It’s hardly a secret that Nintendo’s Wii U console has been struggling to make waves in the ultra-competitive gaming industry. The system stumbled out of the starting gate in November 2012, immediately plagued with issues over marketing confusion (it’s a new system?!) and a third party drought quick to rear its ugly head.
Thankfully, anyone who’s followed the post-E3 headlines knows that Nintendo began something of a comeback in its June showing; gamers seemed appreciative of the Digital Event and live Treehouse demonstrations, which gave developer insight into the creation of upcoming titles. With all that said, it’s still going to be a challenge to convince people of Wii U’s value after its reputation took such heavy damage.
While Nintendo’s done a great job communicating its game library this year, as well as raising the hype for 2015’s games, there are several surprising non-game features that might sway gamers on the fence about trying Wii U. These may not be system-sellers in and of themselves, but they provide tangible — and even compelling — benefits to those who have taken the plunge on the Big N’s latest home console. Here are the top 5:
It’s easy to be cynical about a thing like Off-TV Play. After all, what’s so special about taking software “on the go” if you can’t even really leave the console’s general vicinity? Quite a bit, actually — this functionality is one of Wii U’s most undersold features. Most of the console’s catalog can be played only using the tablet-like GamePad, meaning the only thing standing between you and your console games anywhere is an outlet.
Believe it or not, Nintendo’s take on the social media platform is one of the best reasons to own a Wii U. Between the company’s creative uses of the service — like their recent “Camp Miiverse” series of in-game challenges — and the everyday interaction of intrepid gamers sharing stories of triumph and defeat, there’s a real sense of community that’s easy to get into.
A Consistently Updated User Interface
One of the most cited reasons for Nintendo’s reputational decline in recent years has been their outdated infrastructure (purchases are tied to the system in 2014?!). However, Wii U marks the beginning of a visible transition for the company that can only mean good things for their customers. Consistent system updates — like the one that introduced the Quick Start menu this June — have ensured that navigating the menus, purchasing from the shop, and loading software will keep getting faster and smoother as time goes on.
A Surprisingly Robust Internet Browser
Nintendo has already offered Internet browsers on its Wii, DSi, and 3DS platforms, none of them offering anything particularly compelling beyond frustration over their low memory capacities. In the two years following Wii U’s launch, however, experimental users of the console have found some interesting features Nintendo certainly hasn’t advertised on the packaging. For example, did you know the Wii U has one of the highest HTML5 compatibility ratings for a console-based browser? Did you know the browser can actually support live broadcasting of Twitch streams while browsing in other tabs? Well, you do now.
Apps, Apps, Apps! Oh Yeah, and the GamePad is a Universal Remote!
While they’re certainly not going to make you consider tossing out your smartphone any time soon, Wii U has a number of pretty cool applications that can up the entertainment factor in your living room. In addition to offering the Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and Amazon Video services — all streaming in crisp HD and playable on either the GamePad or your TV — Nintendo has two unique services not available anywhere else. The first, Nintendo TVii, gives users in the US and Canada special tools to organize what they watch and discover new programs suited to each of their family members’ tastes. Wii Street U, powered by Google Maps technology, lets Wii U owners take Street View to the big screen — accompanied by GamePad gyroscope controls — for when you feel like going to Hawaii but have to settle for another lonely night in front of the telly. Oh yeah, and the GamePad is a universal remote!
Did Nintendo Make it For U?
Again, each of these things individually is hardly enough to send the system flying off the shelves. With Nintendo’s commitment to games displayed in full force at this year’s E3, it may take just a small nudge in the form of a tablet-sized universal remote to get players engaged with Wii U — and that’s the first nudge toward a 2015 full of new experiences.