December 27th, 2011, 23:14 Posted By: wraggster
Wii's swan-song, its successor's unveiling and the fall and rise of 3DS.
Wii and Wii U
It was a quiet year for the Wii, with headlines naturally focused on its rumoured successor. In February, THQ CEO Brian Farrell dropped a heavy hint that new Nintendo hardware was waiting in the wings, telling investors he did not expect new systems from Microsoft or Sony but adding: "It's difficult on Nintendo - we'll let them announce their new hardware."
Soon after, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said that sales of seven million units a year in North America alone proved there was no need for a Wii 2, saying: "We'll make decisions about a successor system at the time when software developers cannot offer surprises [on Wii]."
Yet a sparse Wii release schedule told a markedly different tale. The only Wii game to make headlines in the early part of the year was We Dare, a racy party game from Ubisoft that was actually far tamer than its debut trailer implied. European ratings board PEGI defended the 12 rating it gave the game after famously reasonable UK tabloid The Sun said the game "promotes orgies and lesbian sex to kids as young as 12." Ubisoft eventually cancelled We Dare the day before it was due to launch in Europe, but had a good year elsewhere: Just Dance 2 sold a million units in the UK alone, and was later named the biggest thirdparty Wii game of all time with 14 million worldwide sales.
In mid-April sources told us that the Wii successor was very much real, with Nintendo to unveil the system at E3 in June with a view to a late 2012 release. Shigeru Miyamoto confessed the following week that new hardware was on the way, and by the end of the month Nintendo had confirmed its new console would be unveiled and playable at E3, and launch in 2012.
The official unveiling of Wii U and its divisive tablet controller came during Nintendo's E3 press conference, which our report described as hitting "a sweetspot in the Venn diagram of self-celebration, wry deference, nerdish awkwardness, earnest confidence and creative vigour." Satoru Iwata hailed the system as "a new structure for home entertainment … [that] will let everyone see games in a different way." It certainly let investors see Nintendo in a different way: the company's share price hit a five-year low the following day, and fell a further 5.2 per cent the day after. Iwata said it was all "very strange." He would soon get used to it, with the company taking a battering from investors and analysts as 3DS struggled, and the sickness spread: Square Enix's shares fell ten per cent after it announced Dragon Quest X would be headed to Wii U as well as its predecessor.
Little has been seen of the system since, with Nintendo apparently seeking to address one of the biggest criticisms of Wii U: that it only supports a single tablet controller. A report last month claimed the company was working on multiple controller support, as well as RAM and processor speed. The final version of the console will be shown off at E3 in June.
Nintendo announced a revision of the ageing Wii hardware, designed to sit horizontally instead of vertically, available at a lower price with Wii Sports and Wii Party but no backwards compatibility with GameCube games. That price point no doubt played a part in strong sales of the system in the US - half a million were sold on Black Friday alone - but the biggest factor in Wii's sustained success was The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
It was 2011's sole recipient of an Edge ten, our review hailing the fact that "this ultimate tale of hero-making should see Nintendo's hardware become the console it was always meant to be." It sold 195,000 copies on its debut in Japan, and 535,000 in the US in a little over a week. Nintendo will need to ensure Wii U doesn't have to wait as long for its own Skyward Sword if the console is to succeed, with Microsoft and Sony doubtless at work on next-generation hardware of their own.
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