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What Nintendo's Wii U Offers Families

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A&M CSD | 16:48 PM, Friday, 27 January 2012

Geek Dad, Andy Robertson

The financial outlook isn't currently rosy for Nintendo. They have just reported a net loss of 48.4bn Yen (£400 million) in the nine months up to the end of December - the first time in 30 years they have reported a loss instead of a profit.

Beyond the difficulties Nintendo have from the Yen, which has seen 53bn Yen lost from its balance sheet, sales of both the Wii and DS have declined while the 3DS hasn't yet performed as well as hoped. While the 3DS's sluggish start was improved by a substantial price cut and the addition of more first party games (starting Nintendo's popular Mario character), it is now under pressure with the release of Sony's more powerful PS Vita portable.

The transition to the next generation of Wii and DS consoles was always going to be a difficult period. The rise of Smartphones means that very cheap and accessible games are now available to a much wider audience -- just the sort of people Nintendo had been winning over to the Wii and DS.

The 3DS addressed this issue with its own app store (the eShop) where you can download new games as well as re-releases of classic Nintendo titles. Recent announcements for the Wii U have promised an expanded delivery of downloadable games.

The Wii U aims to be the next generation of console for those who have enjoyed the Wii. It offers a tablet-like controller that incorporates a large screen. This creates new ways to play games together as a family and will offer fresh opportunities for game developers to innovate. The Wii U controller can be used as a standalone portable gaming device around the home, or in conjunction with a TV for multi-player multi-screen experiences.
The Wii U, which comprises both a new console and controller, is due to be launched later in 2012. The challenge it faces is winning over consumers who already have similar technology in their Smartphone and Tablet computers. In particular some of its novel features announced last June have been encroached on by the iPad and PS Vita, both of which enable you to play games across multiple screens as well as away from the main TV.

Additionally, there is growing competition from XBox 360 Kinect (that enables you to play games by moving your body in front of a camera) and PlayStation 3's motion control Move system (that offers a HD Wii-like experience). This is a much more crowded space than when the Wii first came to market.

Nintendo still have a number of cards to play though. Although much of the Wii U functionality exists on other systems, the promise of playing classic Nintendo franchises with better graphics and new controls will persuade many of the Wii's existing users to upgrade. Nintendo's is good at supporting its hardware with tailor made experiences from a wide stable of first party games. Wii-Sports and a series of related titles on the Wii ensured that that console offered good value.

The Wii U also makes use of the existing Wii controllers, which are used in conjunction with the new screen based version, to offer more ways to play together. It can also offer high definition graphics in a way that the original Wii was slightly lacking. This will court more avid gamers who were previously left a little cold by the Wii's less impressive visuals.

Providing these innovations can be delivered in an accessible way for consumers the Wii U will be an interesting proposition when it launches later in 2012.

Andy Robertson is a Family Gaming expert and presents the Family Gamer TV show.

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