Maybe your Wii is collecting dust. Maybe you're sick of hearing people say that their Wiis are collecting dust. Either way, it's undeniable that the Wii has not garnered the same software support as, say, the Xbox 360. Or the PlayStation 3. The Wii's release schedule over the past two years has had some serious holes.
So when Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Aime stopped by Kotaku's offices Friday afternoon, I had to ask: What's to stop that same thing from happening to their next console, the Wii U?
It's generally accepted that, by the time the next Xbox and PlayStation get comfortable in the marketplace, the Wii U will be significantly less powerful than its competition.
What will ensure that the Wii U will receive a constant stream of high-quality software? Why shouldn't Nintendo fans worry about getting burned again?
Fils-Aime made some interesting points. Maybe they'll convince you that the Wii U will be different. Maybe they won't. Here's the full conversation:
Kotaku: "Even some of Nintendo's biggest fans would have to admit that the Wii's latter years were a little barren for software, and Nintendo's energy since 2010 has seemed focused on 3DS and then Wii U, while the Xbox and PlayStation were getting—"
Fils-Aime: "So you're not counting Skyward Sword?" (laughter)
Kotaku: (laughter) "I'm of course counting Skyward Sword! I loved Skyward Sword, I loved Donkey Kong Country Returns, but there were so few of those types of games, those types of big Nintendo experiences that I wanted—"
Fils-Aime: "Mario Party 9 launched in that timeframe too."
Kotaku: "It did, it did, and the Kirby anniversary game just came out. But how can Nintendo fans be sure that they won't run into that same problem again? If I feel like I bought a Wii and it got kind of left in the dust for the last few years of its existence, and I wanna buy a Wii U, how can I be sure that that's not gonna happen again?"
Fils-Aime: "So let me answer the question two ways. First I mean let's deal with the specifics. The specifics are if you look at the last 18 months and you look at the games that have come out, pretty strong games, and these are games that have sold exceptionally well: so Skyward Sword, let's include in the timeframe I'm talking about Donkey Kong Country Returns, Mario Party 9 was not too far outside of that window. So—"
Kotaku: "But hold on, now that's three games in two years."
Fils-Aime: "I could pull out my list and include a bunch more-"
(The two Nintendo PR representatives sitting in the room with us then brought up Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and Fortune Street.)
Fils-Aime: [Technical] performance has absolutely nothing to do with longevity and support.
Fils-Aime: "I think we have to be clear that from a first-party publishing perspective, we had a number of key titles, titles that sold quite well over the last— let's call it two years.
"Now having said that, it is a fair statement that typically in the latter part of a system's lifestyle, there are fewer games that come out, that is an absolutely true statement. But I think you have to put this in complete perspective. If you look at this current generation and you look at the top five [best-]selling games, four of those five are Nintendo-published first-party games playing only on the Wii.
"So we've got a pretty good legacy that if you buy our hardware, that there are gonna be some great games for you to buy, and games that you're going to keep coming back to time and time again.
"So as a consumer thinks about Wii U, asks 'Should I jump into this proposition?' Aside from the 50 games that we've talked about during the launch window, am I feeling pretty comfortable that there's gonna be a lot of great content for me to buy? Absolutely.
"And the best part is that now with HD capabilities and a strong online system, third parties are gonna bring their best content to the Wii U. Because those were two key barriers that if I'm creating the latest Call of Duty experience and I'm looking to bring it to the Wii a year ago, in an SD format without a robust online experience, they made the decision not to do that.
"Now with Black Ops 2, certanly we're getting the latest, best effort from [developer] Treyarch, and bringing it on our system."
Kotaku: "Well is the Wii U going to be able to run the newest Call of Duty in four or five years? Is it going to be able to run Call of Duty on the same level as the Xbox or PlayStation?"
Fils-Aime: "Well, so unless you've got details that you wanna share on the next Xbox or PlayStation. (laughter) You know, it's a rhetorical question—who knows?
"But the fact is that in the Wii U we've built a lot of capability. And during the Nintendo Direct that happened last night or two nights ago, overnight Wednesday to Thursday, we showed a lot of specs information for the Wii U: the fact that it has an extremely large RAM built into the system, the fact that the discs are high-capacity [25gb] discs. And so we've got a system that, based on our review of the world and our architecture, it absolutely's gonna hold up and bring the best content from third-party for a long, long time."
SOME WII U TIDBITS
- You can watch Netflix or Nintendo TVii on the Wii U's GamePad, but not while you're playing games. No real multi-tasking here.
- No Virtual Console or Wii games on your GamePad either. Wii channels and games will be accessible on your big screen, in SD. "Think of this as having a Wii inside our new console," Fils-Aime said.
- The Wii U will launch with video chat, an Internet browser, Nintendo TVii, and the digital eShop. Fils-Aime says there are no other included games or software like the 3DS's Face Raiders or Find Mii.
- The Wii U's game download store, the eShop, will be region-locked. Fils-Aime wouldn't tell me whether packaged software would be too.
Kotaku: "But again, let me play devil's advocate, as a skeptical gamer, if I'm listening to what you just said, there are two things to that: First of all, the list of top-5 best-sellers, not all of those are games I'm playing as a Kotaku reader, as an intense hardcore gamer, I'm not playing a lot of Wii Sports, I'm not playing a lot of Wii Fit.
"So that's the first element of that, right? The second element of that is if we're looking back at history, obviously we can't predict what's going to happen four or five years from now, but if I'm looking back at history and I'm saying hey, the Wii kinda tapered off during its last two years as far as third-party support, even if first-party support, as you mentioned, yes, has been solid, but as far as third-party support it was all going towards those other two machines. Why should I not think that same trend is going to continue in four or five years?"
Fils-Aime: "But again, you could go back and have the same conversation looking at the original PlayStation. You could have the same conversation looking at PlayStation 2. You could have the same conversation looking at the original Xbox. The fact of the matter is if you look at the generation before this one, you look at GameCube, you look at PS2, you look at the original Xbox. From a performance standpoint, GameCube was, if not #1, certainly #2 from an overall performance standpoint. #3 was PS2. So performance has absolutely nothing to do with longevity and support.
"The basis is how big is the installed base, how robust is the ongoing conversation with key licensees, that's what's gonna drive the level of ongoing support at least from a third-party perspective, whether or not a system holds up six years or seven years after launch."