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Nintendo’s Wii U Out Now

Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii, managed to compete against the better spec’d PS3 and Xbox 360 by appeasing casual gamers ranging from “5 to 95.” However, after six years the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones has seen some of Nintendo’s fan base defect. The Wii’s sales reflected a waning audience as only 710,000 consoles were sold in the three months leading to June of 2012, which is less than half of the 1.56 million sold a year earlier.

To compete, Nintendo has implemented a three step plan, and the first adopts an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality.

If casual gamers are gravitating towards tablets, then they’re going to love the Nintendo’s GamePad. The GamePad is the controller used with the Wii U and it’s very much a tablet. Most of its resemblance comes from its large 6.2 inch (16 centimetres) touch screen, a front facing camera and NFC technology, but its gaming genealogy is perpetuated through two joysticks and traditional control buttons.

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The GamePad’s screen can either display game-relevant information, or the game itself just like a handheld, and the Wii U is the first console offering such a perk.

Nintendo is prepared to make a small loss on the Wii U because the company is focussing on making money on game sales. If people don’t have a Wii U console, then they’re not going to buy games. Aware of this, Nintendo is trying to make the Wii U as attractive as possible by bundling it with games and accessories, and by offering it cheap. 

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A strong launch package will help Nintendo secure sales. At launch, most consoles come with a demo disk, but the Wii U will come with a choice of first rate gaming titles, including a choice of Black Ops II, Fifa 13, ZombiU, Raymand Legends and Nintendo land. They can also choose the new version of Super Mario Bros, which for the first time in sixteen years, is dedicated solely to Nintendo’s console and not its 3Ds handheld.

The final card up Nintendo’s sleeve is content. In recent times, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has amassed an impressive range of content partners, which has seen more people use it for video-on-demand than multiplayer gaming in the US. Nintendo doesn’t just want gamers to play with the Wii U; they want people to rely on it. To do so, they’ve included an interface which pulls together content from every available VOD service called TVii. If, for example, you’re fond of the TV show Breaking Bad, TVii will collect every available episode from all of the services into one interface. Wii U customers can use the service at no extra cost.

For this writer, Nintendo is more than a game company. It’s the biggest playground, a childhood friend, a teacher and an accomplice. In the financial year that ended on March 31st, Nintendo logged its first annual loss in 30 years. I can only hope the changes Nintendo has made to the Wii U are enough to fend off the smartphone/tablet gaming revolution, so that future generations can indulge in the same joys kids have for decades. 

Nintendo’s Wii U went on sale overnight. The 8GB version is available for $349, with a Deluxe 32GB version retailing for $429.

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