Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario and the Legend of Zelda, gave an interview to CNN this weekend about the Wii U that basically amounts to "Please give us a chance." He thinks the skepticism shown to the Wii U is akin to the early doubts about the first Nintendo DS, and that public opinion will ultimately swing around on this piece of hardware, too.
"There was a period when we first released the Nintendo DS that people would say there's no way people can look at two screens at once," he told CNN. "I almost feel like, as people get more familiar with Wii U and these touchscreen interfaces, that there is going to come a point where they feel like 'I can't do everything I want to do if I don't have a second screen'."
That may be, but the Wii U has yet to see enough compelling games to come close to making that kind of a case. The comparison to the DS also is a little off, in my opinion, because the DS didn't come at the end of its hardware generation; it led it (in a much different marketplace, too), which gives a little more leeway to to the idea that its twin screens were ahead of their time. If the Wii U is current generation hardware, it's arriving late. If it's the next console generation, about a year after its release it will be a distant third to the horsepower of the PlayStation 4 and whatever Microsoft is cooking, regardless of what its controller offers.
Miyamoto may have a case that the Wii U gamepad is poorly understood. But if so, it's because there currently is little out there to compel most folks to buy it, much less explore it if they already have one. My last login on the Wii U was Dec. 16, incidentally the day I wrote this column. I recall that once I wrapped up watching Sons of Anarchy on Netflix, that was it for my Wii U use. True, primarily I am a sports gamer, a constituency for whom the Wii U is functionally irrelevant. (Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14? Not on Wii U. NCAA 14? Nope. I'll be surprised if Madden NFL 25 comes out on it, frankly.) ZombiU and LEGO City Undercover are the best games exclusive to the Wii U, but they're not enough to cast the GamePad as having indispensable capabilities.
"I feel a device like Wii U, with its ability to continue to offer new features and that network connection and the connection to the TV and the interface, really makes it feel that it's more than just a game machine, but something that offers a lot of practical use and practical purpose in the living room," Miyamoto told CNN. "I look at it as being a very useful device that can do many different things and therefore really seems to be the device that's ideal to have in the living room."
Wait, how long have we been talking about that kind of a role for gaming consoles? Four years? Five? If you need an argumentative trump card that the Wii U is late to the party in its console generation, there it is.