If you have been following us this month, you’ll know full well that recently we’ve been doing a series of interview posts entitled An Ode to Wii U. Interviews which saw us talk with various developers on what they thought about the Wii U, that was then posted separately, but when we first come up with An Ode to Wii U, we actually wanted to post it as a singular piece and promised to do just that.
Now since we do like to keep our promises, this piece is the end of the year compilation piece we promised and although we did not get as many responses as we would have liked, we did get more than enough content to buff out this article. So who can you expect to hear from in this article? Well answering our four set questions, we have: Wraith Games’ Jay Kidd, Upfall Studios’ David Amador, Ratalaika Games’ Adrian Vega and 13AM Games’ Alex Rushdy and you can see their answers right here, right now:
Miketendo64: “Most call it a failure and some call it a console they love, but as a gamer, a fan and a developer, what do you think of the Wii U?”
Jay Kidd: “I love it, and to be honest, most of the rest of our team does as well. I often tell a story about how when I first saw the DS and Wii shortly after each of their announcements, I was incredulous (at best) about them, to the point where I didn’t pick either of them up until about a year after they released… where I then fell in love. I started to with the 3DS as well, but ended up picking it up about 3 months after launch; but when I felt that same sense creeping up on me about the Wii U, I actively told myself to “stop it”! I picked one up on day 1 and never looked back. I love the thing. Despite its flaws (and there really are some).
For starters, I really think the name shot it in the foot pretty early on. There were ads, Toys R Us was a big one that advertised the GamePad as if it was an expansion for the Wii (even picturing it with a Wii rather than a Wii U) that didn’t help. Even if they wanted to stick with the “Wii” part of the name, I remember seeing a Japanese commercial calling it the “Super Wii” (to help explain what it was in comparison to the Wii) and all I thought was: “Hey! Why aren’t they calling it that!?”
The understocking was another big problem. We saw that again with Amiibo and NES Classic. Not good! There was also the issue with system-based purchases (as opposed to account-based) in the beginning. The whole roll-out was a mess!
A lot of people talked about how it never seemed like there were enough good games for the system, and I’d have to disagree with that. There’s also this talk from fans, not the developers themselves, about how “hard it was to develop for”. Both just simply aren’t true. They also talk about the power of the console, though if you look through all the past generations, the weakest console tends to sell the best.
If we’re being honest, none of that mattered. Once the image problems started, the system was doomed. It never really mattered how true those latter complaints were, it was all about perception. When Nintendo started doing all of that YouTube and fan-game take-down nonsense that was the final nail in the coffin as far as many gamers were concerned.”
David Amador: “As a gamer/consumer I got a Wii U in the first week it was released, I had skipped the entire Wii generation so I was very excited for this one. I really love the games I got, had a great time, and I have no regrets in getting it, some of the best games I played this gen was there. But I feel like there were very little games that really used the console to its potential, games like Zombie U were the ones that used it better, without feeling too forced. As a developer it wasn’t until very recently that I was able to get access and actually make games, so I released a game after Switch was announced, so I caught the console at the end of its life. Wish I was able to get on it sooner.”
Adrian Vega: “I don’t own a Wii U myself, but I would like to because I love the Pikmin series and I want to play the Wii U game, as I haven’t been able to play it yet. I’ve played the GC ones a lot of times!! I even completed Pikmin 1 back in day with all pieces in less than 30 days! I remember feeling like a hero back then.
Now as a developer, I think it’s a platforms most of us develop/developed for in order to gain some traction with Nintendo, as supporting both platforms is “cool,” because by release on both, there’s more chance of being featured. Plus back in the day, the Wii U was the easiest console to get access to.”
Alex Rushdy: “As a gamer, I had a blast with the Wii U. There was no shortage of fantastic exclusive titles that appealed to me. I live for stuff like Bayonetta, Wonderful 101, Splatoon, Swords and Soldiers II, and quirky indie games. So for me the Wii U was right up my alley.
But as a developer that was also a problem. I recognize that my tastes in games are… Well, let’s just say specific. I also loved the Dreamcast and so much that came out for it, and it wasn’t successful either. Despite the Wii U having a library of games that directly appealed to me, it certainly didn’t appeal to the mass market.
So as a developer, the games you make have to appeal to that niche gamer and they also have to be low cost because the Wii U was always a super risky proposition, even back in 2014 when we started and the race wasn’t over yet.
So while I’ll always love my Wii U as a gamer, but as a developer I wish it caught a little more fire.”
Miketendo64: “What was it like to develop for?”
Jay Kidd: “Surprisingly easy! We’re still not allowed to talk about specifics since we’re still under NDA, but especially since we were working in Unity, it’s all pretty straightforward. The 3DS on the other hand… yikes!”
David Amador: “From a technical standpoint it was no different from other consoles, but because of its unique features there were extra challenges, mostly in trying to use them the best way possible for the game. I was lucky enough to been playing Wii U for a long time so I simply implemented those features the way I like to use them on other games, so I think it worked out ok.”
Adrian Vega: “It wasn’t easy to be honest with you. All the documentation is old and so is the tools… The specs wasn’t great either but if you put some time and effort into it, you could produce some pretty good games!
Also if you compare it to its direct competition, it was the weird kid we all went to school with, the one that stood out due to its 2nd screen that you always needed to put extra effort in, or make some design choices for it that you didn’t need for PC or the other TV consoles. But still, if you put the effort in, the game would end up looking pretty damn cool!
Also having both touch screen & buttons made it easier to make different games than the typical ones you could see on a TV console. In our (Ratalaika Games) case, we have Defend your Crypt and Plantera.”
Alex Rushdy: Thanks to Unity, and generous technical support from Nintendo alongside a talented tech team here at 13AM, developing for Wii U was fairly smooth. Not without its issues and hiccups, sure (we were the very first Unity game to incorporate online play- no small feat) but as a studio we are really comfortable with the machine.
The publishing processes needed a lot of work, but that is something we have seen Nintendo put serious efforts towards improving constantly.
We were able to complete the Wii U version of Pirate Pop Plus super quick thanks to our own familiarity with the hardware and Nintendo’s dedication to improving the development experience. And it’s really important to mention: communication with Nintendo was always clean, friendly, and super helpful. We love working with them!”
Miketendo64: “Do you have any favourite Wii U gaming memories or a game you just liked to play on it?”
Jay Kidd: “It’s no secret that Wraith started out as a group of friends. So when I talk about my “friends” playing on the Wii U, a good chunk of them are team members. My best friend, Thorne, fiancée Kristy, brother Cody, writer Eric, programmers Natalie and Adam, and even former programmers Kyle, Geoff, and Julie would play (as well as many of our other friends), would spend HOURS playing Smash, Mario Kart, and Nintendo Land together.
Throne, Cody, and I still play quite a lot of the three Mario games, Donkey Kong, and Kirby together while passing the controller back and forth with Zelda, Shovel Knight, and even the new Shantae game (the Kickstarter rewards were just sent out and it’s what we’ve been playing this weekend whilst sick).
Yes, we mainly only played first and second-party or indie games on the system, but if I’m being completely honest, I’ve got Steam for everything else! Nintendo games, or at least games with that “Nintendo charm” are what belong on a Nintendo platform. The Wii U didn’t need every game under the sun to be amazing… it just was!”
David Amador: “For some reason it always comes to mind that I played Mass Effect 3 entirely on the GamePad and not on the TV. I had a great time with that one. The most fun I had was probably with either Mario Kart 8 or Splatoon.”
Alex Rushdy: “I think it’s found a niche… Or it did… Or maybe it didn’t… It’s such a weird, plucky little machine. It didn’t have the horsepower, it didn’t have the games library, but it did a few things really well
.I could go on and on about all the exclusive games I loved and whatnot, but I’d like to point out something that few people talk about: The UI. The Wii U user experience and interface is, IMO, a head and shoulders above its competitors. Not perfect, but much better. I know what to do on Wii U and how to do it without thinking. It follows the user-friendly, clean philosophy of companies like apple and throws as little as it possibly can between you and the content you want to use.
I remember getting my PS4 and just having a downright terrible time navigating the confusing, multi-tiered UI with several pages of options leading to more pages of more options. And don’t get me started on using the digital storefronts on Steam and PSN. They upset me. Bad UX really upsets me! So I’m really happy the eShop is the way it is. I know where to look! And I think that’s the big takeaway from the Wii U: Despite some shortcomings, it did some specific things incredibly well. It had these gems, like Miiverse, and controller options, and a better eShop that I believe will live on in future Nintendo hardware, so even though the Wii U might be on its way out, we will still feel its legacy in the Switch and whatever comes after that.”
*For anyone wondering why there was no response by Adrian Vega for this question, as previously stated in an earlier, he doesn’t own a Wii U, hence why there is no answer from here in this section.
Miketendo64: “How did you find the Wii U in comparison to its competition and the 3DS?”
Jay Kidd: “Like I said before, I get a Nintendo system for that magic that it has. The ability to sit down and feel like a kid again (even with the more mature games… there’s just this “spark”, you know?) We have a PS3 and PS4 on site and I have played the Xbox One, but there’s really no comparison. To me, personally (and I don’t really speak for the rest of the team on this) but Sony and Microsoft are just making more limited, locked down gaming computers. I have a gaming computer; I don’t need a PlayStation or Xbox.
Nintendo always comes up with an enjoyable gimmick that they design their games around the gimmick came from ideas they had for certain games. It’s a circle. Everyone talked about how gimmicky the Wii remotes were back in the day while they scrambled to copy them. That’s where we got the Move and Kinect. I remember this vividly, I believe it was E3 2013, when Ubisoft started pulling support for Wii U, speaking of them very unfavorably in comparison to the Xbox and PlayStation. That was when they announced that one of their games could play The Division with your tablet (a feature that they later cancelled, mind). It honestly boiled my blood! Nintendo isn’t perfect, but they deserved better than that. As for the 3DS, I don’t know if I can compare them, really. It was the real money-maker… and for good reason! It was simply amazing! My one wish was for more cross compatibility between the two. More cross-buy and maybe an ability to share saves between them. Hopefully the Switch will fix those woes!”
David Amador: “3DS has an amazing catalogue of games, but so does Wii U, only smaller. Comparing with its competition the thing I always felt was inferior was the interface/OS of the Wii U, they never really optimized it to the point where it felt easy and fast to use, I hope they revise that for the Nintendo Switch, integration with friends, and all their services needs to feel responsive, fast and easy. Miiverse was and still is a great feature that makes a positive difference.”
Adrian Vega: “Well the Wii U is different, like I mentioned earlier. It was a different kind of platform, so when developing for the Wii U, you needed to bear that in mind.
Speaking as a developer, I prefer to develop for the 3DS, but that’s probably because I love the 3DS as a gamer. Comparing the two, as a player with a 3DS, I favour the 3DS. It’s smaller, it’s portable, I love it and I play on it a lot.”
Alex Rushdy: “You know, there are loads. Despite owning all consoles and a PC, I definitely spent the most time on Wii U…I really fondly remember playing through Captain Toad and just going “Wow, this is such a tightly designed, snug and warm little game.” It was like curling up with a good book next to a fire.
There were these transition moments between chapters where you could just walk around a bit and soak in the scenery, and I just kinda sat back for a few minutes and relaxed. It was a magical moment.
Also, Runbow was my first ever published game, so the Wii U will always be important to me. I vividly remember walking home at the end of Runbow launch day, downloading my own game, and playing it to completion in one sitting. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
A huge thanks goes out to each of the guys for sending their answers in, because yes the console is a financial failure, it doesn’t mean gamers didn’t appreciated it and as evidenced above, even developers appreciated the console for what it was. This is a series that for me personally, has been great fun to cover and if the chance comes to continue it before the Wii U vanishes completely, comes my way, I’ll be more than happy enough to do so, but until then, this is all for now.
Thank you for reading and have a spectacular New Year!