January 24, 2013, 8:30 AM —
As an early adopter of the Wii U, I haven't been thrilled with what Nintendo has had to offer. On launch day there was a decent selection of titles available but some features, like Nintendo TVii were MIA. And the first Wii U experience a new owner enjoys is a lengthy patch download. This is such an issue that Nintendo themselves suggested that holiday gift givers unpack the Wii U and patch it ahead of time to avert Christmas morning disappointments.
Since launch, things haven't really improved much. Nintendo TVii turned out to be a dissappointment and the Wii U interface is horribly slow when it comes to loading and unloading apps. As for new games, well there haven't been any aside from a few downloadable titles on the eShop (which has its own issue: your Nintendo Account and any purchases you make on it are bound to a specific Wii U. If for some reason you buy a 2nd Wii U you'd have to re-purchase any game you wanted to play on it).
But finally there is some good news. Yesterday Nintendo held one of its frequent "Direct" video updates and this month it was Wii U Direct. Here it is if you have half an hour to spare:
Items from the presentation that grabbed my attention are two updates (one this spring, one in summer) that are designed to improve the speed of the Wii U interface/OS. The system really, really needs this.
The Miiverse, which is essentially an embedded forum, will break free of the Wii U and be available on cell phones this spring, initially in a browser-based implementation but later as a stand-alone app. The Miiverse is actually kind of fun and I look forward to being able to access it on something faster than the Wii U, but what excites me more about this news is that it seems like the first step towards de-coupling our Nintendo Network accounts from our hardware.
The Miiverse is also going to add user-created communities, which could be interesting for people who're already members of a gaming clan or club and who want to have their own space to talk about things.
This spring is also when the Virtual Console for Wii U arrives, if retro games are your thing.
And speaking of games, apparently we'll finally be getting some though it seems like we've got a while to wait still. Mario Kart and a new 3D Mario game for Wii U will both be playable at E3 in June. There's an HD remake of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker coming in the fall and an original Zelda game is in the works. There's a new Yarn Yoshi game using the same kind of graphics that we saw in Kirby's Epic Yarn.
For RPG fans two titles were teased. The first is a Fire Emblem/Shin Megami Tensei mash-up being worked on by both Nintendo and Atlus, and Monolith Soft was teasing a game that, from the very limited amount we see, looks like it combines features of Xenoblade and Monster Hunter.
It seems pretty unlikely that any of these titles will be available before next holiday season though (and some likely won't be out until well after that point), so we'd better squeeze all the gameplay we can out of those launch titles and the few games we know are coming out in the next two months. I'm hoping Lego City: Undercover and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate will both offer long-term gameplay.
It's been somewhat challenging for me to stay upbeat about the Wii U since I purchased it, but I'm looking forward to Nintendo turning things around. I feel like perhaps the company was a bit too aggressive in their launch schedule (with the Wii languishing on store shelves and the next generation Xbox and Playstation coming soon I'm sure they were under pressure to get a new console out) and to some extent I feel like we early adopters are really beta testers for the hardware.
The 3DS really struggled at launch, though, and now it seems to be a very solid platform. Hopefully Nintendo can turn the Wii U around in the same way. Yesterday's Wii U Direct was a step in the right direction.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.