As with just about every other major console that has ever launched, promises and plans for the Wii U's first few months are thinning into the reality of a system plagued with a lack of early releases.
Today, Nintendo announced looming Wii U release dates for a couple of major games for their new console, but tied that to a slew of big-game delays, knocking a trio of significant titles out of the system's November-March launch window.
Wii U owners will get their hands on Nintendo and Traveller's Tales' single-player open-world action game Lego City Undercover on March 18 and Ubisoft's side-scroller Rayman Legends, as previously announced, on February 26. Potentially biggest of all will be Capcom's upgraded multiplayer action game Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate that hits on March 19.
But absent from Nintendo's listing today of its January-March line-up are Game & Wario, The Wonderful 101, Wii Fit U and Pikmin 3 (which had already been pushed to spring), all of which had originally been pegged by Nintendo to be out by March 31. Nintendo now merely indicates that those games will "arrive in the first half of the year." Early builds of those games have all been shown at Wii U press events since June 2012.
Nintendo hasn't released a Wii U game of its own since the system's November 18 launch and will wind up going as much as four months until it puts out a new one (Lego), unless it shoehorns some download-only games in the mix.
It's common for new systems to have skimpy release calendars. Console-makers and game publishers scramble to have games ready on launch day and usually need some time to recover and release a new wave. But no console exists in a vacuum, and the Wii U will go through this slow patch while the rival Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 get a bevy of major releases including Gears of War: Judgment (360), God of War: Ascension (PS3), Dead Space 3 (both), BioShock Infinite (both) and more. People who only have a Wii U will be missing a lot.
One bright spot for Nintendo is the announcement of a March 19 Wii U version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, the acclaimed racing game that was released for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC last fall. It comes from EA, a major third-party whose support for Wii U has been tepid.
Nintendo's Wii U line-up should look much healthier come June 2013, when the big E3 show promises to bring a Nintendo ready to show a full line-up of post-launch Wii U games at a time when rivals Microsoft and Sony are likely to be more focused on their new consoles and the type of creakier launch games that Nintendo fans had to be happy with last fall.