I happened to have had the foresight to have been one of the early predictors of the Wii U. (If you don't believe me, check out this article, which was posted back in February of 2011.) Obviously I wasn't surprised when some fairly believable rumors started flying around a couple months later. I was surprised, however, when I finally got a glimpse at the Wii U back at 2011's E3.
I think the thing that was the most surprising was the controller. I mean, we had heard rumors prior to that point, but at E3, we finally had these rumors confirmed: The Wii U will have a touchscreen controller. It just seemed like such a crazy idea (even by Nintendo standards), though the demos we were shown during Nintendo's E3 press conference gave us a bit of an idea how this could be implemented.
And then it started making sense. A touchscreen controller in this day and age is an incredibly practical thing. I mean, people just love their iPads, right? With the more recent rumors of the Wii U's controller being able to double as an e-reader, we're seeing some very pragmatic (and perhaps painfully grown-up) uses for it.
One major concern, however, is how comfortable that controller will be to hold for extended gaming sessions. I know that personally, I was a bit disappointed to see Nintendo debunk the rumors that their next console would feature a "more traditional" controller. Perhaps the touchscreen deal is "more traditional" than the Wii's arm-flailing remote-and-nunchuck combo, with its twin analog sticks and four-face-button layout. But it's nothing like the very comfortable PS3 or Xbox 360 controllers.
Then again, though I didn't get to feel up the Wii U controller while I was wandering around the E3 show floor, a couple of my Cheat Code Central coworkers actually did. They reported that these controllers are a lot lighter and more comfortable than they look. Of course, neither of them got to hold one for a five-hour gaming session, so I reserve my cynicism.
The other thing that caught me off guard was the name. Wii U? Really, Nintendo? It certainly doesn't roll off the tongue, and when I try to explain the thing to my non-gamer friends, I find it embarrassing to have to keep repeating the title. Especially when those friends keep saying, "How is that the name of a real thing?"
But there are two ways this could go for Nintendo. First of all, it might be brilliant. Give the device a name that will ring a bell with less savvy shoppers by keeping the word "Wii" in the title. Get them to say, "Hey, that's the new Wii! I want it!" I mean, it worked for the Super NES, right?
On the other hand, it's much more likely that consumers will be confused by the fact that this is actually an entirely new generation of gaming consoles. They could find themselves saying, "I already have a Wii. Why should I buy another one?" And this is a problem that several people in the industry claim probably hindered the early sales figures for the 3DS. It simply wasn't obvious enough that this was actually a next-generation device for people who aren't actual gamers. Now there are even stickers on 3DS boxes that tell people that the thing they are buying is not a DS. Perhaps the Wii U could simply have a "Not actually a Wii" sticker on the box. Then again, who takes the time to read stickers these days?
Nintendo has already thought this through, and it's starting to sound like the Wii U will get a name change before launch. To what, we haven't heard, but I'm sure they can do better than "Wii U." If they can drop the "Wii" and put "Nintendo" back in the title, they might be better off. Hell, they could call it the "Nintendo HD" and I think they'd be onto something better than "Wii U." I mean, the Nintendo 64 seemed to do okay, right?
My prediction: Either way, I imagine Nintendo is building up a massive ad campaign as we speak, which will roll out loudly and conspicuously during 2012's E3. Let's just hope they decide what they're going to call the thing before then.
Editor / News Director
Date: February 2, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*