Wii U ports to be "minimally successful"

And none will reach "blockbuster status".

Opinions of the games industry's top analysts appear to be divided when it comes to Nintendo's latest hardware offering, Wii U.

Piers Harding-Rolls from Screen Digest said the console is a "compelling proposition" and has "strong potential to innovate".

Doug Creutz from Cowen and Company acknowledged Wii U's "promise" but questioned the machine's power. "I'm not sure how revolutionary it will be," he said. According to Creutz, Wii U is "on a par" with PS3 and Xbox 360 rather than "a step up".

Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter applauded the "smart" blend of tablet and console, saying it will be "hard" for others to copy the design. "Nintendo will have a head start for a while," he said, "and it will be interesting to see if they can exploit it."

Jesse Divnich from EEDAR lauded Wii U as "a very original and unique system and a perfect transition for consumers from the Wii". Nintendo shares might have fallen "substantially" after the Wii U announcement, said Divnich, but: "I believe investors are going to get this wrong".

All four analysts have concerns, however. Divnich "truly hopes" there aren't too many PS3 and Xbox 360 games ported to Wii U. "The Wii forced developers to be original and unique," he said. "The Wii became successful because it offered so many differentiating features and software that was different and original from its competitors.

"I'll say it flat out: any core-port over to the Wii U will be minimally successful."

Jesse Divnich, EEDAR

"I'll say it flat out: any core-port over to the Wii U will be minimally successful." Conversion costs may be low, but "no port will reach blockbuster status on the Wii U console" Divnich also questioned the "overlap" between the 3DS and Wii U controller when at home.

Piers Harding-Rolls thinks Wii U may confuse people with its "complex vision". "I don't believe that this proposition is as mainstream as the original Wii," he said, because Wii had a "more simple message". Existing Wii owners may even be confused into thinking the Wii U tablet works with Wii, Harding-Rolls added.

To that end, "consumer education is key" for Nintendo, said Harding-Rolls - but also a "significant challenge and expense". A two-screen, two-device vision puts Wii U on "more directly competitive footing" with Apple and its new AirPlay idea, too, pointed out Harding-Rolls.

Mainstream success concerns Doug Creutz as well. He sees Wii U as "Nintendo's attempt to re-enliven their appeal to the core gamer market". But by doing so, Nintendo may sacrifice a larger slice of the pie. "I don't know that this gets people who are not Nintendo fanboys - granted there are a lot of those - to run out and buy the console if they already have Xbox 360s or PS3s," said Creutz. But he expects Wii U to be "somewhat successful" nonetheless.

"At more than $300, it will almost certainly be too expensive."

Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan

And Nintendo has to do something, said Michael Pachter, because it is "falling behind" Xbox 360 with Kinect and PS3 with Move. With Smash Bros. the only Nintendo Wii U game announced, Pachter finds it "hard to know if the launch software will be compelling".

Success also depends on price - currently an unknown. But the analysts are unanimous in their conviction that Nintendo cannot break the $300 barrier.

Creutz said Nintendo "absolutely must price sub-$300 given the Wii U is really a lateral move from current competitor consoles rather than a step up".

At $300, Pachter said Wii U "may" be pricier than future Move or Kinect bundles. "At more than $300," he added, "it will almost certainly be too expensive."

"I don't think the Wii U can go higher than $299," offered Divnich, "it just can't and won't happen. I haven't seen the full specs, but no way it crosses that $299 price point."

Harding-Rolls stated the obvious: "A good price would be one that makes it a mass market proposition while delivering strong profits from launch."

Assuming the price is right, can Wii U not only follow in the footsteps of Wii but also outsell its predecessor?

"I doubt it will be more successful than the Wii... The Wii caught lightning in a bottle."

Doug Creutz, Cowen and Company

Harding-Rolls doesn't think so, but partly because the appetite for consoles themselves will diminish as net-connected tellies, set-top boxes like OnLive and tablets running OnLive take off. "Wii U will inevitably launch into a more competitive market than the Wii," he said, "and therefore at this stage I don't believe it will surpass Wii sales."

Creutz isn't sure anything can beat the early adoption rate of Wii. "The Wii caught lightning in a bottle," he said. "I doubt it will be more successful than the Wii, at least in terms of the initial adoption curve."

"Ask me in three years!" exclaimed Divnich. "The Wii is one of the best selling consoles of all time and it may be too early to make any 'official' prediction on overall sales just quite yet."

Nintendo announced the Wii U console - formerly Project Cafe - at E3 this week. The new console will be released next year.

Eurogamer has played it.

The Wii U.

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