Nintendo’s Miyamoto: All this talk about our earnings is “silly”

The father of Mario stands by Satoru Iwata as CEO, explains why both 3DS and Wii U stumbled at launch, and hints at a Wii U Zelda reveal this year

Nintendo's Miyamoto

After a busy morning in which Shigeru Miyamoto joined other Nintendo developers to greet an assembled audience of journalists, encouraging them to check out Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U games, including Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, The Wonderful 101 and more, GamesIndustry International had the pleasure of sitting down with the father of Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda to discuss Nintendo’s E3 showing, why we didn’t see a brand-new Zelda for Wii U, the Wii U’s sales struggles, and whether he feels some of the same pressures as Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata when it comes to the business side of things.

Creatively, however, Miyamoto, who serves as the general manager of Nintendo’s Entertainment Analysis and Development group, feels he still has plenty to offer. Although he joked that he may just one day “fall over,” the veteran designer stressed that he’s not “actively thinking about retirement.” Our full Q&A with the Nintendo legend follows below. Translation was provided by Nintendo’s Bill Trinen.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the other game companies here at E3, with a focus on Microsoft and Sony yesterday. Nintendo chose to not have its own press conference, to concentrate on the media coming to play the games, but what have you seen from the competition that you found interesting, or have you even paid attention to them?

Obviously we’ve been coming to E3 for many years now and one thing we always try to think of when we come to E3 is: how can we show what’s really unique about Nintendo? What you described about [the media being invited to play games] was really an effort to do something that was different and show what is truly unique about Nintendo through the games, because if all we’re doing is the exact same things the other companies are doing, you just all start to look the same and I really believe we have a lot of unique things to offer.

Q: Yesterday Sony announced a $399 price point for the PS4 and the Wii U has struggled a bit with its sales at the $349 price point. Does Sony’s announcement affect how Nintendo will look at its Wii U price? It would appear like the respective values of the platforms are not truly balanced…

“Development on the new Wii U Zelda game, we’ve pretty much determined our direction on that and the teams are working hard on that. In fact, we actually did consider showing it at E3 this year”


We don’t look at it as a competition in terms of price per se. Really, what we look at is we’re providing a complete system in terms of the GamePad, the system and a complete environment that everyone can interact with and enjoy the benefits of. Certainly if you’re a consumer – anytime you talk to a consumer about pricing, their answer is going to be, “Yes, I want to pay less.” But we have to compete in terms of our uniqueness and what Nintendo does that’s different from what the other systems have to offer. And as long as we do that, hopefully people will see the value of the system that we’re offering with the GamePad and the fun and unique gameplay, but I really don’t have anything that I can say at this point about what that may be in the future in terms of pricing.

Q: So Nintendo finally has a bunch of software coming for Wii U – it was a bit slow to build up from the launch – but it seems like Nintendo has some difficulty in lining up its development teams to bring out compelling software on time for hardware launches. Why did Nintendo struggle in the same way with Wii U as it did when it launched the 3DS? If the development teams you oversee know that a hardware launch is coming, should some of them be pushing to make sure the games are ready on time?

Well, obviously if you speak in terms of simple math you could say that Nintendo should just multiply its development team staff by four times and then everything would be fine, but unfortunately things aren’t quite that easy. Our focus is always on delivering the highest quality content, and simply increasing the development team size isn’t going to allow you to achieve the level of quality that we strive for. You really have to kind of bring those people up gradually and help teach them how to develop games in order to achieve that consistent quality level. So that’s one challenge that we’re always engaging with and one we’re progressing on.

mario kart

The other is a little bit coincidental in that the hardware jump from DS to 3DS was quite big in terms of the difference between those two [platforms] and it just so happens that that same scale of jump happened from Wii to Wii U, consecutively with those two pieces of hardware. And any time you have a big jump in the hardware technology it certainly takes the teams time to learn that and adjust their development environment in order to adapt to those big changes. So I think gradually as we’re adding more staff and we’re increasing our capabilities… and in the future as the hardware generation change doesn’t result in significant change in the hardware environment or capabilities of the hardware, then what ends up happening is you have a smoother transition, as you saw from the Gamecube to Wii.

Q: The one game many of us were anticipating to be announced today and that many fans have been looking for is a brand new Zelda on Wii U, apart from the Wind Waker HD makeover. Perhaps this is a better question for Aonuma-san, but why haven’t we heard about a new Wii U Zelda?

So it certainly is a better question for Mr. Aonuma but we are working on a new Wii U Zelda ,as we do whenever we work on a new hardware system. Development on the new Wii U Zelda game, we’ve pretty much determined our direction on that and the teams are working hard on that. In fact, we actually did consider showing it at E3 this year but we were worried that if we showed the new Wii U Zelda game then that would attract all of the focus, and really what we want people to be aware of and pay attention to here at E3 are the playable games like Pikmin 3 that we have coming in the immediate future, because a lot of fun is with the games that are coming out this year. So that’s why we decided not to show it this year at E3, but it’s certainly something people can look forward to.

Of course, as I’m sure you’re aware E3 used to be the place where you made all of your big announcements but as we’re seeing more and more, particularly with the advantages we have with the internet, we’re able to make announcements really at any time. So the other thing we didn’t want to do was go through all the news here at E3 – we wanted to be able to have some news to continue to share with consumers over time.

Q: So does that mean Nintendo will tell us more about the new Wii U Zelda later this year?

I think so, maybe. [Laughs] Maybe after we’ve seen enough people enjoying The Wind Waker HD, then we’ll think about sharing something with them about the new Wii U Zelda.

“I’m not actively thinking about retirement, but the thing is you look at my age and you have to naturally take into account that a time may come when I’m no longer there. And particularly at my age now, it wouldn’t be strange if I were to just one day fall over”


Q: One thing we’ve repeatedly heard a lot of people in the industry say, whether analysts or executives, is that Nintendo would be better off making games on all platforms. Why do they have to keep on making hardware? Wouldn’t they be able to be just as creative with their IP on tablets, and smartphones, and the PC. Nintendo could expand to a massive user base across the world. Would you see any advantage to doing that? And even if you ignore the business side, creatively would making a game on a smartphone or tablet appeal to you?

There’s two ways to look at it – one is from the business side and the other is from the creative side. From the business side, we really look at the fact that we have not only the software side of the business but also the hardware side of the business as sort of our sphere, as being very important to us. On the creative side, I think what people may not realize is we’re able to design the hardware the way we want so that our creative teams are able to work with that hardware design and create a piece of hardware that can meet our designers in order to create the games we want to create. So without that hardware side, then on the creative side we’re no longer able to do that. And so, from the multiplatform standpoint we do see a lot of developers who are developing the main game on a console and then they’ll have another team or group that’s working on another version or a different type of gameplay within that same franchise on different platforms. And so you end up having all of these different teams working essentially on what amounts to the one main game and the derivative versions of it, whereas at Nintendo what we’re able to do is we’re able to focus on the one title for the one platform and the development team is then able to move on to the next thing. So we see some pretty strong environmental advantages from that standpoint creatively.

Q: One of your contemporaries here in the US, Sid Meier, has talked to me about how much more actual design he can fit into a mobile game compared to a console game. He doesn’t have to worry about presentation as much and can iterate more on design and gameplay. Do you have a different view of mobile than Meier?

I guess I have a slightly different line of thinking, but to me the question really comes down to: what is the role of a game designer? My feeling is that the game designer’s role is to create fun and exciting new interactive experiences for people to play, but what we’re seeing is… as the graphics get more and more complex and they build up the production around the gameplay, then they tend to try to sell the game based more on the production rather than what the actual experience is. As a result of that you end up with the meaning of game design being weakened. Whereas from my perspective, as long as we’re focused on creating that core and essential gameplay then certainly I think with a game like Pikmin 3, it’s fine if you’re able to build up production value around that as long as you do it in a way where that core, fun, gameplay element still remains the essential part of what that game ends up being.

Q: I understand that you oversee a lot of game projects but you’re much more involved in Pikmin 3. Do you miss that? Do you want to be more involved in the game design of key projects more often?

So one of the things I want to do is be a little more clear in terms of my involvement in the projects. There are certainly projects I’m deeply involved in and one of those as an example is the museum guide we did for The Louvre in France. It was done on a Nintendo 3DS. That was one I was deeply involved in and Pikmin 3 is another. So there are the games I’m deeply involved in and then there are the games that I’m sort of keeping an eye on. So it’s two different categories. Particularly any time we’re doing something very fresh or new I want to be deeply involved in the design of those games.

Q: You’ve talked a little bit in interviews during the last couple years about retirement. Is that at all on your mind now, and whenever that day comes, do you feel confident that the designers who’ve been working with you will be able to continue making innovative products for Nintendo the way you have?

The one thing I want to say is I’m not actively thinking about retirement, but the thing is you look at my age and you have to naturally take into account that a time may come when I’m no longer there. And particularly at my age now, it wouldn’t be strange if I were to just one day fall over. [Laughs]

So what we’re doing is we’re approaching it from the stance that there may come a time when I’m not there and then the big question is: how do you ensure that you’ve trained the young staff in a way that will allow things to continue? And so that’s why we’ve been talking about the fact that sometimes when I’m working on a project with the teams, I say, “I’m not going to do anything; you have to do it all.” It’s really to try to push them to prepare themselves for when I may not be there. Also going forward, the additional approach that we’ll take is really more of me clearly defining the games that I’m deeply involved in versus just the ones that I’m keeping an eye on. Certainly, I think in the last few years we’ve done a really good job of raising up the younger designers and helping put them in a position that they’ll be able to carry things on even if I end up not being there anymore.


Q: Well, I certainly hope you don’t fall over!

Me too! [Laughs]

Q: You’ve achieved so much in your career already, but do you have any current goals or aspirations? Maybe there’s something you haven’t been able to achieve yet that you’d very much like to?

There aren’t any specific goals that I’m working towards and I say that because having been in the industry for 30 years, much of what’s happened is something that 30 years ago I never imagined would have occurred. So instead, the way that I perceive it is really being ready for that next wave and just seeing how good of a job or how actively I can dive into that wave when it comes and ride it and still come out on the other side. And it’s with each new wave that I stay focused on really trying to maintain an active role in how things are developing. So I don’t really have a clear end goal that I’m measuring myself against – it’s really more about riding the waves.

For me, it’s less about doing what other people are doing and really more about trying to see what I can do that’s different from everyone else, because entertainment is really about how can you surprise people with things that they aren’t expecting. If you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, then it won’t be surprising for people. So it’s always to me an exercise in how do I find something that’s new and unique that no one’s done before and bring that forward and present it in a way that will surprise them, and just repeating that process.

Q: The marketplace has changed a lot since the Wii was first launched. Developers now have lots of other options and more open platforms. Innovating on those platforms may be easier for some, but how do you feel about innovation now at Nintendo? Has it become more challenging to innovate since you launched the first Wii?

“So all of this talk of ‘Oh is Nintendo going to hit its numbers? Is Mr. Iwata responsible?’ and all these discussions I think are just silly ones to have because Mr. Iwata is managing our company and I don’t think there’s anyone better to manage it than him.”


We don’t really look at it as being challenging. I think where the challenge lies is with all of the hardware using relatively similar technology. Then what you end up with is a lot of the different companies really competing from a production standpoint; and the more you start to focus on making the graphics spectacular or making the sounds spectacular the more the things seem to look and feel very similar. So for us, the challenge is always what are we doing that’s different and unique and how can we differentiate ourselves from what the other companies are doing? That’s something we instill in our development teams and so that’s really where we’re putting our focus, and we find that for us, that process of innovating by finding things that no one else has done is actually quite fun.

Q: A lot of that innovation has come within existing franchises, and no one can blame Nintendo for repeatedly going back to its incredibly popular IP, but at the same time there is pressure from some people who want to know why Nintendo isn’t creating brand-new characters and IP. So creatively, when you’re starting up new projects, how do you decide whether to build a new IP or to try and innovate something new within one of Nintendo’s existing properties?

So this is actually a discussion that I think is tricky to balance, and certainly internally at Nintendo we have people on the teams who say, “Wouldn’t this be better if we created a new IP around it?” But to me, the question of new IP really isn’t whether or not [you have a new character]… I look at it from [the perspective of] what is the gameplay experience in the game you’re playing? For a lot of people, they would say if you take an old game and wrap a new character around it, that’s a new IP, but that game is still old, and the experience is still old. So what we’re doing is we’re always looking at what type of new gameplay experience can we create, and that’s the same for whether we’re playing with one of our existing IPs or we’re doing something new.

Pikmin 3 is a good example; the Pikmin characters were something that were born out of a new gameplay idea when we first came up with that game. We created the gameplay idea first and we decided that the best characters suited for that gameplay idea were Pikmin characters. That’s where the Pikmin IP came from. Similarly, if you look at our booth here, we’re showing it as a showcase of all of Nintendo’s great characters, but in each and every one of those games the gameplay experience is what’s new. So from my perspective, it’s not a question of just how can we create a new character and wrap it around an old game and put that out and call it a new IP. It’s always about starting with a new gameplay idea and a new experience that’s unique from an interactive standpoint and then finding a character that’s best suited with that. In some cases, it may be an existing character, and in some cases it may lead us to a new IP at some point in the future.

Q: With Nintendo missing its sales forecasts lately, do you personally feel some of the business pressures? There’s been some talk about Mr. Iwata and whether he can remain the CEO – does that ultimately affect you and your teams in terms of feeling like you have to do better to save his job?

Well, first of all, the entertainment industry is one that is inherently unstable and if people decide that they no longer need entertainment anymore then there’s no way for you to make money off of that. Because of the waves in the entertainment industry and the way the cycles move, personally I feel that aiming for a specific numerical goal is almost silly, and instead our focus should be on doing our best to create something that’s new and unique. So all of this talk of “Oh is Nintendo going to hit its numbers? Is Mr. Iwata responsible?” and all these discussions I think are just silly ones to have because Mr. Iwata is managing our company and I don’t think there’s anyone better to manage it than him.

So for me, I’m really focused on creating the most fun and unique experiences I can so that the entertainment can appeal to a very broad audience, and we’re having fun doing that. So certainly I think there are other industries where I think their chance to appeal to a broad audience has been lost, but I still think within our industry we have a lot of opportunity to do that.



Nintendo Wii U: Death By Apathy

With no support from Electronic Arts, the Wii U just experienced its Dreamcast moment. Will other publishers now follow suit?

Nintendo Wii U: Death By Apathy

The Wii U just had its Dreamcast moment. With Electronic Arts confirming it doesn’t have any games in development for the machine, one of the console industry’s biggest players has walked away from the system counting its losses. So that’s none of the market-leading sports games for the Wii U in the near term and none of those tantalising new Star Wars games in the mid-term. We weren’t looking at a long term solution for the Wii U, but now it seems it won’t even get a semi-decent sales pick up at the end of the year. Christmas is cancelled for Nintendo.

“When you can get to number one in the Wii U charts by selling less than 1000 units it’s no longer a tragedy, it’s an actual farce”

EA doesn’t exactly have money to spend anywhere other than on its safest bets at the moment. It’s cutting costs, from CEO wages to gun licensing, but the sports games will get it out of the hole its in, or at least keep it afloat in the console market until the installed base of the PS4 and next Xbox allow for some decent sales.

And I’m not saying Electronic Arts has the same pull it did in the console market during the year 2000. It’s market share has been overtaken by Activision and is being threatened by a hungry Ubisoft. And if it insists on supporting games like Fuse – a title no one asked for and no one is interested in – it’s going to continue to throw money in the direction of the nearest bin.

But EA has pulled out of the Wii U because sales of both hardware and software are dreadful. We’re not officially allowed to report sales numbers from Chart Track in the UK but everyone in the publishing business can see them quite clearly. There’s no need for pretence. When you can get to number one in the Wii U charts by selling less than 1000 units it’s no longer a tragedy, it’s an actual farce.

It’s not much better in the all-formats chart. Staying at number one in the charts for a second week isn’t so much a sign of success, as a sign you’re not selling as poorly as everyone else in the top ten. The top ten isn’t relevant any more, last year it was only really the top five that counted. And this year it’s likely to be only the top three best-selling games that have any impact – and they are going to be multiformat titles like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and FIFA. Everything else is fighting for scraps.

The Wii U has been defeated by the most humbling of challengers – consumer apathy. When the inevitable “Nintendo halts Wii U production” stories hit, the majority of those that bought the original Wii won’t even notice. The mainstream bought the Wii because it was a fun novelty, they didn’t buy it for a new Zelda game. What’s the Wii U’s novelty? That it does everything a current-gen console does but a little bit slower and with a Fisher Price tablet attached?

Wii U

Retailers have given up on the Wii U. It’s not discounted at the supermarkets because they want to sell more, it’s been cut in price so they can get rid of it quickly. Software drives hardware sales. But there are no credible software sales because there are no games being released. Retail is desperate to sell anything, that’s why GAME is now selling sci-fi and fantasy books and HMV has cans of Coke and sweets at the till – anything to squeeze a penny out. They aren’t going to sit around and make space for a handful of Wii U games near the end of the year. They’ll be pushing the Wii U to one side to make more space for the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 and hopefully the PS4 and next Xbox.

Is there still hope for the Wii U? Well, there are first-party games on the horizon but with no actual surprises. Nintendo will spend a lot of money in the autumn on ads and marketing for first-party games to try and save face, but the rot set in too quickly. I don’t know what this says for the next generation of consoles but they are at least coming out the gate with real noise and hype. That’s not enough to sell them of course, but they are having a big impact before they come to market which is exactly as it should be.

Nintendo can’t compete with Microsoft and Sony, that’s why they’ve pulled out of the E3 pissing contest. That’s almost a dignified admission of defeat. If Nintendo shows off new Starfox, Zelda, Mario and Blast Corps titles next month in L.A. it’s only going to be preaching to the converted. They will be drowned out by the bombast and great swinging balls of their rivals. What will the LA Times, Reuters, the BBC, Tech Crunch, Joystiq, VentureBeat, GamesIndustry International, Gamasutra and the rest of the media be prioritising during E3? Anything that can lift the console business up off its knees and give it an adrenaline shot. That’s the real story here, and the Wii U is a boxout of what went wrong.

There’s also today’s announcement that Sega is handing publishing duties of Sonic the Hedgehog over to Nintendo, like Sonic the Hedgehog still means something to the games player. It doesn’t, it’s a tired old mascot who jumped the shark when Sega painted him black and gave him a gun. This deal is Sega begrudgingly admitting it can no longer market and sell kids games, and its last hope in a world of Moshi Monsters and Angry Birds is Nintendo. And if Nintendo can’t sell another company’s mascot, well, Sega is now prioritising PC gaming anyway.

The new GameCube or the new Dreamcast, it doesn’t matter how we hang it. The console market is brutal and Microsoft and Sony may have also left it too late with their own machines, only time will tell. But when Nintendo isn’t playing the console wars game, the consumers don’t care and the retailer is pushing new hardware to the curb, what are publishers meant to do? There’s no EA support now, will Ubisoft be next? Tellingly, Activision hasn’t mentioned “Call of Duty: Ghosts” in the same sentence as “Wii U”, and as that game is going to be a centrepiece of the next Xbox reveal it’s not likely to associate it with a device that isn’t generating any excitement. Will these publishers bother with exclusive titles, or even porting existing games with a little touchpad tweak when they’re not seeing support anywhere else?

The only sensible move is for Nintendo to take its brands to other formats, but that’s an argument we’ve had so many times. As Rob Fahey argued a few weeks ago, Nintendo can afford to have a failed console around its neck, but it can’t afford to damage its most valuable assets, its IP.

The brands will live on. But the Wii U is a dead man walking.



Iwata backs quality over consistency as Wii U falters

Nintendo’s president says gaps in Wii U release schedule were due to a conscious choice for better products

Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata has attributed the Wii U’s loss of sales momentum to the company prioritising quality over consistency in its software

In a call with investors that followed Nintendo’s recent financial results, Iwata fielded numerous questions regarding the slow performance of the Wii U and the decision to make decisive changes to Nintendo’s management structure.

Iwata conceded that the Wii U’s sales have been adversely affected by its thin release schedule, but, he said, this was a deliberate choice by Nintendo – a choice rooted in the company’s values.

“We were faced with the alternatives of taking time to refine our products or launching them without too many intervals,” he said. “After careful consideration, we selected the first option because we believe that from a mid-and-long term perspective it is more important to improve customer satisfaction with each game.

“The future of the industry depends on the number of games developers release that consumers consider to be fresh and worth paying for”


Satoru Iwata, Nintendo

Iwata pointed to Fire Emblem: Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon on the 3DS as examples of the sort of success that high standards on specific platforms can bring – and evidence that gamers still crave “carefully developed” experiences. The delayed Wii U games, including Pikmin 3, are merely subject to the same rigorous standards.

“I believe the future of the video game industry depends on the number of games developers release that consumers consider to be fresh and worth paying for,” Iwata said.

“We decided to take time to add the final touches to ensure that consumers fully feel that they are valuable titles. The brand of a franchise would be completely degraded without customer satisfaction. This is why we delayed the release schedule of such games [as Pikmin 3].”

When asked to identify any future bottlenecks in production – a strong possibility given the apparent lack of strong third-party enthusiasm for the Wii U – Iwata pressed the rising difficulty of creating $50 to $60 retail software that passes muster with modern consumers in terms of value. Games that once would have been successful are now judged in very different ways.

“These days it is becoming increasingly challenging to determine the minimum development resources required for customer satisfaction,” he said.

“However, the sales of popular games are much larger than in the past. Therefore, if we create more hit games, the software development business can still be very profitable. All games break even if they sell millions of copies worldwide, so we will continue to do our best to develop games which have high sales potential.”

Of course, in the digital world, it simply isn’t necessary to think in terms of $50 and $60, and Iwata pointed to evidence of Nintendo’s belated attempt to develop its online business: a quarter of Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s sales last fiscal year were digital, as were 10 per cent of sales for the recently released Tomodachi Collection.

In an encouraging development, Nintendo’s research indicates that, among people who bought a game via download, substantially more than half also made their next purchase as a download.



A Week with Nintendo’s Wii U

I wasn’t going to get a Wii U, I swear. Growing up with games, however, has created an intangible draw to launch day hype. I’m fine up until the bell actually tolls, but that launch lure just sucks me in time after time. So, here I am, one week and some change after the launch of Nintendo’s latest console, still very much in that Honeymoon period. Of course, Wii U isn’t without its many oddball quirks and flaws, so let’s see how things stand at this early chalk mark in its lifespan.

This is no doubt the true allure of Wii U to most. Just as the remotes positioned Nintendo Wii as something fresh and different, the GamePad opens up its own realm of interesting possibilities. It also acts as a living room evolution of Nintendo’s super successful line of dual-screen portables, which started with Nintendo DS in 2004.

While it’s true that Wii U is an extension of the Wii in many ways, the GamePad and TV combination is much more comparable to what Nintendo has achieved with two screens over the past eight years. Add to this the asynchronous gameplay made possible by a group of players choosing between wielding either the GamePad or the remotes, and you have the recipe for something that has the potential for great innovation if applied wisely.

The screen itself looks great, though games appear a bit more washed out and dull on it when held up to the crystal clarity of a large HD TV. Most importantly, it’s comfortable. Perhaps not everything will feel at home in the clutch of its wide grip—high intensity action games, for example, might be best played with a Pro Controller—but it holds up to Nintendo’s typically tight standard of ergonomics.

When Nintendo first unveiled Wii U, it was kind of unclear exactly what was going on with the GamePad. Would there be more than one? Would we still need remotes? Nintendo rolled it out with a thick veil of mystery, but it’s starting to make sense now that it’s in homes around the world. It sounds simple, but the ability to play plenty of Wii U games without even turning the television on is fantastic. To streamline things further, the GamePad can be programmed to control both the TV and cable remotes, a sign of Nintendo’s efforts toward making this console a true centerpiece of the living room. How effective this is, or how much it matters, may vary, but it’s clear what Nintendo is after, and this time they actually seem serious about it.

What would a new Nintendo console be without a strong launch lineup? Actually… that’s usually not the case. Nintendo 64 launched in 1996 with a paltry selection: Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64. To be fair, almost everyone just wanted Super Mario 64, but let’s just say Nintendo hasn’t always been known for having a robust selection right out the gate. Contrast that with the Wii U launch, which packed around 23 titles on day one. The majority of the releases have been third party games already available on competing consoles, but it was nice to see Nintendo coming a bit bolder on opening day.

Of the available games, I decided to keep it exclusive by sticking with Nintendo Land, which comes bundled with the deluxe unit, ZombiU, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Each offers something a bit different when it comes to sampling what Wii U has to bring to the table, so it seemed like the perfect trio of games to start out with.

Nintendo Land includes a selection of mini-games spread throughout a small, colorful theme park hub world. True to its purpose, each game has its own unique way of implementing both the GamePad and the remotes for multiple players, from the spirit-hunting Luigi’s Ghost Mansion to the considerably meaty Pikmin Adventure. There’s plenty of variety throughout, and, for my money at least, it’s a much more satisfying pack-in than Wii Sports ever was. Sure, the latter really changed the game as far as introducing new folks to video games, but Nintendo Land is something I keep coming back to, and despite a few duds it’s also an eye-opening first look at the world of Nintendo in high definition.

I won’t spend too much time getting into ZombiU here—it’s a really interesting game that deserves a full review—but fans of legitimate survival horror should be pleasantly surprised by this one. Shockingly, ZombiU has more in common with a roguelike RPG, in which constantly starting over from scratch and seeing how far you can make it is the name of the game. It can be tough—brutally unforgiving, even—but if you don’t go in expecting a traditional zombie head-popping first-person shooter, you’ll come out finding something special, if flawed, in Wii U’s first horror entry.

Those of you who have been reading the site on a regular basis will recall my displeasure with New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Nintendo 3DS. You might have even wondered why I would pay for another entry in the series, but it’s clear from the start that Nintendo saved its creative gas for New Super Mario Bros. U. From gorgeous visuals to some genuinely clever and fun level design, it makes one wonder why Nintendo even bothered with that last entry… until you realize the theme of NSMB2 was raking in tons and tons of coins. It’s nice to be having fun with a 2D Mario game again, and the platform-assisting GamePad features are great, hectic fun with a few friends on the couch.

Oh, I also tried out the eShop and downloaded Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition, which takes developer WayForward’s 3DS game and spruces it up for HD. It’s a terrific 2D platformer/puzzler, but the really dangerous thing was learning that, once again, Nintendo has composed some brutally catchy music for the online shop. Once Virtual Console hits this thing, I’m toast.

Let’s face it, beyond everything else, the craziest, most mind-blowing thing about Wii U is that Nintendo is finally online. Yes, I know Wii had online capabilities. I know 3DS goes online just fine. But this is a legitimately competent effort toward connectivity from the company, and it almost feels strange that it works so well.

Miiverse is likely one of the first aspects of the Wii U community players will notice. At first its purpose is a bit tough to figure out, until you realize each game has its own sub-community, all of which essentially act like a highly specific Twitter with a 100-character limit. Oh, and you can draw on messages… It sounds kind of insignificant, but Miiverse is so integrated and so startlingly on topic—likely thanks to Nintendo’s strict patrolling and flagging policies, people actually talk about games!—that it’s hard not to be charmed by it. Players can ask for help, offer tips to those stranded in areas, or just doodle pictures of their favorite characters, many of which are marvels to behold as far as stylus art goes.

Wii U also has a bunch of video apps, another area in which Nintendo has decided the other guys are doing it right. Whereas Wii just had stuff like Netflix, Wii U has a handful of options, and its multimedia TVii service is set to launch in December. For the purposes of testing things out, I busted out a Netflix account and launched the app, which works pretty much like any other console Netflix app, but with the added bonus of browsing titles with the GamePad. Oh, and the tap of a button swaps the picture between the television and the GamePad… which is kind of awesome.

Oddly enough, I think I’ve spent the most time watching YouTube videos on Wii U; so much in fact that it already has me considering canceling cable. Seriously, why not? Select a video on YouTube and it automatically starts playing on the big screen, but you can keep browsing other videos on the GamePad while it plays. Or you can just open up another tab in the system’s excellent web browser and do something else entirely while others watch the video. That’s right, I just referred to a console’s web browser as “excellent.” I can’t believe it either, but it works really well. You can even use the GamePad’s gyroscope to scroll up and down pages without touching a button. The GamePad might not have multi-touch capabilities, but if you were thinking of getting a tablet just for web browsing, this does the trick nicely.

As slick as Wii U is, it still seems like Nintendo is ironing out a lot of the kinks post-launch. The system debuted with patches and updates galore, and, as previously mentioned, some of the services planned for launch are going to be a bit of a wait. It’s going to be really interesting to see where Nintendo takes this thing, though, because it has a ton of potential, regardless of whether or not you think Nintendo is joining the “last generation” a little too late. It’s clear this time around that they actually have their head in the game, and they’ve blatantly, if quietly, admitted that maybe, just maybe, the other guys were on to something over the last half-dozen years or so.

A little over a week into Wii U’s life and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what we have here. It’s not perfect. It’s a little confused at its own existence. It contradicts almost everything Nintendo was boastful about sticking to and avoiding the last time around. But it works. Let’s hope Nintendo keeps it kinda weird for the foreseeable future.


Wii U CPU clock speed rumored at 1.2 GHz

Wii U has a 3-core main processor that runs at just 1.2 GHz, according to a Wii hardware hacker.


We’ve heard before from developers that the Wii U CPU wasn’t as fast as they expected. Now according to Wii hacker “Marcan”, the exact clock speed of the Wii U CPU has been found.

Marcan posts via Twitter that the Wii U CPUis clocked at 1.2 GHz, with 3 cores based on the IBM PowerPC 750 design. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 both use CPUs with clock speeds in the 3 GHz range, but the Wii U has a much more modern design and the processors can’t be compared clock-by-clock.

The Wii U GPU runs at 550 MHz, according to Marcan. While the main processor of the Wii U might not feature fast clock speeds, the GPU is certainly much more powerful and advanced than the Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts.

Marcan also revealed some of the codenames Nintendo uses for the internal hardware: the Wii U system is called “Cafe”, the CPU is “Espresso”, and the GPU is “Latte”.

Nintendo will probably reveal the official console specs at some point in the future, either directly or a developer will leak the spec sheet like they did with the original Wii. Until then, the Wii U specs remain only rumors.