Nintendo has a wonderful quality of making games like onions, where you can peel away layer after layer if you choose. Nintendo Land is like that, and it's a good demonstration of what makes the controller unique.

I now clearly understand now how interesting it would be to have all the status information of an RPG, for example, displayed on the controller screen, with the game world on the television. There's  a logical display separation for all kinds of games, when you think about it. More immersion. Less clutter. That's not revolutionary, but it's certainly an incremental improvement.

In a commercial sense, though, I don't think it's going to work.

When we played Wii Sports for the first time, it was exciting. We were moving all over the place, laughing, and it was just tremendously fun. Maybe it wasn't as much fun if you weren't playing with a kid, but 90% of the time I spent playing the Wii was with Eli, and it was great. We played Wii Sports every single day for at least three months.

It was appointment gaming.

Wii U? We played it two days in a row, then Eli didn't even mention it yesterday. It's pleasant, not exciting. Actually, it's very pleasant. Relaxing, even.

That's a very different feeling.

To me, this is a very quirky system that is very difficult to explain to consumers. The Wii was incredibly simple to explain--it only took two words, really. Move. Play.

Wii U? Um, I have no idea. Unique giant controller with its own display screen that can display different data than what's on your television? See the problem here?

I do think there will be a handful of spectacular, unique games on this system, and those games will be permanently treasured. I would be shocked, though, if this system goes big. It's not going to do Wii numbers. It will be closer to the GameCube sales numbers than the Wii.

I was happy to buy one, happy to support Nintendo, but it was a loyalty buy. That's not the kind of purchase decision that drives huge success.

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