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I've seen a lot of reactions, both positive and negative, following Nintendo's announcement that the new Legend of Zelda game is being pushed back to 2016. For me, the news solidified one thought that I've been trying to keep wedged in the back of my mind and ignored for about a year now: The Wii U is dead.
Now, at least hear me out before you jump down my throat about calling the Wii U's time of demise prematurely. I'm not saying the console is “dead right this very minute.” I'm not saying that anyone wasted their money or doesn't have a handful of awesome-looking games still on the horizon. But if anyone is expecting any big future announcements concerning the console outside of Nintendo halting development completely, they're possibly delusional.
Nintendo has been laying the groundwork for the Wii U's early funeral almost since the console launched. I could go on and on about the Big N not putting enough effort into the console, not enough being done to woo third party developers, and the almost criminal lack of any effort to make that unconventional controller feel like anything but a gimmick. But those types of stories have been popping up for years now and they haven't done a lick of good. We get it: Nintendo thought they could ride the wave of the Wii's success and, when it didn't magically work out like that, they cut the cord in record time and started working on the next console.
Rumors that Nintendo was already developing the Wii U's successor have been circulating for a while now, which is never a good sign when a console is only a couple of years old. Earlier this year Nintendo execs finally made it official, flat-out saying that a new console will be announced (and I'd put money on it also launching) next year. If that doesn't tell you that the Wii U's days are numbered (and a low number, at that), then all you have to do is look at the console's recent releases (or lack thereof) and upcoming projects.
For the rest of this year, we're only looking at a small collection of big name titles planned to launch on the Wii U. Splatoon is due out soon and, at some point, we're supposed to get our hands on Yoshi's Wooly World, Mario Maker, a new Star Fox game and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Pretty much all of those games were announced at E3 nearly a year ago and, since then, nothing major has been announced for the console. That's not a terrible lineup by any stretch but, lacking the indie and third party support seen on competing platforms, it doesn't exactly overwhelm me, either.
That leaves Zelda for the Wii U, which we now know isn't coming out until next year. Given Nintendo's recent statement concerning a new console also being revealed in 2016, this says to me that one of two things is happening. Either Nintendo is trying so spread out its already thin lineup to carry it into the new console launch, or a version of the new Zelda is now being developed as a launch title for whatever their new console turns out to be.
The timing of Nintendo's announcements leaves me wondering what, exactly, they're going to focus on for the upcoming E3 2015. For the time being, they pretty much have to pretend that a new console isn't coming out, even though they've said that it is, and they also have to figure out a way to pretend that they are excited for the future of the Wii U, even though they've already put an expiration date on said future. I'm expecting updates on those unreleased games mentioned above and a Zelda blowout to make everyone forget the truth that nobody is quite willing to say just yet: The Wii U has kicked the bucket. I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo's home console presence at E3 is minimal, with a super heavy focus on the New 3DS and early mobile offerings.
However, there is something of a silver lining to this odd situation, namely that the Wii U will go the way of the Dreamcast; another under-appreciated console during its time, but one that might find new life once Nintendo has moved on to its next big thing.
If I haven't made it clear enough, I'm not saying that the Wii U is a bad console with no games. It has a nice selection of gems, and that goes double if you count some of the Virtual Console offerings. But rather than pretend the console isn't about to be buried six feet under, I'm instead looking forward to the sound of Taps being played for the Wii U.
Why? Well, two reasons, actually.
First, I want to see Nintendo put its full attention into this new console, assuming the publisher/developer has learned its lesson via the Wii U. I want to see them come back in a big way and launch/support a new console that makes me want to rush out and buy it and, more importantly, keep paying attention to it. They've recovered before, returning bigger and badder than ever, and I believe they can do it again.
Second, I think the Wii U's afterlife will be it's time to shine; an era when loads of consumers (including myself) are finally ready to give the machine a go. I've flirted with the Wii U since launch, but Nintendo never did enough to make me finally take the plunge. If I can pick up the console and the handful of games that have grabbed my attention on the cheap, you can finally count me in.