Nintendo Wii U: I've got a bad feeling about this...

Having gone hands-on with the Nintendo Wii U, Luke isn't feeling confident about the console's chances.

Earlier this week I had the chance to go hands-on with Nintendo's upcoming console, the Wii U . This follow-up to the Wii offers a quirky tablet-style controller with a touchscreen in the centre, which adds an extra screen to your gaming experience.

It's interesting, intriguing, and while I'm medically allergic to the word innovative, it's definitely different to what competitors are trotting out. Like the Wii before it, the Wii U will offer a whole new way to experience games.

But the thing is, 'like the Wii' isn't much of an accolade. Because while an all-new control system sounds great on paper, it turned out that crafting games to take advantage of Nintendo's waggly new toy was too hard, boring, or financially uninspiring for developers to bother with.

The Wii wound up virtually devoid of exciting games, with Nintendo's faithful franchises (Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl) the only gems to sparkle in a quarry full of horrible minigame collections.

When I went hands-on with the Wii U it felt all too familiar. Games like ZombiU certainly make use of the fun new peripheral, but then so did Red Steel, the ill-fated first-person shooter/slasher launch title for the Wii. If ZombiU turns out to be a bit naff, will other developers take up the charge and get creative with Ninty's console? The Wii U version of Batman: Arkham City felt kind-of-okay, but if it doesn't sell well, will we see any other blockbusters ported to Nintendo's console?

Along with a bellyful of grim rhetorical questions, I felt the analogue controls on the Wii U were less sensitive than their Xbox and PlayStation counterparts, and graphically, while I won't say it looked any worse than Microsoft and Sony's machines, it definitely didn't look any better.

So for a multitude of reasons, I'm sceptical about developer enthusiasm for the Wii U. Which would be fine for Nintendo, except I'm not sure the casual market that made the Wii a success still exists.

For one or two glorious Christmases, Nintendo convinced nigh-on every family in the UK to buy a Wii, just to have a go at that bowling one off the telly. And actually, for a full Boxing Day's entertainment, at £220 (or thereabouts) the Wii was pretty good value. I mean, you could easily spend that much taking Gran and the kids out in London for the day, once you factor in gift shops, right?

Good times successfully had by all, the nation collectively put the Wii away in a cupboard and went to put some ice on that painful Wii elbow. And a few new year dalliances with Wii Fit aside, I think for many people that's where the Wii love affair ended.

I'd be amazed if Nintendo can repeat the trick. With a complicated new controller fronting the show, will many of the casual crowd who bought the Wii feel compelled to upgrade? I suspect not.

I wasn't encouraged by Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata's recent remarks regarding the competition, either -- dismissively asking whether gamers would really know the difference between today's consoles and hypothetical beefed-up machines from rival companies.

The subtext to this whole shebang is that Nintendo needs the Wii U to work. The company posted its first annual loss in April, following floundering Wii sales and a lack of enthusiasm for its 3DS handheld.

Increasingly it feels as if Microsoft had the better long-term strategy -- luring folks in with blockbuster games, then convincing them to stick around with online gaming, and a bevy of TV and movie apps.

Am I wrong? Will the Wii U defy my doubts and be embraced by the people, cherished as a son and loved across the land? Or do you also feel a gnawing scepticism in your gut? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook wall, and if you fancy seeing the Wii U in action, you can see me testing it out -- and expressing some of the fears scribbled above -- in the video embedded below.

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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