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The Wii U was Nintendo's sixth video game console, released on November 18, 2012 in the US, November 30, 2012 in Europe and Australia, and December 8, 2012 in Japan. It was backward compatible with Wii games (through the "Wii Menu" option), controllers and other accessories.

What distinguished the Wii U from its competitors was the GamePad. This tablet controller featured a 6.2-inch touchscreen along with dual speakers, a microphone, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, rumble, an inward-facing camera, and the kitchen sink. The most standout aspect of the GamePad was its enabling of handheld gameplay (marketed as "Off-TV Play") if someone else needed to use the TV (though the console still needed to be on, as the GamePad did not do any computing on its own and instead acted as a dumb terminal). Alongside this capability was the potential for Asymmetric Multiplayer: a number of multiplayer games allowed one player to use the GamePad as a sort of Game Master while the others used Wii remotes or Pro Controllers, and any multiplayer game that would otherwise have 2-player split-screen instead had Player 1 play on the GamePad and Player 2 on the TV. Besides playing games, the GamePad could function as a "TVii" remote control (their pun, not ours) through the press of a button, allow users to record shows and browse video-on-demand services, stream video for video chatting, and even share videos and other media. Finally, it supported near-field communication (NFC), allowing for wireless interaction with figurines and cards, as well as microtransactions with credit cards that utilized NFC support. (Incidentally, Nintendo had originally planned to give the Wii such a touchscreen controller, but instead went with motion controls while saving the touchscreen for the Wii U.)

Following the back-to-back successes of the Wii and Nintendo DS, Nintendo was confident that they could do no wrong. Since the Wii had more than reversed their fortunes after two generations of lagging home console sales, hopes were high that their next home console would continue their regained dominance into The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games. In fact, they'd be the first to release a new system for that generation, a full year before Microsoft and Sony, potentially giving them an unbeatable lead in much the same way the Xbox 360 benefited by coming out a full year ahead of the PlayStation 3 and Wii in the previous generation. All they'd need to do was keep the Wii brand going to retain the more casual gaming audience and assure more hardcore gamers that the system would be powerful enough to receive the major third-party games that the Wii had missed, and they'd have yet another console that prints money! What could possibly go wrong? Well, to make a long story short, the Wii U followed up Nintendo's most successful home console... by being the company's least successful.note 

The Wii U launched in the United States with both a basic set and a premium set, retailing for $300 and $350, respectively. The basic set came with a white console with 8GB of internal flash memory storage, while the premium set came with a black console with 32GB of internal storage, the pack-in game Nintendo Land, and a few other bells and whistles. On September 20th, 2013, the premium version was lowered to the basic price point, and the basic version discontinued entirely.

The amount of storage on either model could be increased with a USB hard drive (which was outright required for larger game downloads), but Nintendo recommended that the drive should use an external power source, as a single USB port on the console did not provide enough powernote . To further complicate matters, Wii games ignored the Wii U's storage and were limited to 512MB (same as an actual Wii system), though this could be expanded with an SD card up to 32 GB.

Hoping to bring their online functionality up to par with their competitors, Nintendo launched the system with Nintendo Network, which was also available on the Nintendo 3DS. In addition to online multiplayer and tabbed browsing, an individual account system was implemented (replacing the universally-reviled friend codes) and the Miiverse social network was created. Besides acting as a separate forum space, Miiverse was integrated into the Wii U's system UI, showing users' personal Miis and letting them communicate with one another via messaging, screenshots, or simple doodles; this expanded to otherwise single-player or offline-only multiplayer games, and Miiverse's later release on 3DS, PC, and smartphones allowed for cross-platform messaging. Similarly to the 3DS, Miiverse could be brought up at any time, suspending gameplay. In addition, the Wii U also saw Nintendo's first modern online shop — the eShop — which it shared with the 3DS.note  While the Wii had its own shop, purchases were mostly regulated to the Virtual Console and smaller WiiWare titles. With the Wii U, a Nintendo console could finally download full retail games, have them patched, and purchase DLC. The Wii U's own Virtual Console also got some new additions: Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS (with the GamePad's touchscreen preserving the DS's dual screen gameplay), and even the Wii.

As with Nintendo's previous two systems, the Wii U did not support DVD or Blu-ray playback, but Nintendo worked with companies such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu to provide streaming content.

The Wii U launched respectably, selling an estimated 425,000 units in the first week For comparison . However, the console quickly hit a wall: sales soon dwindled to 50,000 for January 2013 — a record low for consoles since 2005, at the latest — and stagnated. Nintendo themselves admitted that this was due to game droughts and inept marketing.

While the Wii U gained praise from media outlets for a time as being an excellent companion console for the other systems of its generation due to a decent amount of high-quality titles (from first-party, to co-developed or simply published by Nintendo, to indie eShop titles),note  sales remained lethargic. And though they did improve as time went on, Nintendo remained a distant third behind Sony and Microsoft. This wasn't helped by a March 2015 conference in which Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, in one of the last public appearances he gave before his death just months later, announced that their next system was deep into development (to prevent speculation that they would leave the console market and become a third-party developer like Sega, as he had also announced that the company had entered mobile game development). Sales of the system completely collapsed thereafter, leaving it barely even outselling the largely-abandoned PlayStation 3 for the remaining lifespan of both systems.note 

The reasons for the system's failure have been discussed at length in the years since it ceased production. As previously mentioned, Nintendo put the blame on their failure to market the system and provide enticing software, and it isn't too hard to see why they came to such a conclusion. The original reveal trailer never once mentioned a "new console", only repeating "new controller" ad nauseum to the point that even gaming enthusiasts and journalists were wondering if it was just an add-on for the original Wii, forcing them to clarify later that same day. Unfortunately, it would become a misconception that would ingrain itself amongst the average consumer despite Nintendo's attempts to correct it throughout the system's life.note  As for the software side of the equation, the release of first-party software was sluggish. Following launch, the next game international audiences had to look forward to was Game & Wario, over seven months later, while its first real Killer App, Super Mario 3D World, didn't show up until almost exactly a year after the console itself — and when it did, it was released in the launch window of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, ensuring that it got virtually none of the media hype that would normally accompany the launch of a new main-series Super Mario game. Combine that with the system's low powernote  that gave many third-party developers pause in supporting the device, and Nintendo found themselves with a console with barely any games during its first year... resulting in a low install base that scared away that meager third-party support, leaving the job of filling out the release schedule primarily to Nintendo and any indie developer that graced their eShop. Furthermore, much of the software that did exist failed to sell the system's core "second-screen gaming" concept to audiences in the same way Wii Sports sold people on the Wii's motion controls; few games took advantage of the GamePad in a way that most consumers found entirely necessary, with poor reception to titles like Star Fox Zero outright damning its use as a forced gimmick. And that's without getting into reasons that fans have theorized, such as consumers potentially viewing the concurrent installments of many franchises being released on the much cheaper 3DS handheld to be perfectly serviceable counterparts, reducing the desire for the home console even more.

On January 31, 2017 — a little over four years after launch — Nintendo officially announced that Wii U production had ended globally, with 13.56 million consoles sold up until that point. The system's successor, the Nintendo Switch, released worldwide shortly after on March 3, 2017, with the cross-platform title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being the Wii U's final first-party game. Having significantly undersold in the end, the Wii U is regarded as one of Nintendo's biggest commercial failures and served as a Franchise Killer for the Wii brand as a whole, with Miis being Demoted to Extra on the Switch possibly to further distance the system from the tarnished Wii brand. Despite all of this, the Wii U's DNA lives on in the Switch, with Nintendo themselves calling the system a necessary failure. The console's strong first-party library wouldn't go wasted either, as many of its most-acclaimed games would see Updated Rereleases in subsequent years for both the New Nintendo 3DS and Switch. On March 27th, 2023, both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS eShop would shut down.note  Similar to the Wii Shop Channel before them, any purchased content remains redownloadable, but new purchases are no longer possible, leaving the console's small handful of remaining exclusive titles commercially inaccessible to those who didn't already own them. All online connectivity services for both the 3DS and the Wii U would end the following year on April 8, 2024. note 


Technical Specifications

Processors
  • The CPU and GPU are built on the same package.
  • Main CPU: IBM PowerPC 7xx-based tri-core processor named Espresso and is reportedly clocked at 1.24 GHz. It's based on the Broadway chip used in the Wii with various improvements for multiprocessor support. Despite IBM's Twitter announcement, it's not based on IBM's POWER7 technology, but uses technology from POWER6.
  • OS CPU (used for Miiverse and other OS functions): Dual core ARM Cortex A8 at 1 GHz . A ARM9 chip clocked at 567 MHz named "Starbuck" provides backwards compatibility for the "Starlet" CPU used in the Wii.
  • GPU: AMD Radeon based GPU codenamed "Latte" reportedly clocked in at 550 MHz. Based on die shots and only supporting up to Shader Model 4, it appears to be based on the Radeon HD 4670 with additional hardware. All the beverage names are the source of its "Project Café" codename during development, by the way.

Memory

  • RAM: 2 GB of DDR3-1600 SDRAM @ 1600MHz. 1GB is available to games, the other 1GB is reserved for the system software.
  • The GPU contains 36 MB of eDRAM (32 MB main eDram for the main screen & 4 MB for the game pad/Wii mode)
  • Storage: 8 GB (Basic) or 32 GB (Deluxe) of internal flash memory. The NAND memory would turn out to be a source of many headaches years after the system's discontinuation, as it would later be discovered that several Hynix-brand NAND chips were faulty and prone to premature failure, with those systems getting hit with an (as of yet) irrecoverable 160-0103 Black Screen of Death that indicates that the console is bricked.
    • The Wii U can use SD memory cards up to 32 GB (only for Wii Mode) and USB hard disk drives up to 2 TB (only for Wii U applications; external HDDs require either a Y-cable or external power source).
  • Along with being to able use Wii optical disks, the Wii U uses a proprietary Blu-ray-based optical disk format with 25GB per layer. As a side note, the Wii U is also the last system to run games entirely from optical media; Nintendo would use proprietary flash memory cartridges for their subsequent consoles, and while Sony and Microsoft would continue to use discs, games would require HDD and SSD installs.

Graphics

  • The Wii U can output 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576i (PAL only), 480p, 480i, standard 4:3 and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen.
  • The GamePad's resolution is 854x480.

Audio

  • Supported mono, stereo, or LPCM surround sound. Unlike with Nintendo's previous consoles, Nintendo eschewed support for Dolby surround sound, possibly to avoid paying licensing fees. Wii games using Pro Logic II can still be decoded, however.

Connectivity

  • AV outputs to either HDMI or Nintendo's AV portnote . Notably, it's the last console to support analog video output (including composite, component, and S-Video), as all subsequent consoles including the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Wii U's successor the Nintendo Switch only feature HDMI output.
  • Wireless options are 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Four USB 2.0 ports, two in the front, two in the back.

Wii U games and series with their own TV Tropes pages:


Famicom 30th Anniversary Campaign for Virtual Console


The Wii U provides examples of:

  • Book Ends: For the entire Wii line. The very first and very last Nintendo games released on the Wii and Wii U respectively were Zelda titles. Even more fitting is that they were both cross-generation releases, as Twilight Princess released simultaneously on the GameCube while Breath of the Wild released simultaneously on the Nintendo Switch.
  • End of an Age:
    • The Wii U is the last Nintendo home console to come with a handheld counterpart (the 3DS). That trend started with the SNES and the Game Boy. The Nintendo Switch ended this trend as it's a successor to both the Wii U (the home console) and the 3DS (the handheld).
    • The Wii U was the last major note  console with an analog output.
  • Grand Finale: Breath of the Wild was the final game Nintendo published for the system.
  • Necessary Fail: The Wii U finished at 13 million units sold at the end of its life, which made it one of Nintendo's worst selling systems. But even though the system was a failure, Nintendo was able to learn from the mistakes made with it, which in turn lead to the Switch going on to sell over 130 million units.
  • Region Coding: The last Nintendo console to have it. Bafflingly, however, this also extends to the gamepad, which will refuse to sync to any console in a different region from the one it was bundled with.

"Look for the U on the box."

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