The lights are on
Early adopters of the Wii U know full well of its drought of solid titles. Like many other owners, I bought the console on launch day, only to have the GamePad sit mostly unused ever since. Despite this rocky first year, I realized that this situation isn’t that far off from other Nintendo launches in the last decade. The DS, 3DS, and Wii all experienced rough first years, only to overcome and offer solid lineups soon thereafter. Because of this trend, I’m hoping that Nintendo’s HD console isn’t as doomed as some believe it to be.
In 2013, the DS is looked back on as one of the best portable gaming consoles of all time (I personally consider it to be at the top of the list). If you had told this to launch-day purchasers in the first year of its existence, they probably would have laughed at you. In its first year, the most notable DS releases were confined to Kirby Canvas Curse, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Mario Kart DS, and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.
All of those games are solid, but they’re pretty slim pickings for an entire year’s worth of releases. After that initial year, however, the lineup exploded with a ton of quality titles. New Super Mario Bros., Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Animal Crossing: Wild World, the Scribblenauts series, two Zelda titles, two more Castlevania games, four Professor Layton games, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, The World Ends With You, two Mario & Luigi games, and the Pokemon Black & White titles were released after the first year of the DS. Those launch systems that gathered dust for a year wouldn’t leave the hands of gamers soon after.
Next up for Nintendo’s hardware was the Wii. It initially made waves with its novel control method, but its first year was plagued with lackluster ports featuring tacked-on motion implementation. Outside of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3, and Super Mario Galaxy, the console didn’t offer much to traditional gamers. Thankfully, Nintendo offered plenty of great titles by the end of its lifespan, including Zelda: Skyward Sword, Mario Kart Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Punch-Out!!, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
This trend continued again with the 2011 release of the 3DS. Its first year was greeted with a ton of slightly updated ports (Super Street Fighter IV, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, Snake Eater 3D), as well as the great Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Near the very end of its last year, Kid Icarus: Uprising also released. We’re still early in the 3DS' life cycle, but its second year has already given us Fire Emblem: Awakening, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. On deck for upcoming releases is Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Yoshi’s New Island.
With ten years and three consoles’ worth of rocky starts, should we really be so concerned about the Wii U already? New Super Mario Bros. U and Lego City Undercover are two of the only big, exclusive games available for the system right now, but I feel we shouldn’t write off its future so soon. First-party offerings like Super Smash Bros., Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Yarn Yoshi, and Zelda: Wind Waker HD should all be surefire hits, and more niche titles like The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 show promise as well.
I’m not saying that the Wii U is positively destined to see the success of the DS, Wii, and 3DS. Low sales numbers and the lukewarm reception from third parties is worrisome, but Nintendo has overcome the odds so many times in their history. The past has made it clear that it isn’t completely necessary for a console to knock it out of the park in its first year, so maybe we shouldn’t be dreading the Wii U’s future just yet.