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Will the Wii Fade Away?

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28th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

As we wrap up 2011, I can't help but give thought to the many exciting things happening in the Nintendo gaming space next year. The most notable of these being the upcoming release of the Wii U. Aside from Skyward Sword setting a sterling example of excellence in gaming, support towards the Wii has been waning this year, which doesn't set things up nicely for the Wii's continual growth come 2012. Even by their own actions, such as the lack of Virtual Console releases and even first-party WiiWare support, Nintendo is revealing they're not sure how best to approach the situation. A month ago, Reggie made a comment in an interview with TIME Magazine about how Nintendo believes that both the Wii and its successor, the Wii U, will co-exist for an unknown amount of time. And the more I think about this expression, the more I feel compelled to question if Nintendo truly knows that they're in for. Today, I wanted to speak about this very subject and point out a worrying thought I have about where the Wii could be going should the Wii U's launch not be handled delicately. 

As recent comments might suggest, you might say that Nintendo probably doesn't realize the full ramifications of introducing the Wii U somewhat prematurely -- and how could they, really? As much as financial analysts may predict how the Wii U will perform, there's really no telling how people will respond towards the Wii itself in the latter half of 2012. Given the rise in comments that reflect a lack of interest in handheld gaming, this may translate into people becoming less interested in devoting time into a fuller experience on a console, which could threaten the Wii U's goals. By the same token, Nintendo -- or more specifically, Reggie -- has been making comments that are swaying Wii-less gamers away from their system at present, which presents the need to re-establish the system's worth next year. With outside forces encroaching upon what Nintendo is aiming to accomplish, do they have the resources to pull it off?

I don't think having the systems co-exist is so simple as having them on the same shelf with distinguishable packaging and hoping that the former still hits targets. If the launch of the Wii U resembles a somewhat hurried or unprepared spirit not unlike the first unveiling at E3, consumers won't be the only ones caught off guard. Nintendo may very well find themselves in a situation where they won't be able to help the Wii any further -- depending on whether or not the mass market responds favorably towards this new device. Unless they monitor this situation and act tactfully, they'll be setting their systems up to tread dangerous waters next year. And I fear that the current model won't stay afloat for much longer.

Could the hype surrounding the Wii U take over the Wii's established fanbase in six months? Unless Nintendo does something to step in, that could very well happen. But hopefully this won't give them an excuse to say, "Okay, now that everyone's in hype mode, let's tend to the Wii". Because while Nintendo may be counting on the Wii U to generate buzz around that time with press publicity/coverage, unofficial announcements and everything else, if they don't bounce back from that and use it to push the Wii in some capacity, some may view Nintendo as neglectful with the audience they already have. And when you think about it, how will Nintendo continue to offer support to such ones? Clearly, content in the retail space will diminish greatly once the Wii U rolls around and even leading up until that point as releases like Xenoblade and Mario Party 9 make their way out onto the market. Without new things to play or even look forward to, those regular users will slowly start to see less and less of a reason to use their Wii, which isn't what Nintendo wants.

The risk factor will start to become more evident to Nintendo if a surplus of previous Wii owners were to suddenly announce, "I'm done with the Wii". What they choose to say and do after that will ultimately define whether or not Nintendo has been successful in having the two systems exist side-by-side in the retail space. If those same consumers then say "I'm going to save up for the Wii U!", that could be interpreted as a successful reach. Even if Wii support diminishes, they can use the wait time to generate interest in it once more. However, if they don't present convincing reasons for a person to desire the Wii U, that original phrase could easily turn into "I'm done with the Wii...and I'm moving on from Nintendo".

As there is still much time until the release of the Wii U (currently releasing on an undisclosed date), I have some nagging questions about how this will all play out. Take game data for example. Will we be given the ability to transfer this over to the Wii U? This is especially concerning because of how it feels an awful like a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of situation. On the one hand, not allowing people to transfer save data or even downloadable purchases could give some Wii owners reason to keep their systems. That would especially be the case with lengthy games that people have put a lot of time into, or even online games where starting over would erase their online reputation in the game. But then, this could incur some criticism from critics who may justify that if Nintendo can allow full data transfers with the 3DS, why should this be any different? On the other side of it, if Nintendo were to open up and allow people to transfer their save data, they'd be pushing a chunk of their core user base further and further away from the Wii. That's quite a conundrum. But I have this feeling that they won't allow full transfers of all WiiWare and VC purchases (at least not right away), just for the sake of saying, "See! Now you have a reason to keep your Wii!"

Evidently, Nintendo hopes to target a different set of consumers with the Wii U. While the Wii was more about social gaming, it appears as though the Wii U will focus more on personalization -- something Nintendo has had some experience with on the DS with games like WarioWare D.I.Y. But here's my next question: Will having both systems at once send mixed messages on the demographics they're trying to reach? Will they come across as trying to appease too many people at once? Further, how will this impact those who choose to continue using their Wii systems? Will this further add fuel to the fire with the casual vs. hardcore debate, where Wii users will just be seen as inferior against Wii U users who are keeping up with the times and enjoying exclusive experiences? Should this penetrate into Nintendo's own fold, the results could be very detrimental. Ultimately, even though the many families who use the Wii don't make up the core target of the Wii U, some will feel like they're really missing out. And if they make that jump, what reason will they have to continue using their Wii?

One of the many topics I've seen concerning the Wii U is the so-called "disappointment" of not having Gamecube support on the new console. I've seen a bunch of loyal fans cry out in sheer disbelief over Nintendo's decision to keep their backwards compatibility limited to a single generation. And here I am thinking to myself: Are people really and truly surprised by this? But not too long ago, something clicked with me. While I'm not suddenly reconsidering my stance on the matter, I'm wondering if this is a "strategy" that might make the Wii worth keeping in the eyes of some. If that's true, then it'll be truly ironic that the Wii ends up that way, where the only true incentive left is backwards compatibility. People have mentioned over the course of the Wii's lifespan that Nintendo has gone backwards on more than one occasion...well such a move would only solidify that very thought!

Considering the reputation the Wii has in the minds of many, I really wonder if Nintendo has built a Gamecube- or even N64-like legacy with this system. When you look at how many are choosing to respond these days, it's like they can't wait for Nintendo to drop the system. While I do think people are calling the Wii's "death" way too soon, it'll be a very hard game for Nintendo to play following the release of the Wii U. And sooner or later, if Nintendo doesn't handle this situation delicately and apply what they've learned from not only the Wii's run but also the launch of the 3DS, the system's relevance could very well fade away from Nintendo's grasp.


Feature by KnucklesSonic8

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