Introducing the Wii U to the Casual Crowd

I’m obsessed with Nintendo! I make no excuses for it! They’ve been behind some of the most influential games I’ve played, the ones that made me seek a career involving video games in the first place. I’m the kind of obsessed fan that spent four hours watching a Wii U live stream last week, then pressed play and watched it all over again just to see if I missed anything. I’ve got a stupidly large collection of Nintendo systems, games and memorabilia and I’ve read every tiny sliver of news about Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U I could find since the rumours of “Project Cafe” and its touch screen hit the Internet. Why am I telling you this? Because earlier this week I got the chance to go and play a retail Wii U, over a week before its UK launch AND I was able to invite some friends along with me.

The problem with following a system as closely as I have is that I have a lot of preconceived ideas about it, so I brought along a couple of more casual gamer friends with me to try out the Wii U for themselves. They both own a Wii, along with Wii Sports/ Play/ Fit and Mario Kart, but not a lot else. These are not the message board dwelling fans. They have no idea that E3 exists and they learn about new games when their friends talk about them. What follows is my experience playing Nintendo Land with some casual gamers, their reactions to the system and what it all means for the future of Nintendo’s Next Generation Console.

I’ll start with my general thoughts on our time with Nintendo Land. When asked which game they wanted to play, my friends went straight for Mario Chase as it was the most recognisable franchise (they later recognised Zelda, but not based on the Triforce Logo). Swapping who used the Gamepad between rounds went well and we all had a great time. Everyone was talking, laughing and working together to overcome the Gamepad player. In that regard, Nintendo have got the game spot on.

They had no problem with the controls, particularly enjoying Zelda’s motion based combat and Pikmin’s touch screen commanding. I’m fairly certain that if you can get casual gamers to sit down with the system for a couple of hours, Nintendo Land can sell them on the Wii U, or at the least convince them that it’s fun. Touches like having the Gamepad players face shown on the TV during competitive multiplayer really helped everyone laugh along and nobody was upset about whether they were using a Wii remote or the Gamepad. The only game that caused them problems was Metroid Blast, which required them to use the Nunchuck for movement, the pointer to turn and the B button to fire.

After we finished playing through Nintendo Land I asked both of my friends what they thought of the Wii U.

Makeda

I hadn’t actually heard about the Wii U until fairly recently. I had no idea what to expect, everything was new to me. I’d seen no advertisements and didn’t even know a new Wii console was coming out.

I would consider buying one, but I’ll definitely wait until it’s a bit cheaper.

There’s a lot of potential for the Gamepad. It works great with multiplayer games. I’m not sure how well it would work as a tablet if you took it away from the TV.

I really liked the Wii U, I thought the addition of the Gamepad was a big step forward. It does change the dynamic of the Wii and changes the way you play it, although not so much that it’s a completely different console. It’s almost as if they’ve combined the Wii and the DS. It was interesting to play and I look forward to seeing what else they’ll do with it.

Tara

I had heard that there was a new Nintendo console being worked on, but I had no idea what it was going to be like prior to trying it out today.

I most likely would buy the new console if I had the money and knew more about the games that would be made available for it. I have the Wii already, so I’m familiar with part of the format and its entertainment value.

It’s definitely a social gaming platform rather than an individual one, from what I’ve seen. [The Gamepad] works well as an accessory for the Wii, and I like the idea that it can replace the larger TV screen when playing individually.

There are a couple things I found interesting about their reactions to playing Nintendo Land.

Firstly, neither of them knew a new Nintendo system was already out in some countries and less than a week away in the UK.

Secondly, while Nintendo Land caught their interest, the console’s price point was too high for them (they both asked me about price, after which I explained the various SKU’s available in the UK).

Thirdly, comparisons to dedicated tablets were made, but neither of them seemed sure exactly what the system was. Even after having played it and being told it was a new console that happened to support Wii Remotes, they were still unclear about the Wii U. Both walked away initially believing the Wii U to be a tablet/handheld that connected to their existing Wii, even though they were told that it was a new games console prior to attending.

While this has been anecdotally suggested for some time, this is the first example I’ve seen of problems on Nintendo’s horizon. Nintendo Land is a great game and the experience it provides with the Gamepad seems to be strong enough to entice Wii owners to upgrade, but Nintendo’s marketing is all over the place. Likely not helped by the fact it supports Wii Remotes and still bears the Wii name, both of my casual gaming friends walked away thinking of it as an expensive peripheral, rather than a completely new system.

What do you think about this? Do you expect to find a similar situation showing friends and family the Wii U? Do you think Nintendo could change their marketing enough to resolve this confusion among the casual gaming market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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