Editorial: Why Nintendo Would Be Wise To Re-Brand The Wii U
Wii U. To you and I, Wii U may just appear to be two meaningless, mono-syllabic terms seemingly conjured up from the most uncreative product marketers and head honchos at the games industry's most cherished company.
To Reggie Fils Aime and the rest of Nintendo, 'Wii U' is derived from its predecessor's nomenclature, in addition to the pronoun 'You' to symbolise that the Wii's successor will re-align itself more aptly to the core gamer, while also keeping casual gaming in-line.
“You might remember when the 'Wii' name began to make perfect sense when hearing it as 'We',” Fils Aime cares to remind us in Nintendo's announcement of the Wii U at last year's E3 briefing.
“It was clear how much fun we all had playing together, even with people who weren't gamers before. But in thinking about a new Nintendo system...could it also be a perfect fit just for you? The answer to that question was an emphatic 'yes'. In fact, we're so convinced of it, we put that pronoun right into the name. Welcome to the 'Wii U'.”
Still convinced, Reggie? Not if “sources close to the platform holder” are to believed, as reported by CVG. According to CVG's sources, “serious discussions” are taking place at the very highest levels of both US and Japanese Nintendo studios to decide whether the company will stand by its messily-announced Wii U name or entirely re-brand the console in time for E3 2012, where coincidentally both Sony and Microsoft are expected to reveal their own next-generation machines. It is said public confusion over the 3DS and DS is the likely cause of the concern, where public response to the new glasses-free 3D handheld often comes back to the belief that the 3DS is nothing more than a DS with a 3D screen. Not as stupid as it sounds, truth be known – the 3DS' own advertising campaign came with the M&S-inspired tag-line 'This is not DS. This is 3DS', while retailers have taken it upon themselves to label up 3DS games with red banners to further differentiate them from standard DS boxes. Nintendo has a serious branding problem.
Genius or just plain laziness? When we think about Nintendo's latest hardware releases - Wii, DS, DS Lite, DS XL, 3DS, Wii U – it's difficult not to feel a sense of serious déjà vu . In many ways however, the DS's name changes at least make a modicum of sense, with each supplementary addition tweaking its meaning ever so slightly to inform us of the DS's true purpose. Want a bigger screen? Try the XL. Want to fit the device in your pocket? How about the Lite? And that's something Nintendo severely seems to have missed with the Wii U. And no Nintendo, no ludicrous attempt to explain the meaning behind the name will make us think any differently. Seriously, even 'Wii 2' would be better. It might not be original but at least then the general mass would be able to distinguish its calling as a true follow-up to the crowd-pleasing Wii. In no way should initial public reception be ignored - it's why the Wii's motion control gimmickry soared the console to early success and why the PS3 struggled to gain momentum after a staggeringly-high launch price point.
Of course, the Wii U name wouldn't really be a point of contention was Nintendo's E3 conference handled a little better. In fact, immediately following the presentation – in which the company spent its entirety focusing on the (albeit exciting, if aesthetically displeasing) screen-equipped controller – Nintendo's share price tumbled to a five year low. Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata said at the time, “It is easy to get the mistaken impression that this is just a game console with a tablet.” “We haven't made any kind of blunder, but I should have shown a single picture of the new console, then started talking about the controller. The console is not drastically different, and Wii U is about the controller. The console itself will be almost invisible.” Iwata confessed he felt the stock market reaction “strange”.
What with Apple TV seemingly on the horizon also, it wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to believe Apple's own take on the TV market will come with cross-compatible iPad-to-TV and iPhone-to-TV games, essentially snatching the Wii U's USP right out of its out-stretched hand. Furthermore, Nintendo must act quick in the run-up to E3 to properly get the image of its console out into the public, whether Wii U or not. Microsoft and Sony might have given them the head start last time, but you can bet they won't be as generous this time round. Let the Wii U name die, please.