First Take: Wii U Impressions

Should the Wii U have been given a bad rap for seeming too complex? Or should Nintendo’s spin doctors get the blame? Or should journalists themselves be held accountable?

by Harold Goldberg

Yesterday at the Polygon launch party in Tribeca, two threads of conversation manifested themselves throughout the night. The first surrounded the seemingly anthropomorphic incarnation of Hurricane Sandy and the way it sucker punched Manhattan, the rest of New York City and New Jersey. ‘How did it go for you?’ was the question among critics. Much shaking of the head and commiseration occurred.

The other talks centered upon the imminent launch of the Wii U.

Many of our critics were happy to get an early package with the new Nintendo device contained within. Discussion last night ranged from the way it is being marketed to the lack of it being fully functional broadband-wise prior to launch. The lack of certain promised apps and functionality similarly plagued critics who were trying to review the PlayStation Vita before launch. As I recall, it was difficult to sync Kinect, the Xbox add-on controller, prior to launch as well.

My concern about the Wii U has been documented on NPR’s Morning Edition, where I spoke with co-host Renee Montagne. We’ve also dealt with the challenges right here at the Circle site. And yet, when I checked out the machine in the comfort of my own home for the first time a few days ago, my initial impression for the offline experience is that the Wii U comes together nicely via fairly charming tutorials in Nintendo Land, the oft-maligned, upcoming collection of mini games that is packed inside the deluxe version of Nintendo’s successor to the Wii.

That’s just one game. And this is an impression, not a full review. But it speaks to one problem I had: that the Wii U is too busy to understand immediately. Indeed, it may not be so difficult at all. Now seeing what I’ve seen, I believe Nintendo’s marketing machine has made it difficult to understand. All Nintendo representatives had to say to journalists like me is: “If you think the Wii U is too complex as you engage in these demos and see these presentations, wait until you get it home. The tutorials are pretty informative and easy. You’ll get it. We promise.”

They had years to explain this to me and to all of the Circle members in simple, plain language. And they never did. In fact, I don’t believe the commercial below makes the Wii U a breeze to understand. More soon.

Harold Goldberg is the founder and editor in chief of the Circle.

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