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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 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 that the GamePad featured a 6.2-inch touchscreennote  that allowed for 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 best-selling home console... by being the company's worst-selling home console.note  How did this happen? Among many, it can be chalked up to a few major missteps.


  1. Poor marketing and advertising. The console's name was confusing. While the Punny Name matched the system's goal, the fact that it was called Wii U instead of something like "Wii 2" or "Super Wii" made the general consumer believe the console's tablet controller was yet another peripheral for the original Wii at best, or a Sega CD/32X-style add-on at worst. Now, you'd think marketing could have cleared this up, but advertising for the system was poor from the start. The initial E3 2011 reveal trailer confused audiences and news outlets alike due to the heavy focus on the GamePad. The conference also failed to clarify whether the Wii U was the name of the controller or a whole new console, with that information only verified after the fact, when pictures of the console itself were shown (and even then, the console just looked like a Wii, but with rounded corners). When the console finally released, Nintendo found themselves making various charts and commercials to explain the differences between the Wii U and its predecessor, to little avail.
  2. Weak defining gimmick. The Wii U's signature element and selling point was its GamePad, but developers often struggled to find a use for it. While motion controls had an obvious appeal to the casual market, the GamePad's second screen and arsenal of tech was often seen as a solution looking for a problem. A large number of titles, including the console's eventual Killer App Mario Kart 8, could be played without utilizing it, and games that did attempt to make use of it were often viewed as cumbersome, simply because, unlike the DS, it was hard to focus on both screens at once. The cost of the GamePad also ballooned the system's price, making it unfeasible as a budget console and alienating the casual crowd further.
  3. Underpowered hardware. With all the technology stuffed into the system's controller — the Wii U GamePad note  — Nintendo was left with a console that was (on paper) just twice as powerful as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, at a time when the far more powerful successors for each were just around the corner. Plus, the console had a lot of technical limitations to avoid overheating and overclocking, which led to a lot of games running worse on the Wii U in comparison to the last-gen Xbox 360 and PS3. While Nintendo had been able to get away with the Wii essentially being two GameCubes duct-taped together, that had worked out largely because of a cheap price point and a compelling Killer App that sold the console's motion-based gaming idea really well. The Wii also had the benefit of being similarly-powered to the ridiculously-long-lived PlayStation 2, which continued to sell very well until the end of the 2000s, well into the midst of its succeeding generation, giving developers a reason to create separate PS3/360/PC and Wii/PS2 versions for games.
  4. Lack of games. For its part, Nintendo heavily emphasized third-party support at the system's launch, and the Wii U had the most launch titles of any Nintendo console to-date. Developers showed up during the system's first yearnote , hoping that the Wii U would replicate its predecessor's success. However, despite Nintendo launching their console a year before both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the install bases for those consoles surpassed the Wii U's within months. With the install base being much smaller and the hardware much weaker, most AAA third-parties abandoned the system, unable to justify the cost of developing for it. And the few who did make games needed to deal with poor system documentation and console architecture that was far different than that of Sony or Microsoft's current systems. With virtually no third-party support, Nintendo was forced to drive the system by themselves, struggling and failing to prevent months of software droughts as a result of 1) having to adjust to HD game development a generation after everyone else, and 2) having an entire second gaming platform to support. And despite the large initial lineup, the Wii U initially lacked a strong Killer App, and even as the more impressive first-party titles started trickling out (mainly in various Mario subfranchises), a good number of them had similar entries or outright ports on the aforementioned 3DS at the same time, most famously Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. By the end of the system's life, only around 163 retail titles had been released for the system (that's less than the Nintendo 64 with 296 titles), with Nintendo acting as the publisher and/or developer for 25 percent of them.
  5. Limited online features. The Wii U's online infrastructure was barebones compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 when it launched, being unable to manage features outside of just playing online; developers even had trouble making DLC for games on the console, and Nintendo was very strict with patches' file sizes. This in the wake of the Games-as-a-Service model beginning to solidify itself as a profitable business venture - because of this, many games that were still released for the last generation weren't released for the Wii U due to the console not being always online-friendly.

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 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.

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 and Hulu to provide video 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 the aforementioned 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 system 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 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 by media outlets and Nintendo fans for its underutilized potential, its strong first-party and indie game library, and for laying the foundation for the Nintendo Switch. Within Nintendo itself, Reggie Fils-Aimé noted that the system will go down as a necessary failure.

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.


  • 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 able use Wii optical disks, the Wii U uses a Blu-ray based optical disk with 25GB per layer.


  • 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 port. Notably, it's the last console to support analog video output (including composite, component, and S-Video), as 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.


Famicom 30th Anniversary Campaign for Virtual Console

"Look for the U on the box."


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