Letter from America: why Wii U isn't selling
Plus: great iOS games and how to be a pixel artist.
Howdy y'all, as they say in Texas - but not California, where most people opt for “hi”. Another week goes by, and we're another week closer to the next-generation kick-off. And of course, the big news of the week was the delay of not one, but two headline next-gen launch titles: Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs (yes, that's an underscore - because apparently that's how you're supposed to type it) and Driveclub. Considering I cited both in a recent “most anticipated next-gen titles” feature, that's a big disappointment for me. It's not the end of the world, sure, but certainly deserves a big raspberry. Why couldn't it be the two NBA titles? Bah.
Following a price cut of $50, Wii U sales rose 200% from August to September, which sounds really encouraging until you consider that a 200% increase of a few tens of thousands really isn't much. Doubly so, when you also factor in the machine has now been on sale for a year and is about to face some seriously stiff competition when Sony and Microsoft roll out their big guns.
There are a whole variety of reasons why Wii U isn't selling, and I talked about one of the big ones in a news story I wrote earlier this week - which is that it's simply not being pushed at retail. An IHS analyst recently did some “secret shopper” testing where she went to a series of retailers and asked them questions about the Wii U. Most couldn't even tell her the difference between a Wii and Wii U. I've heard this from multiple sources, and even seen it for myself, being told, “It's kinda the same as a Wii, but it has a tablet.” Ultimately, my greater point is that Nintendo has done a half-assed job in explaining what a Wii U is - and from retail to consumers, there's an alarming lack of understanding (or worse, a complete misunderstanding) of what it is.
It's a shame, because the machine has some really good games available for it, but with the industry at large simply not supporting it very well, and instead focusing on the ease of dual-development between Xbox One and PS4, Wii U is going to have a tough time breaking out of the hardcore market into the mass market. Of course, Nintendo will survive even if the Wii U continues to limp along at its current rate, but to me, it's a shame that such a fun machine is being overlooked by so many who'd very likely enjoy its charms.
One of our bigger news stories this week was about Michael Dailly, the creator of the original Grand Theft Auto, who's using GameMaker Studio to recreate the game in 3D. The original game was overhead-viewed pseudo-3D, and Dailly is using that data to basically make the game fully POV 3D. I'm really interested to see how it all plays out.
Moving on to iOS, the USG team wrote about the games that are sitting on their iOS devices that they can't bring themselves to delete. We ended up with more than 50 different titles that ran the entire Spectrum of gaming, from my retro-y emulator apps like TurboGrafx (a PC Engine emulator) to utter time-wasters like Pixel People. It's by no means a definitive list of great games, but if you're after something new to play on your iOS device, there are some seriously good recommendations.
One of the games I talked about in the feature mentioned above was one I'd previewed earlier in the week: Dungeon Keeper. Yes! It's a iOS remake of Peter Molyneux' 1997 classic. It's been spiffed up a bit, and of course infused with some pesky microtransactions (fortunately not too bad), but it retains much of the charm and fun of the original.
In the first of what I'm hoping will become a regular series, our man Mike interviewed Yacht Club Games' Nick Wozniak about the ins-and-outs of creating pixel art. Breaking into the industry can be very challenging, and there's not a lot of information out there about some of the very specialized roles that companies need. So we're basically talking to industry people about what they do in the hope that they can help inform and even inspire those who might be interested in perusing a career in games development.
And finally, it's been Pokémon central at USgamer this week, since the game is now out and about. To be honest, the game doesn't really float my boat - but most of the team is obsessed with it. Should you have similar tastes, take a gander at our feature in which “pro” Pokémon players talk about the changes X and Y brings to the table. It didn't make a huge amount of sense to me, but it seems many Pokémon players thought it was excellent.
See yins next week (as they say in Philly and New Jersey).
Jaz Rignall is editorial director of USgamer.net, the American version of Eurogamer whose use of zee's instead of esses make it far more valuable in scrabble.