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"It's a system we will all enjoy together, but also one that's tailor-made for you."
Reggie Fils-Aimé, E3 2011 press conference

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 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  For an exhaustive breakdown on how this happened, see the analysis page.


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 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.

The Wii U also saw Nintendo's first modern online shop — the eShop — which it shared with the 3DS. 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. This was blamed on game droughts and inept marketing (for which Nintendo accepted responsibility), as well as the overall feeling that the system may have been released a bit too early.

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).

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. Despite all of this, the Wii U has gone on to be somewhat Vindicated by History, if only for laying down the foundation for 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 Nintendo 3DS and Switch.

Technical Specifications

  • 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.


  • 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 Wii U can use SD memory cards up to 32 GB (only for Wii Mode) and USB hard disk drives up to 2 TB (but only for Wii U applications).
  • Along with being to able use Wii optical disks, the Wii U uses a Blu-ray based optical disk with 25GB per layer. This makes the Wii U the last console to date which is able to run games entirely from optical media, with all subsequent consoles either requiring hard drive installs or running from solid-state media. Peculiarly, Wii U game discs have rounded edges, possibly to further differentiate them from Blu-Ray discs.


  • 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.


  • 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 provides examples of:

  • Bookends: 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 Switch.

"Look for the U on the box."